People say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, fueling your body with the energy it needs, and setting yourself up for success for the day head. Some disagree and say to eat when you’re hungry, but why would you skip breakfast when there are so many delicious options waiting for you once you get up? And not just in the U.S.!
People throughout their world start their day with delicious fare – further driving the point home that breakfast just might be the best meal of the day. So, today we’re taking a trip around the world, making stops wherever there’s a tasty breakfast waiting.
Don’t skip breakfast
Research published last year in the journal, Nutrients, said that “Regular breakfast consumption is associated with high intakes of micronutrients, a better diet that includes fruit and vegetables and less frequent use of soft drinks.”
What’s more, they found that people who skip breakfast “Had overall daily diets that were less than optimal in terms of nutrition intake as measured by indices of total daily diet quality.”
Scientists are saying that skipping breakfast doesn’t just mean you’re missing out on the first meal of the day. Rather, you’re missing out on optimal nutrition throughout the entire day. And if you tend to skip breakfast, there’s a good chance the rest of your diet isn’t so hot.
But why does that even matter? Well, eating breakfast – and the nutrients that come with it – is a pretty big deal when it comes to your health.
In the same research from Nutrients, study authors write, “Daily breakfast consumption among US adults may decrease the risk of adverse effects related to glucose and insulin metabolism.”
If you’re not sure what “glucose and insulin metabolism” means, here’s a super basic breakdown. When you eat anything, but especially carbohydrates, your blood sugar/blood glucose levels go up. As a response, the pancreas secretes insulin to help regulate blood sugar levels and to help your body use carbs/sugar for energy, rather than having them get stored as fat throughout the body.
Therefore, eating a yummy, nutrient-dense breakfast, can help to keep blood sugar and insulin levels stable not just in the morning, but throughout the entire day.
The question is, how do people around the world do breakfast? How do people – knowingly or unknowingly – kickstart their health on any given day? Let’s check out the menu.
Breakfast in Japan
A typical American breakfast is usually carbohydrate-heavy, like a sugary bowl of cereal doused in milk. In short, breakfast is on the sweet side and not to be confused with lunch or dinner. But it’s different in Japan.
In Japan, a traditional breakfast includes steamed rice, miso soup, seaweed, egg, fish, and fermented soybeans, called natto.
What’s healthy about a traditional, Japanese breakfast? So many things!
To start, natto is a safe way to eat soybeans, since they’re broken down via the fermentation process, making them easier for the body to digest. They provide healthy bacteria to the gut microbiome. Plus, it’s a dish loaded with healthy proteins.
You also get a small serving of carbohydrates (rice) to give you a quick and easy source of energy, but it’s balanced with eggs and fish – a top source of B vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, and amino acids.
Yes, a Japanese breakfast might look like lunch or dinner to you, but it’s definitely a healthy way to start the day.
Let’s move west and check out Turkey’s first meal of the day. Like the Japanese breakfast, Turkish morning meals are a distant cry from your American breakfast of sugary cereals.
A traditional Turkish breakfast includes fresh vegetables, like cucumbers and tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, some bread, and eggs served with spicy lamb sausage.
It’s hard to imagine going hungry after a meal like this, right? And that’s due to its optimal nutritional profile.
Here, you get a little bit of each macronutrient (fat, carbs, and protein). You get vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients from the vegetables, and the olives provide a heart-healthy source of monounsaturated fat.
Many people are ignorant of an Israeli breakfast, but they shouldn’t be. It just might be the healthiest breakfast tradition coming out of both Europe and the Middle East.
When we talk about the Mediterranean diet, we usually think about European countries, like Italy, Greece, France, and Spain. But Israel also belongs in discussions about Mediterranean eating.
A traditional, typical breakfast includes a vegetable salad, with tomatoes, red onion, parsley, cilantro, cucumbers, and even some green and red peppers. Everything is chopped up finely, and usually without any dressing. It’s a refreshing kick of flavor to wake up your taste buds.
In addition to a salad, people usually eat cow’s cheese or cottage cheese. Sometimes, you’ll also see foods like yogurt, hummus, fresh bread, eggs, olives, and avocado.
To top it off, people tend to have fish, like smoked salmon or herring, to start their day.
In short, this breakfast has so much going for it. A salad is a low-calorie base with a ton of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber. The fish provides a healthy dose of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
Other foods, like cheese, avocado, olives, and eggs provide healthy fats and proteins to keep you satiated. It’s a breakfast high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
Last, but certainly not least, let’s head to sunny, balmy Costa Rica – home to one for the world’s Blue Zones. Here, people are said to live longer than anywhere else. What’s more, they are as healthy as they age.
So, what’s their breakfast secret?
In Costa Rica, a traditional breakfast includes rice, black beans, and eggs. Therefore, you get lots of fiber, some carbs, and healthy proteins. Fresh fruit will also make an appearance, like oranges, mango, papaya and pineapple, providing you with lots of Vitamin C, and other nutrients.
It might seem strange to start with your day with rice and beans. After all, that sounds like something straight off of Chipotle’s lunch menu. But think about it. Rice and beans is a much healthier option than a sugary bowl of cereal or a sugary breakfast bar that people tend to eat in the US and other places.
You don’t have to eschew the typical American breakfast – whatever that looks like for you. But why not include some of the wisdom of these international breakfasts?
For example, can you make more room for fresh fruits and vegetables? How about healthy fats, like eggs, butter, fish, fresh cheeses, olives, and avocados?
There are so many ways to improve the first meal of the day, and hopefully, these worldwide breakfasts give you some inspiration.