Thursday, November 21, 2013

Anatomy of a great breakfast

People often ask me what I eat for breakfast since I don't eat cereal or bread.  For the most part, I stick to a similar breakfast every day as seen below:

This meal consist of 2 sausage links and 2 strips of organic bacon with veggies sauteed in bacon fat and a tsp of Kerrygold butter.  The veggies consist of parsnips, carrots, asparagus, russet potatoes, onions and red peppers.  I cook this in a cast iron skillet, so the added fat is to make sure it doesn't stick to the pan.  Normally I season the veggies with basil, parsley, and garlic but I got a little lazy today.  In the mason jar is 1 tbsp of unmodified potato starch mixed in water.  So let's break down the benefits of this breakfast.

Building a healthy gut

The first thing to notice is the volume of vegetables compared to meat.  Since my diet isn't low carb, I like to eat a large volume of veggies to help support GI health and a healthy community of beneficial bacteria in my gut.  Most people take a probiotic to do this, but in my opinion prebiotic fiber from vegetables is a much smarter direction to go.  Even if probiotics work, and I do believe they have some benefit, if you don't provide the proper food for the little guys to survive in your gut they won't.

Prebiotic fiber from vegetables helps cultivate a healthy microbiome by helping to heal the gut and providing food to help healthy bacteria do their job.  This is also the reason for the unmodified potato starch.  Unmodified potato starch is basically raw potato powder.  Unmodified potato starch is considered resistant starch, as long as you don't heat it you can't digest it but the healthy bacteria in your gut ferment it in to short chained fatty acids that heal the gut.  I've seen dramatic improvements in my gut health and blood glucose regulation by taking unmodified potato starch every day.  I suppose you could just eat raw potatoes if you wanted, I find the potato starch to be a more appealing option.

In addition to the prebiotic fiber, healthy gut bugs like polyphenols, especially quercetin.  Polyphenols help give plant based foods their color.  To make sure I am getting a wide variety of polyphenols, I eat as many different colors of vegetables and fruit as possible over the course of the day.  In this breakfast alone I get red, white, orange, green, and yellow.  In addition, I normally have wild blueberries during the week but tend to remove them during the weekend because I drink beer and that has a negative impact on my insulin sensitivity.

Antioxidant defense

Every 3 days I like to include a vegetable from the cruciferous vegetable family.  I chose asparagus this time, but we often rotate brussel sprouts, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower.  The reason I like to get cruciferous vegetables in my diet 3 times a week is because they activate the NRF-2 pathway, one of your endogenous sources of antioxidants.  Brocoli's anti-cancer benefits are at least partially through NRF-2 pathway activation.  Wild blueberries also have the same effect which is why I eat them during the week.  I cook my cruciferous vegetables and limit my total weekly consumption to less than 6 servings per week because they can have a goitrogenic effect, they can interfere with thyroid function, when consumed too much.  Cooking them lessens this effect, but doesn't remove it entirely.  Since their antioxidant benefit lasts 3 days, I don't feel the need to consume them more than every 2-3 days.

Allowing a little diversity

Every now and again I will rotate in a different meat or eggs for a while to break the monotony of eating the same thing every day.  I also rotate my oils between coconut oil, Kerrygold butter, ghee, and olive oil.  In addition, I rotate different vegetables frequently.  The other vegetables in the rotation that I haven't mentioned include escarole, sweet potatoes, beets, beet greens, dandelion greens, chard, celery, squash, yellow and green zucchini, green peppers, orange peppers, yellow peppers, and all sorts of different mushrooms.  Throughout a week, I like to get at least 20 different vegetables and a few different types of fruit, rotating different vegetables for breakfast helps get me there.


I like to set the tone for the day with a good breakfast.  The large diversity as well as high volume of vegetables helps keep my gut healthy and keeps me full until lunch, most of the time I could probably even skip lunch without becoming hungry.  From a calorie standpoint, this meal provides approximately 500 calories and is my second largest meal behind dinner.