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Protein breakfast: composition, pros and cons


Proteins and Breakfast

Proteins are macronutrients with mixed functions, i.e. plastic, energetic, bioregulatory, hormonal, etc. Their contribution in the diet is very important since a part of the “bricks” (amino acids) that constitute them are of the “essential” type; it means that the body is not able to produce them independently in sufficient quantities and must therefore obtain them from the diet.

Usually, the protein requirement – that is, the quantity of protein necessary for the body's good health – is easily met through normal nutrition. However, the amount of protein is not the same for everyone; growing subjects, the elderly, athletes and certain sick people require more than adults and sedentary people. Furthermore, if it is true that these nutrients are almost ubiquitous in foods, it is equally true that not all of them are “complete”; this “completeness” is called Biological Value and is measured by evaluating the relative amino acid profile. The best, most complete proteins are said to have HIGH biological value and are contained in eggs, milk and derivatives (therefore in yogurt, ricotta, cheeses, etc.), in meat and fish products.

It is wrong to believe that the solution to an increased protein requirement is to consume as much protein as possible; in fact, excessive portions of these nutrients (>30g) are not well absorbed by the intestine, so they are partly eliminated in the feces.

Practically, the secret to having good protein absorption is to eat more meals but in smaller portions; in this case, certain single-portion foods become particularly convenient for breakfast and secondary meals. So, to give a clear example, YES to yogurt for breakfast and NO to the WHOLE Florentine steak for dinner.

Importance of Breakfast

Breakfast is one of the 5-6 ordinary meals of the day. It is customary to call it “the most important”, even if most people cannot justify the real reason. From a “quantitative” point of view, breakfast provides (or rather, should provide) approximately 15% of total daily calories. On the contrary, the other two main meals (i.e. lunch and dinner) should provide approximately 40 and 35% of the energy; at the same time, secondary meals (2-3 snacks) simply contribute the remaining 10% (up to 25%) of calories overall. So, if mathematics is not an opinion, respecting the “calorie quantity” criterion, breakfast seems much more similar to a secondary meal than to a main one. However, its importance lies in a metabolic and non-mathematical mechanism.

Breakfast aims to refresh the body after a fast that lasts from the end of the previous dinner. As a general rule, assuming that the last meal of the day is consumed between 7.30pm and 8.30pm, and that the next breakfast takes place between 7.30am and 8.30am, this time frame should correspond to about 11-13 hours. It goes without saying that, logically, it would be appropriate for breakfast to provide much more than 15% of daily calories (remember the saying: “eat a breakfast like a king, a lunch like a prince and a dinner like a pauper“?); also because, examining the circadian cycles, insulin secretion and its peripheral uptake are greater in these hours of the day rather than in the afternoon or at night. Nonetheless, in the morning (perhaps due to nervous or time issues) , the average person does not easily tolerate large portions of food and prefers to consume them for lunch or dinner. Furthermore, it should be remembered that night-time fasting occurs in conditions of deliberately limited energy expenditure (essentially, it corresponds to the basal metabolism); night-time fasting, therefore , it is certainly not comparable to morning, afternoon or evening abstinence, periods in which the organism is more active and expensive. It should also be specified that, since it is the first meal, reducing its size or eliminating it completely runs the risk of accumulating appetite (which turns into HUNGER) and to exceed the portions in subsequent meals; in practice, by not taking in this energy at breakfast, this is then added to lunch or dinner, increasing the fat deposit due to caloric excess.

These are the reasons that justify the importance of the morning meal and which, at the same time, limit its size to a modest 15% of the total.

Protein Foods for Breakfast

Once we understand the importance of breakfast, let's try to better understand HOW it should be structured.

We have already mentioned insulin; this hormone is the body's main anabolic mediator but, by facilitating the entry of certain molecules into the tissues, it also becomes responsible for adipose accumulation. A better ability to metabolise nutrients in the morning also corresponds to a lower tendency to deposit fat, which is why we usually concentrate the sweetest foods at breakfast rather than in other meals of the day (sugars are the main nutrients responsible for insulin secretion); furthermore, remember that the brain runs on glucose (sugar), therefore carbohydrates should never be missing from a morning meal (especially considering the long fast before breakfast).

However, people's nutritional needs are NOT the same and, especially in certain situations (anticipated in the introduction), breakfast becomes a fundamental moment to reach the quota of other nutritional compounds such as proteins, but also fibre, vitamins and salts. minerals.

In summary, for certain people (who we remember to be especially young people, the elderly, athletes and those who suffer from pathologies related to intestinal absorption but not only…) have a reasonable consumption of milk and yogurt in the morning It's a smart habit to say the least. I mention these foods because, in addition to being statistically the most popular in the first meal, they represent an excellent source of protein, riboflavin (vit. B2), calcium and (in yogurt) probiotics; furthermore, as regards the yoghurt, being conveniently distributed in portions of 125 and 150g, it can also be easily consumed on the go.

Protein-rich foods are different but, while for some it is not a problem to consume cured meats, eggs, canned tuna or white meat as soon as you wake up, I challenge anyone to regularly eat a plate of roasted prawns or Venetian-style liver… at 7am :30 in the morning!

Then, if we consider that the only nutritional drawback to the consumption of foods of animal origin is the intake of cholesterol and saturated fats, milk and yogurt prove once again to be extremely useful. In fact, although it is impossible to completely degrease a slice of meat or deprive an egg yolk of cholesterol, on an industrial level it is possible to skim (even very effectively) any type of milk; this, deprived of its lipid component, becomes a food almost totally free of molecules that favor the increase of cholesterol in the blood.

It is then necessary to specify that these foods are not globally tolerated; there is a portion of the population that, not maintaining intestinal lactase after weaning, becomes intolerant to this sugar. For these people it is practically impossible to consume normal milk, while (thanks to the hydrolysis carried out by the lactic bacteria which reduces the lactose content) they seem to tolerate better (with the necessary differences linked to subjectivity) all fermented products such as yogurt, kefir, Greek or thickened yogurt, buttermilk, etc.

In short, two yogurts with whole grains, honey, fresh fruit and oil seeds represent a tasty breakfast capable of covering the needs of proteins (totally absorbable), sugars, fats, water, mineral salts, vitamins and dietary fiber for the most part. of the general population.

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