Maximise your digestive power with the right breakfast

Are we eating the wrong breakfasts? Health and nutrition expert Anu Paalova looks at the ‘Full English’ and how a lighter option would make the most of the body’s digestive power.



Whilst commuting back home with my sleepy three year old I thought it wise to entertain myself with the latest newsletter release of a site I greatly enjoy reading: Flavour First.

The advantage of well-built websites is that they lead you to other interesting and related articles. The subject-matter here is breakfast.

One feature I enjoyed very much was “A Meditation on Breakfast”.  This is because I am a very keen follower of the seasonal diet and the writer, Matthew Fort, who vividly describes his predilections of cooking an egg and seasoning your toast depending on the time of year. It was thoroughly enjoyable reading, until the last sentence. Obviously, I will elaborate on this.

I will first meditate on the importance of breakfast – especially of a large sumptuous breakfast? Fort refers nostalgically to a past of madly large and very lunch-like meals in the morning and even considers the habit of modern on the go breakfasts as marking the “decline of civilisation and the dawning of a gastronomic barbarism”. I agree to a certain degree.

Another feature, titled “Breakfast of Champions” by Anthony Leyton is a lode to the English Breakfast. An interesting read that hit my funny bone. But yes, you have guessed, I am not a fan of this particular meal in size, in combination nor in visual or olfactory experience it provides.

I feel I need to make people understand that breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. That would be lunch. The balance of your meals should be: light breakfast, hefty lunch and light dinner. The English Breakfast is a pretty hefty meal. It should be consumed between 12-1pm when our digestive power peaks.

When we wake up in the morning our bodies are naturally slow, we feel colder and heavier. Our digestive systems feel the same. It takes some time to get our blood running and our gut moving (varying from individual to individual). The morning is when we need to stimulate our bodies and minds with light to digest items and preferably with a session of relatively vigorous exercise. To feed our digestive tract with a heavy load of hard-to-digest items is like starting a car in third gear.

Obviously the size of the breakfast should reflect the activities we do. If you’re plowing fields or carrying water from the well to the house all day then yes, by all means have a heftier breakfast. Nowadays – sat behind out computers – it’s a different story. Times change, we change and so should our diets according to the seasons and our activities.

And as for barbarism, I think here is the root of the matter: We haven’t changed our eating habits according to the times and our activities. On the contrary we have more food choices and availability than ever at a reasonable price – especially the barbaric items.

I am worried like Mr Fort about the changes of our eating habits and know that we already are in an era of nutritional confusion and gastronomic barbarism. The English Breakfast is an example of this.

It is eaten at the wrong time and combination and in far too large a quantity. It is often accompanied by tea or coffee and orange juice, which can create the gastric mixture from hell. Even if you create this mixture with the best of ingredients it doesn’t make it much healthier especially if you consume it with voracious hunger or during a hangover. (The greasier and acidic your food, the longer your hangover.)

The lavish breakfasts of the past were a privilege of the few, as Mr Leyton states. But those few weren’t necessarily doing the right thing; the simple light breakfast that most of the population consumed is something that we naturally agree with. To emulate rich and heavy-to-digest breakfasts of the well off is a step towards lifestyle-related diseases of obesity, diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases.

The occasional ‘Full English’ can be pardoned. If your body is strong and healthy, there is no reason you should deny yourself this curious culinary pleasure now and again – if that makes you happy or it is the only breakfast you’re offered.

A strong digestive system will be able to deal with a heavier load of unseasonal food every once in a while. If you eat sensibly most of the time, you’ll survive. And, I’d like to repeat: light breakfast, hefty lunch and light dinner of seasonal and organic food.

If you are interested more in understanding more about your body, see Anu for a consultation at Jivita Ayurveda. Follow her on @JivitaAyurveda