‘Breakfast foods are essential.’
‘You MUST eat heavy in the morning.’
‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!’
I cringe whenever I hear people say that! I mean, what if you’re not hungry? Should you force yourself to eat?!? What happened to listening to your body and eating when you need to? Okay, I should stop ranting. [Deep breath]
It’s (partly) because of black and white statements like these that we tune out with our bodies. And end up eating breakfast foods that are so unhealthy that we would have been better off not eating anything at all in the first place.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that you shouldn’t eat in the morning. But that, should you choose to do so, make sure to avoid the following breakfast foods like the plague.
1. Corn flakes
Don’t shoot the messenger but you’d get more nutrients if you ate the box in which corn flakes came in… (Disclaimer: Please don’t eat the box. Have some sweet potatoes instead!)
Strange fact: Did you know that corn flakes were created in the late 1800s by Dr John Harvey Kellogg to prevent people from masturbating? The good doctor believed that bland, toasted corn food was and could reduce the sex drive of those who ate it!
Although the concept is totally weird, that’s not the reason why corn flakes are unhealthy.
What lurks in your corn flakes?
You see, this popular breakfast food contains:
- Corn that is often genetically modified. It is true that more research is needed on GMO foods to make an informed decision on their safety. But that doesn’t mean that GMOs are safe to consume. Plus, if you are gluten-intolerant or suffer from an autoimmune condition, studies suggest that you could react to corn as well.
- Added sugar (and sometimes dextrose as well – another type of sugar). With only 1 gram of fiber and 2 grams of protein per ounce, eating corn flakes in the morning is a surefire way to cause your blood sugar levels to skyrocket before nose diving. Put simply, this breakfast food is more likely to make you gain weight by making you hungrier faster and messing with your insulin sensitivity.
- Malt flavor which is another way of saying Processed Free Glutamic Acid (MSG).
- Various synthetic vitamins to make you believe you’re eating something healthy. Unfortunately, the body is unable to recognize most man-made vitamins and does its best to excrete them.
- BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) – food manufacturers will often tell you that they add BHT to the packaging ‘to keep the flakes fresh’. But what they fail to mention is that BHT messes with your hormones and can spell trouble for your thyroid, kidneys and liver.
2. Kids’ cereals
What do cookies have in common with cheerios, frosted flakes and lucky charms?
According to the EWG, a single serving of these cereals contains as much sugar as 3 chocolate chip cookies!
I get it. The boxes are made to look appealing to kids. The cartoon mascots on most of these boxes promise a day full of fun and delight. But that’s a deceptive picture: what these cereals really promise is a bunch of hyperactive kids who just can’t concentrate in class.
What lurks in most breakfast cereals?
- Grains – Since plants can’t run for their life when they see a predator, they produce lectins. Most predators (like us) cannot digest lectins. Eating a lot of lectins could therefore, cause digestive distress which would discourage us from eating the plants. (Isn’t this a fine plan?!)
Moreover, lectins could also damage the gut lining and cause the gut to become ‘leaky’. A leaky gut allows substances in the gut (such as undigested food particles, bacteria, toxins and so on) to move freely into the bloodstream. This can elicit an immune response and eventually lead to a full-blown immune response.
Soaking, fermenting and proper cooking can partially reduce the amount of lectins present in grains. But as you might have guessed, this process is lengthy and ‘has no place’ in the food manufacturing industry.
In other words, breakfast foods are most likely rich in lectins and can spell trouble for your immune system.
- Sugar – Besides increasing the risks of chronic diseases, high-sugar cereals could encourage overeating and lead to more behavior and attention problems during the day.
- High fructose corn syrup which has been linked to various health issues ranging from weight gain to insulin resistance to a host of autoimmune conditions.
- Lots of genetically engineered ingredients
- Artificial colors which can exert deleterious effects on the brain and affect behavior and attention. We feed the stuff to our kids and then when they ‘misbehave’, we give them dangerous meds to ‘treat their hyperactivity’…
Moreover, most breakfast cereals are produced using an extrusion process that treats the grains with very high heat and pressure. This process not only damages most nutrients in the grains but can also cause an insulin shock that can lead to a dysfunction of the pancreas, liver and kidneys and degeneration of the spinal nerves.
