Food & Nutrition
Energize Your Breakfast With Protein
Jump-Start Your Day
A slimmer waistline, better mood, and higher energy levels can begin at the breakfast table if you add protein to your morning meal. Protein is made up of amino acids that help build cell structure, support growth and repair, and provide energy. You also need protein for your immune system to function properly.
Start with breakfast, and continue eating healthy proteins throughout your day to keep the health benefits coming. Read on to learn how to boost the power of your breakfast with protein.
Know Your Proteins
When the body doesn't get enough protein, it's more susceptible to allergies, infection, and disease. But not all proteins are alike. Healthy, lower-fat proteins include:
- leaner cuts of meat
- chicken and turkey with the skin removed
- low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, and cheese
- egg whites or pasteurized egg white products
I’m Full, Thank You
A study at the University of Missouri revealed that eating a nutritious breakfast, especially one high in protein, makes you feel fuller and reduces hunger throughout the day. In fact, getting extra protein at breakfast decreases the brain signals controlling food motivation and reward-driven eating behavior. This means your morning protein can help you control your appetite. Eating a little extra protein can also help you maintain blood sugar levels and even improve your mood.
Enough Is Not Enough
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that most Americans get enough protein in their daily diets. According to the CDC, the average adult needs 8 grams per 20 pounds of body weight, or 45 to 70 grams of protein every day. Many of us get twice that amount.
The key, therefore, is not to eat more protein, but to choose healthy protein options. A high-protein diet that contains too much saturated fat may cause more harm than good. On the other hand, eating a variety of lean proteins can reduce the risk of disease and help you feel full and satisfied.
Breakfast Protein Decreases Hunger
In the University of Missouri study, researchers observed three groups of teenagers: those who regularly skipped breakfast, those who consumed 500-calorie breakfast meals containing cereal and milk, and those who ate higher protein meals such as Belgian waffles, syrup, and yogurt.
Teenagers who ate breakfast felt less hungry throughout the morning than those who skipped the meal. But the teenagers who ate the higher protein breakfast had even greater changes in appetite and the feeling of fullness or satisfaction.
Other Health Benefits of Protein
A study conducted at Johns Hopkins University revealed that a diet in which approximately a quarter of the calories came from lean protein sources such as legumes, grains, nuts and seeds helped reduce blood pressure. The diet also helped lower LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, and reduced triglycerides more effectively than a high-carbohydrate diet.
Similarly, a study published in the journal Diabetes Care showed that people who consumed a high-protein snack before breakfast had blood sugar levels 40 percent lower than those who didn't. A high-protein breakfast could help people with diabetes to manage their symptoms.
The Protein Story
What gives protein these powers? Protein-rich foods take more work for your digestive system to break down, so they require more calories for processing. Your body will work harder—and burn more calories—to digest a protein-based breakfast than it would if you start your day with just carbs.
High-protein meals also take longer to leave your stomach. That’s why a high-protein breakfast can help keep you feeling full for longer, staving off a mid-morning hunger surge.
Healthy Breakfast Option
Add protein to your breakfast tomorrow with these healthy suggestions:
- two eggs, cooked how you like them
- one cup cottage cheese or Greek yogurt
- smoothie made with one cup strawberries, banana slices, one scoop protein powder, ice and one cup milk
- oatmeal, low-fat milk, chopped apple, and two tablespoons of chopped walnuts
- two hard-boiled eggs, whole wheat toast and an orange
- mini whole wheat bagel, cream cheese and jam, a peach, and cup of yogurt
Have Lunch for Breakfast
If eggs or other common breakfast foods don’t appeal to you, try these high-protein morning meals:
- chicken breast wrap with low-fat cheese
- breakfast burrito with a whole-wheat tortilla, lean turkey breast, reduced fat cheese, egg whites, and veggies or salsa
- peanut butter on whole-wheat toast
- bowl of whole-grain rice with some honey, raisins, a cut-up apple, and a sprinkle of cinnamon
Check Your Breakfast Results
Spend your morning feeling energized instead of hungry. Take the first step this week by choosing a few of your favorite high-protein items and creating a morning meal plan. Replace your usual breakfast foods with protein options, and pay attention to how you feel throughout the day. By the end of the week, you might decide to make your protein-packed breakfast permanent!
- Appel, L. J., Sacks, F.M., Carey, V., et al (2005). Effects of protein, monounsaturated fat, and carbohydrate intake on blood pressure and serum lipids: results of the OmniHeart randomized trial. JAMA. 294:2455-2464. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=201882
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). Protein. http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/protein.html#What is protein
- Chen, M. J., Jovanovic, A., & Taylor, R. (2010). Utilizing the second-meal effect in type 2 diabetes: practical use of a soya-yogurt snack. Diabetes Care. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/33/12/2552.full
- Leidy, H. J., Lepping, R. J., Savage, C. R., & Harris, C. T. (2011). Neural responses to visual food stimuli after a normal vs. higher protein breakfast in breakfast-skipping teens: A pilot fMRI study. Obesity. doi: 10.1038/oby.2011.108