We have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A healthy meal in the morning gives your body the energy that it needs to function, and your mind the fuel that it requires to focus on the demands of the day.
It is even crucial for maintaining a healthy weight, as eating a nourishing breakfast helps prevent mid-day cravings for less-than-healthy foods.
Every country does breakfast a bit differently, and each has its own breakfast staples. Some, however, are healthier than others. While the perfect breakfast can vary depending on individual body chemistry and nutritional needs, we can get a lot of great ideas – as well as information on which pitfalls to avoid – by surveying morning meals eaten around the world.
An unfortunate habit of many countries is to include processed meats such as bacon and sausage in breakfast plates. As we explored in a previous article, eating processed meats can raise the colorectal cancer risk of many individuals. Consumption of these meat products has also been linked to early death.
Countries including the US, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Great Britain and Russia often eat their breakfasts with a side of bacon, sausage or both. However, if these meats are homemade, utilize fresh ingredients and do not hail from factories, they can provide a great source of protein without the chemical preservatives.
Another pitfall of many breakfast plates worldwide is breads or pastries made with refined, white flour. In the US, pancakes and waffles are often featured. In Ireland, it’s soda bread, and in Italy, it’s often a pastry, or bread and jam.
While complex carbohydrates can provide energy in the morning, white flour has been stripped of all of its nutrients, and is implicated in the obesity epidemic.
Aside from containing gluten, which many people are sensitive to (some unknowingly), modern wheat is not nearly what it used to be, and has been implicated in a variety of health conditions, including inflammation and belly fat.
China and Russia have different starch options for breakfast, which may be much wiser choices than refined wheat-based fares. In China, a porridge known as congee is often eaten. Congee is made from white rice that has been simmered until it is smooth in texture. Proteins and vegetables are often mixed in for added nutrients and sustenance.
In Russia, a traditional breakfast includes kasha, a porridge that is often made of buckwheat. Buckwheat, despite the name, is not wheat, and is actually a gluten-free seed which may help to lower cholesterol and reduce diabetes risk, among other health perks.
Some of the healthiest breakfast choices come from Japan, Lebanon and Vietnam. In Japan, miso soup with a side of pickled vegetables is often enjoyed in the morning. Miso soup is made from fermented bean paste and a traditional stock called dashi. Fermented foods are crucial to a healthy diet, as they support good gut bacteria for both digestive health and overall well-being.
A Lebanese breakfast often includes labneh, a strained, thick yogurt that is often served topped with olive oil and fresh mint. Labneh provides probiotic benefits, and the heart-healthy olive oil and digestion-promoting mint are also excellent, healthy choices.
The Vietnamese often enjoy a morning bowl of pho, a soup made from stock, beef, rice noodles and fresh herbs including cilantro. Bean sprouts are also often added to the mix. The fresh herbs and sprouts, along with kidney-supporting bone broth can make for an exceptional start to the day.
If you have been eating a less-than-healthy breakfast, or are simply stuck in a breakfast rut, try switching it up with one of these healthy choices from around the world. You may be surprised at how delicious pickled veggies can be topping a plate of organic eggs.
-The Alternative Daily