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The Breakfast of Champions

You are probably familiar with the breakfast cereal Wheaties, “The Breakfast of Champions.” Amazingly, that tag line must have worked pretty well given that Wheaties are still on grocery shelves 85 years after being introduced to America. Over the years, many athletes have been featured on the box.  The first athlete was Lou Gehrig, featured in 1934.

Over the years, quite a few famous athletes have had their pictures on the box.  I’m guessing that many kids poured an extra bowl of Wheaties while dreaming about being like one of them.  While positive thinking can’t be discounted as part of a winning formula, the nutrition in the box is not what I would recommend for champions.

Wheaties are made from whole grains with added sugar, corn syrup, and salt.  While using a whole grain is a positive, a breakfast cereal doesn’t have to start with three strikes against it.  Fortunately, many better breakfast choices are available.  If curious what leading authorities in the world of plant-based whole food nutrition eat for breakfast, below is a summary of what some of these champions prefer.

Dr. Kristi Funk’s favorite breakfast is an antioxidant smoothie. As a board-certified breast cancer surgeon and an expert in using innovative and minimally invasive treatments, Dr. Funk recommends plant-based whole foods, especially those with the most cancer-kicking compounds.  Her blended breakfast drink combines mixed berries and banana with leafy green vegetables and touches of flaxseed, aloe vera, amla (Indian gooseberries), and cinnamon. You can download her smoothie recipe from breastmanual.com. (To find the download link, search the page for the word ‘smoothie.’)

Dr. Neal Barnard’s favorite breakfast is grilled tofu topped with ginger, nutritional yeast, and soy sauce; steamed broccoli topped with Bragg Liquid Aminos (like soy sauce); and a papaya. Nutritionally, this breakfast packs a high-protein starter (tofu), a mineral-packed vegetable (broccoli), and a vitamin-rich fruit (papaya).  For Dr. Barnard’s Grilled Breakfast Tofu recipe, click here.  If traveling and the choices are restaurants like Denny’s or IHOP, Dr. Barnard recommends asking the cook to put some mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and spinach or asparagus on the grill, along with some unbuttered rye toast. It’s like an omelet without the egg – a taste combination he calls a Nomelet.

Brenda Davis, RD recommends a breakfast of whole grains (e.g. sprouted black barley and cooked kamut) and lentils (usually small brown.)  She adds grains to boost nutrition along with fresh seasonal fruit (berries, apples, bananas, peaches, etc.), something creamy (chia pudding, cashew-pear cream or non-dairy yogurt), stewed blueberries or Italian prune plums, nut and a seed mix (chia, flax, hemp, and pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, walnuts), dehydrated granola (for crunch on top), and unsweetened non-dairy milk. While this may sound complicated, when ingredients are made ahead, it’s simple to assemble. To keep it simple, make enough grains and lentils to last 4-5 days, enough seed mix to last about a month (stored in the freezer), enough stewed fruits to last several months (stored in the freezer), and enough granola to last 2 months (stored in the freezer). For more about Brenda’s recipe, click here.

Marco Borges, an exercise physiologist, begins his typical day with a large glass of room temperature lemon water (just lemon and water). Breakfast begins after his workout and usually includes a big bowl of berries with oats cooked in water with a spoonful of almond butter over the top. His second favorite is avocado toast, topped with sprouts, lemon juice, and smoked paprika.  Both are good sources of micronutrients, fiber, protein, and are quick to make. For more about Marco’s recipes click here.

Ocean Robbins has observed that we each have a unique metabolism.  Some need a filling meal to start the day, others don’t get hungry until noon, and what feels right on one day may feel very different on another day.  For example, if you engage in a lot of physical activity, you’re more likely to need extra calories in the morning. For those that work mostly at a desk, eating a light breakfast might feel better.  This is especially the case if you eat late at night.  As for what Ocean eats for breakfast, it varies a lot but often includes a blueberry chia porridge that’s rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, prebiotics, and antioxidants.  Best of all, it’s quick and convenient if you need to carry it with you.

