Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, at least that’s what our parents always told us. But how do we know which breakfast dish is best for us? Whether it be too much sugar or not enough nutrients, many breakfast options have dietary myths hanging over them. And these myths may be doing more harm than good when it comes to your morning meal.
We chatted to molecular nutritionist Dr Emma Beckett who busted some big breakfast myths that could be stopping you from maximising your morning goodness.
Here’s what she shared with us about breakfast myths.
Myth #1: Traditional breakfast foods are bad for you
The truth: “Some foods high in carbohydrates, such as wholemeal bread and breakfast cereals, contain dietary fibre which helps us to feel fuller…”
For those who have busy mornings rushing around completing endless tasks or even those who can’t be bothered to cook gourmet meals every morning, cereal is the go-to option. It’s easy, convenient and tastes pretty darn good.
What’s even better about cereal, according to Dr Beckett, is that it is a great way to ensure we are getting heaps of nutrients in the morning. Packed with iron, B-vitamins and fibre, cereal is stacking up to be a better breakfast choice than it is given credit for.
Dr Beckett even gave us some great tips about how to spice up your morning bowl of cereal, too:
“Cereal pairs well with other nutrient-dense breakfast foods such as Greek yoghurt, and nuts, which are a source of protein. Protein is essential in the diet as it is the most filling macronutrient that can help reduce grazing habits throughout the day,” she said over email.
If you are confused about which brand of cereal is good to grab, Beckett suggested going for Kellogg’s All Bran or Sultana Bran, as they are “high in fibre and have a 4.5 or even the maximum 5 Health Star rating. Cereals like this have been a popular choice for almost 100 years”.
Who knew cereal was so good?
Myth #2: Processed = bad?
The truth: “Most food needs to go through some sort of processing for it to even be edible and digestible – processing is a broad term that includes cooking, cutting and packaging.”
Lots of us have been scared of buying anything that is labelled as being processed, but this is actually an important step for most foods to go through. Processing sometimes has more to do with preserving the food and preventing wastage than it does nutritional value.
As Dr Beckett explained, “Key nutrients like protein aren’t necessarily lost during processing, they can sometimes be retained or made easier to access through processing. Others like B vitamins and iron may be added back if they’re lost, in a process called enrichment.”
The usual breakfast suspects, like cereal and bread, are actually often fortified with extra nutrients and are processed because they are affordable, accessible, shelf-stable and popular. This just makes it easier for us to ensure we are putting the right stuff in our bodies to start off the day.
However, this doesn’t mean that all processed foods are given the all-clear. Dr Beckett notes that it is still important to consider how much a food item has been processed, with products that have been ultra-processed to be consumed in moderation.
Myth #3: It’s expensive to have a healthy diet
The truth: “According to recently published Australian research based on modelling, it is possible to improve Aussie diets while spending less money on food by choosing low-cost nutritious foods, improving diet quality and potentially reducing a family’s grocery bill by over 25 per cent.”
A common misconception about eating healthy is that it pinches at our wallets and products need to be consumed quickly. Surprisingly, there are actually heaps of healthy food options that are reasonably cheap for what you are getting out of them and they won’t spoil quickly. Foods like wholemeal bread and cereals are actually pretty budget-friendly and last a reasonably long time.
A twist that I wasn’t prepared for is that canned and frozen fruits and veggies are just as healthy as they are fresh (as long as they’re not sitting in syrup). If you are worried about that bunch of bananas you bought and can’t finish before they go off, chuck them in the freezer! They will last longer and not lose any health properties.
“If you do your research and shop around, healthy eating really doesn’t have to be as expensive as it might seem!”
Myth #4: Breakfast cereal is too sugary and has no nutritional value
The truth: “Australian data has shown that cereal contributes less than 3% of added sugar in the average diet. Many cereals contain whole grains and fibre which many people are not getting enough of.”
According to Dr Beckett, many breakfast cereals are actually “full of essential vitamins and minerals that are important for health and wellbeing, and are the number one source of iron in the Aussie diet, especially in children.”
Obviously, cereals will vary in their sugar levels with some sweeter ones available if that’s your cup of tea (or should I say, your bowl of cereal), but most are moderately sweetened and many sweetened from added fruits that contain natural sugars.
“For example, half of Kellogg’s 55 cereals contain 2 or less teaspoons of sugar per bowl. Updating formulations have meant that they have removed over 700 tonnes of sugar and 300 tonnes of salt from Aussie diets – that’s the equivalent to the weight of around seven blue whales!”
Myth #5: If it isn’t wholegrain it doesn’t contain fibre
The truth: “Whilst whole-grain foods contain fibre, not all fibre-containing foods contain the whole grain.”
How’s that for a mind-bender?
If you are like me, fibre is confusing and I don’t exactly know what it is or where to find it. Luckily, Dr Beckett broke it down for us.
“Fibre is found in the outer part of the grain called the bran. The bran can be removed from the grain and used in foods,” she explained.
This means foods made with bran may not always contain whole grains but they do contain plenty of fibre.
According to Dr Beckett, I’m not the only one who is confused about fibre. Two out of three Aussies are not meeting their daily fibre targets. What’s worse is that four out of five Aussies don’t eat enough fibre to protect themselves from chronic disease. Yikes.
“An adequate intake of fibre is between 25 and 30 grams a day for most of us. That might sound hard, but getting your daily dose is actually easy if you eat high-fibre options including fibre rich breakfast cereals, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts,” she said.
Dr Beckett then went on to explain that not all whole grains were created equal (in the fibre department):
“Did you know that different whole grains have different levels and types of fibres,” she shared.
“For example, whole grain brown rice and corn both have naturally less fibre compared to other whole grains such as whole-grain wheat and oats, which have higher amounts of fibre.”
What’s interesting though, is just because a whole grain has less fibre doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial – it is!
Whole grain is exactly as it sounds – it’s the entire whole grain kernel. Fibre is just one component of the whole grain kernel and all components work together to bring health benefits.
The more you know!
This article has been updated since publication.
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