The following video briefly explains the extrusion process and its adverse health effects.
3. Sandwiches and toasts with margarine
This is probably a shocker. After all, aren’t sandwiches or toasts with margarine low in sugar and ‘artery-clogging’ saturated fats?
Well, in the nutrition world, nothing is black and white.
What lurks in your bread and margarine?
- Lots of carbohydrates – One slice of bread (30g) contains 15g of carbohydrates, 0.8g of dietary fiber and 2.7g of protein. What do you think will happen when you eat that slice of bread?
Your blood sugar levels will surge.
Not only are you more likely to be hungry again in no time, but frequent large increases in blood sugar levels increase the risks of various health complications such as heart disease.
- Wheat – I’m probably going to sound like a broken record but modern wheat is NOT a health food. Even if you don’t have celiac disease. Why? Because it contains gluten and tons of a herbicide known as glyphosate.
Numerous research indicate that gluten could cause a staggering number of health issues such as:
– Ataxia (a group of disorders that affect coordination, balance, and speech)
– Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
– Autoimmune diseases like fibromyalgia, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and endometriosis
– Autism spectrum disorders
– Depression and anxiety
– Inflammation – this can increase the risks of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes
– Skin conditions such as dermatitis
Moreover, RoundUp has been found to damage the DNA of exposed individuals. Put simply, it increases your risks of cancer.
- Trans fats
Margarine is made from vegetable oil, right? How do you think this oil, a liquid, became a (soft) solid?
Simple: through a process known as hydrogenation which transforms the structure of the fat in the oil into a trans fat. And yes, these are the fats that increases the risks of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and many more other health issues.
It is true that margarine does not contain saturated fats (which aren’t all unhealthy by the way). But it contains fats that are even worse for your health.
4. Commercial gluten-free breakfast foods
If breakfast cereals are no good partly because of the gluten they contain, then gluten-free breakfast foods should be a healthy alternative, right?
Well, it depends. If you’re talking about having an avocado with an egg and a banana (all these foods are naturally gluten-free), then yes, that’s a nutrient-packed breakfast. (And you should give yourself a pat on the back.)
Unfortunately, commercial gluten-free breakfast foods are often nothing but ‘frankenfoods’. Next time you see a box of gluten-free breakfast foods, check the ingredient list and you’ll see what I mean.
What lurks in commercial gluten-free breakfast foods?
- LOTS of sugar – To make up for loss of taste, consistency, and texture, food manufacturers will often add more sugar to the product.
- Artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols
- More carbohydrates in the form of rice flour, potato starch, corn or other refined flours
- Food colorings since gluten-free products usually don’t become as nice and golden as the gluten-containing versions
- Added gums to help things stick together (gluten holds this function in baked products)
- Additives to increase the product’s shelf-life since the various ingredients added don’t last long
5. Pancakes and waffles with syrup
You’re probably starting to hate me right now but these breakfast foods are definitely bad news for your health.
What lurks in pancakes, waffles, and syrup?
- Refined flour – Besides having a nasty impact on your blood sugar levels, flour has also been found to increase the risks of leptin resistance. Leptin is also known as the ‘satiety hormone’ – when your body becomes leptin resistant, you overeat.
Plus, most pancakes and waffles are made using wheat flour. In other words, these breakfast foods contain gluten and a nice dose of herbicides.
- High fructose corn syrup – Food manufacturers will have you believe that high fructose corn syrup is natural. But this ingredient is actually a poison masquerading as a health food.
Think I’m being over-dramatic? Check out the evidence-based facts about high fructose corn syrup before you make up your mind.
6. Muffins, doughnuts, croissants and other pastries
Okay, nobody (I hope) considers pastries as healthy breakfast foods. But muffins?
Sure, muffins are delicious. But most store-bought muffins are nothing but small (addictive) sugar bombs.
What lurks in muffins and pastries?