If your breakfast habit has been a sweet roll, cold cereal with milk, or a meat and eggs breakfast, perhaps it’s time for a more nutritious breakfast for the champion in you.

What most Americans eat for breakfast is what the food industry has conditioned them to expect through advertisements.  Mostly, these are low-quality refined foods with a high-profit margin.  Granted, many of these foods are convenient.  Unfortunately, their long term effects on health can be rather inconvenient.

For nutrition and convenience, my favorite breakfast is overnight oats.  It’s quick to make, it’s portable, and it’s tasty. For more about what real champions eat, read ” 9 Healthy Breakfast Ideas from Plant-Powered Health Revolutionaries.“

            Nancy Neighbors, MD

Overnight Oats

            While there may be hundreds of ways to make overnight oats, here is a simple recipe that one of my daughters uses.  Both she and her husband keep ready-to-go containers of overnight oats in their refrigerator.

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats,
  • 1-2  tbsp ground chia seeds,
  • 1-2  tbsp of ground flaxseed,
  • 1 cup water or almond milk

Combine all ingredients in a microwaveable container and place it in the refrigerator.  In the morning, heat until you have the desired creaminess and enjoy it.  Some find the texture of uncooked overnight oats preferable.  In either case, if running late, you have an easy-pack breakfast.

In the transition from boxed cereals to whole grains, most find the lack of sweetness their biggest challenge.  To help, add berries, chopped grapes, or other chopped fruit.  Frozen fruit works well in the off-seasons (especially blueberries.)  For variation in texture, add an ounce or less of nuts or seeds.  At about 160 calories per ounce, one ounce of nuts or seeds is the most you will want to add unless you are trying to gain weight.

For insurance that your overnight oats will get you all the way to lunchtime, pack an extra fruit for a snack.

Update From
Alabama Dept. of Public Health

            The Alabama Department of Public Health reports daily about COVID-19 on their website.  Near the middle of their webpage, you will find links to the detailed daily reports. An alternate view of COVID-19 activity in Alabama is provided on “Alabama’s COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard.”  The daily reports include a chart that shows the underlying medical conditions where the person that died had COVID-19.

            The message conveyed by the chart is that COVID-19 would be a minor issue except for the lifestyle choices many people make.  Unfortunately, this has become a worldwide problem.

            In an encouraging message, Dr. Katz explains, in a podcast interview that even small changes in lifestyle can make a remarkable difference in COVID-19 resistance and recovery.  You will find a link to the interview in the section titled “Here We Go Again.”

            Waiting for COVID-19 to go away or for a vaccine to save the day may well end up a fool’s errand. It’s time for us to reflect on what is truly important to us and what is no longer serving us.

The Other Epidemic
(America’s Excess Weight Gain)

It’s clear that age and chronic disease make bouts of COVID-19 more severe – and even deadly.  Now we know that excess weight also puts younger people at higher risk.  Researchers suspect that inflammation throughout the body linked to excess weight is a powerful factor in the severity of COVID-19.  Recent data indicate that excess weight may be a more significant factor than heart or lung disease.

Thomas Campbell, MD, co-author of The China Study and author of “The Campbell Plan” offers some disturbing thoughts about the trend in America along with some very encouraging thoughts about how dramatic even small changes can be in changing the outcome from a disease like COVID-19. 

In the video “Obesity, the Other Pandemic “Dr. Campbell shares his insights from working with a wide range of medical weight-related issues.

Dr. Campbell is an instructor of clinical family medicine with an active practice at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry where he was the co-founder and clinical director of their Program for Nutrition in Medicine.  He also serves as a medical director and educator at the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, a leading provider of online plant-based nutrition certification, in partnership with eCornell, Cornell University’s online course provider.

The Science of Optimal
Weight & Healthy Living

In this week’s featured podcast you have access to three experts explaining the science of weight loss.

