Growing up, my breakfast was almost completely made up of breakfast cereals. But, my mom would only let my sister and I have the “healthy” cereals- Cheerios, Special K, and more. She would let us choose a sugary cereal for special occasions only- Christmas and Birthdays. Fruit Loops and Captain Crunch were my favs. She thought she was giving us the healthy choices on a daily basis- little did I know at the time that ALL breakfast cereals (yep, all of them) are crap. Crap for your health, crap for your hormones.
Maybe you have a similar story of using cereal, toast, bagels, muffins and other flour-based and sweet tasting products as your daily breakfast food. I get it- it’s tasty, it’s fast and really- who gives a fuck? It’s just some fuel to get you going, right?
Or perhaps you’re of the skipping breakfast camp. Too busy in the morning, or eating food first thing makes you want to puke your guts up.
My job is to tell you the truth, and sometimes that means bursting your bubble. Eating a sugary, carb-heavy breakfast, or not eating breakfast at all, is totally unacceptable.
Before you get huffy and close this page, please read on. I know you’ll understand by the end of this article and you’ll have some concrete examples of WHAT is in the perfect breakfast.
Why Your Current Breakfast Strategy Sucks
Breakfast is important. Skipping breakfast or eating a high carbohydrate breakfast like what I’ve mentioned above is seriously detrimental to your hormone balance, weight loss and energy-increasing efforts. Here’s why.
Cortisol, that stress hormone you’ve heard about, is highest first thing in the morning. Part of the reason for this is to get you up and out of bed, regulating your circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle. This is totally natural and normal, but problems can arise when a proper breakfast doesn’t follow the getting-out-of-bed.
Cortisol is a hormone that stimulates the formation of new sugars to be released in the bloodstream. Often, cortisol will break down muscle and use your muscles to create the sugar. This is bad news for a couple of reasons. Firstly, you want sexy, lean muscle on your body because it burns more calories at rest than fat does. Second, if you use up all of your muscles, you will become very weak, your bones might be negatively effected and your hormones and nervous system will suffer.
So, when cortisol is high in the morning, it’s important to eat a healthful breakfast to stop it from breaking down muscle to create sugar to keep you going. By eating breakfast, you tell your body you have nutrients and sugars, and can keep your precious muscle.
This is What Happens in Your Body When You Eat a Sugary Breakfast
Let’s say you enjoy having the breakfast cereal Special K for breakfast. Or maybe another cereal, or toast, muffins or bagels. For our purposes, let’s stick with Special K. This cereal is promoted heavily as being a “healthy” breakfast option for women wanting to keep trim, and stay healthy. The main way the people at Special K pass this crap off as “healthy” is because it’s low calorie, and low fat. Neither of which are doing your health or hormones any favours.
When you eat that cold, crunchy cereal first thing in the morning on an empty stomach (or with a BIG coffee, which will intensify all the effects), your body gets a sugar hit.
Sorry Not sorry to say that even if the cereal doesn’t actually have “sugar” in the ingredients, the processed nature of it makes it almost indistinguishable from sugar in your body.
So, you get the sugar hit, and there’s no fibre, healthy fats or proteins to slow it down. Even if you have it with whole milk, this is still a mess. Your body receives that sugar rush, and so your blood sugar rises rapidly. In response to this huge lift in blood sugar, your pancreas releases insulin, your blood sugar regulating hormone, to get that sugar out of the blood and into the cells to make energy.
So far, not too bad.
The problem arises when this cereal is more than a one time thing. Eventually, your body will make more and more insulin, and your cells will become desensitized to it. So, you can’t get the sugar in the cell and are left with high sugar and high insulin levels. Eventually, about an hour or two later, your body will crash. Blood sugar levels will dip drastically, as there’s no fat or protein to keep everything stable, and this is where the problems begin.
When that sugar dips, likely you’ll be feeling super hungry, and headed to the vending machine for chocolate, the corner store for a coffee or anything else that’s carb-loaded and sugary you can get your hands on for more quick energy.
Before you reach that ravenous state about an hour or two after breakfast, you’ll likely experience some crazy mood swings. Like WHO the fuck does she think she is, or I can’t BELIEVE hubby hasn’t done the dishes AGAIN after I’ve asked him a million times, or GAH I’m so ugly and fat, I can’t go on anymore.
As you go through your day, now on this blood sugar roller coaster, you’ll be cravings carbs and sugars, having crazy, embarrassing mood swings and feeling like a zombie without a brain as you move from one thing to the next.
And guess what happens when your insulin and sugar are chronically out of whack?
Yep, insulin turns into a fat storage hormone instead of a blood-sugar regulating hormone when there’s a lot of it, and when your body has become desensitized to it’s blood-sugar regulating abilities.
And you know where the fat goes?
