Your mother always told you that breakfast was the most important meal of the day and she was right. But that "most important meal" is only going to set you up for the long hours ahead if it's composed of nutritious foods that benefit the body.
So forget grabbing some fast food on the run. Nutritionists recommend you take time to munch on some whole grains for your morning meal and give yourself a great start to the day.
Indra Mehrotra, director of the Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition from the US and Nilani Sritharan, manager of Nestle Nutrition, Asia & Oceania, say that whole grains generate a steady source of energy that not only lasts throughout the day and are rich in protein too.
"Breakfast helps boost up your metabolism and your brain after a night's sleep and the dietary intake helps keep you active all day too," says Mehrotra.
A healthy breakfast, she says, should comprise a portion of fruit, vitamin and minerals, complex carbohydrate and foods that are rich in calcium. But she acknowledges that eating a balanced morning meal is not always easy, as family members rush to prepare for work and school.
She recommends whole grains as a way of getting round the problem as most of the nutrients we need can be found in the three edible parts of the grain.
The bran part has fibre, B Vitamins, phytonutrients and protein, while the endosperm provides protein and carbohydrates. The germ part has vitamins, phytonutrients, a small amount of polyunsaturated fat plus iron, magnesium, copper and zinc.
Whole grains come in several forms - most commonly eaten are brown rice, whole wheat, popcorn or sorghum. All these are considered as carbohydrates and those trying to lose weight may well avoid them in any quantity for fear of piling on the kilos. In fact, these whole grains are complex carbohydrates and advantageous even for those following a strict regime.
That's because complex carbohydrate digestion takes longer and slows the absorption of sugar, meaning that energy is supplied more gradually but steadily, thus limiting the amount of sugar that's converted into fat and absorbed.
On the other hand, simple carbohydrates, like those found in white rice, are digested quicker and absorbed immediately. Rapid absorption increases the chance of sugar converting to energy but because the body usually does not require high amounts of energy immediately, the sugar must be converted to glycogen. For some people, that could mean the onset of diabetes type 2 later in life and a greater disk of a heart attack. Epidemiologic studies consistently show the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus is decreased with consumption of whole grain.
All too often though, healthy foods simply don't taste nice and turn people away from what is good for them.
And then, there's the problem of so-called "whole grains" like the whole wheat bread sold in supermarkets, which often contain not-so-healthy additives.
"It's not possible to always make meals using nothing but whole grain ingredients; the taste just wouldn't be acceptable," says Mehrotra. "The best we can do is explore which products have the highest quantity of whole grains and a taste that we like."
Sritharan agrees, adding that while it's hard to eat healthily all the time, she feels it shouldn't be hard to sometimes swap refined grain with whole grain, to mix white rice with brown rice and to start the day with a bowl of whole grain cereal topped with fruit.
Spotting whole grain
>> Always look for the word 'whole' before the grain in the ingredient list, such as like whole grain wheat
>> Don't confuse multigrain with whole grain. Multigrain means a variety of grains are used. They are generally refined.
>>"With added fibre" does not imply the production is whole grain. It means that refined flour is used and fibre is added.
>> "With real grains" is not whole grain. It simply means the product is made with cereal grains, usually refined grains.