In the first presentation, “The Neuroscience of Sustainable Weight Loss,” Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D. explains why 99% of diets don’t work – and how you can rewire your brain to help you be happy, healthy, and free.

In the second talk, “The Best Foods for a Lean Body & a Healthy Life,” Michael Greger, MD explains what the science says about the foods and dietary patterns that support health and longevity.

In the third presentation, “How to Prevent and Reverse Diabetes,” Brenda Davis, RD provides insights about carbohydrates, sugar, fruit, insulin resistance, the keto diet, and how to take charge in the fight against the #1 most costly chronic disease on the planet.

To begin the podcast, click here.

Here We Go Again

In COVID Update #7, I mention a prediction by Dr. Michael Greger about the likelihood of viral pandemics that predates the current pandemic by ten years.  Of course, Dr. Greger was not the first person to predict that unless humans changed their ways more viruses would jump from animals to people.  Unfortunately, these zoonotic disease alerts were largely dismissed since they would have involved inconvenient changes that challenged social norms in a society that consumes lots of animal products.  Such was the unfortunate result in 2009 when the H1N1 flu infected 1.4 billion people worldwide and resulted in 575,400 deaths. While H1N1 was dubbed “swine flu,” the public failed to appreciate the connection between the virus and factory farms that bring large numbers of animals in close contact. As we have since discovered, pigs served as mixing vessels for the resulting illness and spread the disease to humans.  No doubt, the American food industry will again try to avoid making changes that impact their profits.  Consumers, for their part, are likely to miss the fact that their demand for cheap animal-based foods creates the problem.  Perhaps enough will remember what happened and why in a connected world that we must learn to reduce the opportunity for these diseases to occur.  If unsure why we must be vigilant after the COVID-19 issue slips from being a daily concern, read “From E. Coli to COVID-19 – How Animal Agriculture Spawns Infectious Diseases” by Lindsay Morris

More About COVID-19
from Dr. David Katz

In a recent interview by Rich Roll, Dr. David Katz provides more thoughts about the correct course of action for the country as we deal with COVID-19.  While a few comments in the interview have a political flavor, the overall interview is well balanced and follows the science. The interview is “A more surgical Strategy” by Dr. David Katz with Rich Roll as the interviewer.

Interpreting The News

One word to notice in news reports is “model” as in “the model predicts.”  While many nuances of COVID-19 have been observed, much about the virus is uncertain.  The problem is that the models used for predictions all have the ability to produce a wide range of outcomes based on the historical data used to calibrate them.  Unfortunately, COVID-19 is quite new, and historical data is lacking.

Mortality rates are also important to understand. People die for many reasons other than being infected by COVID-19.  From past recessions, we know that a leading cause of illness and death is poverty that leads to depression, suicides, family stress, etc.  These social determinants of health have been studied extensively and are well-grounded in science.  This raises a question about reports of “excessive deaths” compared with historical norms.  When people are under the stress of job losses or other economic problems they often become depressed and their health suffers.  When the effects of an economic downturn are compounded by social isolation, health issues further increase.

Given the uncertain quality of COVID-19 population data, you may wonder which countries have passed the peak of new COVID-19 infections.  Eventually, nationwide testing may answer the question.  For now, alternative methods of estimating must be used.  One estimate has been made from a survey of people on the front lines of healthcare.  While not the ideal way to make this estimate, it’s what we have.  In the table below is the percentage of physicians that answered YES to the question, “Has your part of the country passed the peak?” The survey included 1555 physicians from the United States.

CountryHave passed
Spain96%
France93%
Great Britain93%
Italy91%
Germany71%
Canada71%
USA62%
Japan48%
Mexico22%

By Nancy Neighbors, MD

... Dr. Neighbors provides a blend of traditional family medicine and evidence-based lifestyle medicine in Huntsville, Alabama. When indicated, lifestyle change is recommended as the first line of therapy.

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