So what’s the moral of this story? Eat breakfast.
And make it a good one.
Three Parts to a Hormone Balancing Breakfast
There are three parts to any hormone-balancing breakfast. As you create breakfasts for your own life, be sure to include all three parts, and you’ll know with confidence you’ve created a healthy breakfast for yourself.
Protein is the first thing a hormone-balancing breakfast should have. Protein as you’ve learned above helps to build and maintain lean muscle, which is super important for your hormones. Protein helps to slow the blood sugar spike with a meal, as it digests more slowly than carbs. Also, if you notice low energy, weak nails, poor skin quality and hair thinning, you may not be getting enough protein, or you might not be absorbing it well.
How much: Aim for 20-30g at least of protein with each meal.
Sources: (Choose organic and/or grass-fed sources) Chicken, Turkey, Lamb, Bison, Beef, Salmon, Cod, Herring, Mackerel, Sardines, all other fish, Crab, Oysters, all other seafood, Protein Powder (non-dairy), Collagen Hydrolysate Protein Powder (like Great Lakes), Nuts and Seeds like hemp and chia, Legumes like chickpeas, black beans and lentils
Fat is the #1 most important macronutrient you need in your breakfast (and all meals). Did you know that FAT (specifically cholesterol) is used to make ALL steroid hormones? That’s right, you use fat to create estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol and other hormones. Also, each of the billions of cells in your body has a membrane made mostly of fat. If you don’t get enough, your cells won’t function well and your hormones will be bat-shit crazy.
Fat is also the slowest digesting marconutrient, and it stimulates some digestive processes as well. This means that fat will drastically reduce the sugar spike of any meal you eat.
However, the TYPE of fat you eat matters. Don’t take this as permission to go to the local McDonald’s and grab a huge burger and milkshake because there’s fat in it. That just doesn’t cut it.
Including healthy sources of fats, and removing rancid fats like vegetable oils, fried foods and packaged foods which are loaded with inflammatory trans fats are a good place to start.
How much: Aim for 1-2 tbsp (at least!!) of ADDED fats to each meal
Sources: Coconut meat, milk and oil, Avocados and their oil, hemp seeds and oil, chia seeds, all other nuts/seeds and their oils or butters, pastured lard, grass-fed butter, organic ghee (clarified butter), extra virgin olive oil, fats naturally occurring in meats like chicken skin, MCT oil
Fibre is the final component of a good hormone-balancing breakfast. Fibre is also the only nutrient I would say is optional some of the time. If you have bowel issues, the fibre is NOT optional. Fibre of course comes from plant foods that also provide us with carbohydrates. Please note that I do not consider carbs to be the enemy, and in fact believe that a long-term extremely low carb diet is detrimental to your hormone healing.
Fibre, like protein and fat, helps to slow the blood sugar spike when we eat. It also helps us to excrete excess hormones that have been metabolized through the liver and come out in our poop. Fibre helps to keep our digestive system clean by gently “brushing” the sides of our intestines and keeping everything moving properly. Fibre also helps to feed good bacteria in our gut.
How much: Aim for 35g to 45g as a daily total. If you are trying to conceive or have ovulation difficulties, shoot for the lower end.
Sources: All fruits and veggies, especially leafy greens (kale, collards, chard, spinach), broccoli, cabbage, apples, pears, berries, brussels sprouts, avocados, lentils, black beans, flax, chia and hemp seeds, all other nuts and seeds, gluten-free whole grains like quinoa and millet
Hormone-Balancing Breakfast Examples
Here are a few breakfast ideas to use as examples.
Note that PRO = protein, FAT = fat, and FIB = fibre
- 2 eggs (PRO, FAT), cooked in 1 tbsp coconut oil (FAT), served with 1 cup kale (FIB) sauteed in 1 tbsp coconut oil (FAT)
- Smoothie: 1 serving protein powder (PRO), 1 cup non-dairy milk, 1 tbsp cashew butter (FAT), handful swiss chard (FIB), 1/3 cup berries (FIB), and 2 tsp coconut oil (FAT)
- Porridge: see recipe below
Hormone-Balancing Breakfast Recipe
- 1 tbsp. ghee or butter (FAT)
- 3 tbsp. ground hemp seeds (FAT, PRO, FIB)
- 1 tbsp. ground cashews (FAT, PRO)
- 1 tbsp. cashew butter or almond butter (FAT, PRO)
- 1/3 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling) (FIB)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 to 4 tbsp. nondairy milk of choice
- stevia to taste (optional)
- 1 tbsp. pumpkin seeds (optional, for topping)
- Heat ghee in a small pot over low heat.
- Add everything else, using as much non-dairy milk as necessary to get your desired consistency.
- Cook gently over low heat until everything is heated through.
- Top with pumpkin seeds if using.