- Refined flour and wheat
- LOTS of sugar – even more if your muffin contains dried fruits, chocolate chips or frosting
- Vegetable oils which are known to increase inflammation and contribute to weight gain
- Sulfur dioxide – This food additive is often added to muffins and dried foods to preserve their freshness. Although it is generally regarded as safe, lab studies indicate that sulfur dioxide could damage the DNA of rodents. Yes, we are much bigger than rodents but I’d rather not take the risk if you ask me. Moreover, sulfur dioxide could trigger asthma attacks in susceptible individuals.
7. Scones and bagels
I rarely talk about calories with my patients (except if they have HPA-axis dysfunction a.k.a ‘adrenal fatigue’). But when it comes to scones and bagels, mentioning the number of calories they contain is an easy way to drive the following message home.
These breakfast foods may be the ultimate convenience food but they have quite a few downsides.
What lurks in scones and bagels?
- Lots of calories – Did you that the average deli bagel can contain about 350 calories? And depending on their size, plain scones come with around 360 calories.
- Refined flour – If those calories came from healthy fats and carbs, that wouldn’t be an issue. Unfortunately, about 50 to 60% of the calories from these popular breakfast foods come from refined flour which contains carcinogenic bleaching agents. Plus, as mentioned earlier, wheat flour can cause inflammation and cause blood sugar surges.
The remaining calories come mostly from industrial seed oils. These are the nasty fats that worsen inflammation, prevent insulin from doing its job properly and are dangerous for the heart.
8. Commercial granola bars
You’ve heard the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, right?
Well, I think that this applies really well to commercial granola bars. With their seeds, nuts and small size, these ‘healthy’ breakfast foods are nothing but candy.
What lurks in commercial granola bars?
- Lots of sugar and high fructose corn syrup but almost no fiber or protein. Can you guess what would happen if you ate a commercial granola bar for breakfast?
A sugar crash! You’ll be left feeling like you need a nap at 11am…
As if this wasn’t bad enough, in a study published last year, scientists reported that a single high carbohydrate meal is enough to adversely affect your immune system and overall metabolism. And by metabolism, I don’t simply mean how much energy your body burns. You see, your metabolism also refers to other essential reactions, such as digestion and hormonal balance, which occur in your body.
- Industrial seed oils
- Additives for preservation such as BHT
- Artificial colors and flavors
9. French Toast
French toast consists of bread dipped in beaten egg and fried in butter. With some cheese on top. Contrary to popular belief, French toast is not unhealthy because it is fried but because of the bread.
What lurks in French toast?
- Wheat – As mentioned earlier, gluten (and the herbicides used to spray the wheat) can cause a host of health issues.
10. Heat n Eat Wraps
Often promoted as a healthier alternative to sandwiches, Heat n Eat wraps are kind of like pizzas with some extra veggies.
What lurks in Heat n Eat Wraps?
- Refined flour
- Trans fats in the form of hydrogenated fats from added sauces
- Flavor enhancers like monosodium glutamate
- Lots of salt and additives
- Processed meats which have been linked to some cancers
11. Fruit smoothies
How can fruits constitute an unhealthy breakfast food? Well, the fruits themselves aren’t the issue. The problem lies in the quantity of fruits blended to make fruit smoothies.
Let’s say you use four fruits. Most people would see their blood sugar rise considerably if they were to eat these four fruits in one sitting. Now, when you blend the fruits, you’re, in fact, opening the fruits’ cells and cutting the fiber into small pieces.
In other words, your body will have less work to do to absorb this sugar. And your blood sugar will rise even more making you more likely to eat more afterwards. The effect would be dramatic if you were to drink store-bought fruit smoothies.
What lurks in commercial fruit smoothies?
- Fruit juices k.a flavored sugar water with loads of synthetic chemicals
- Ice cream
- Added sugar
12. Orange juice
Whenever people ask me what I think of OJ, they immediately get in Hulk mode and go ‘But it contains vitamin C!’
What lurks in orange juice?
- Sugar – Sure, a glass of orange juice contains some vitamin C. But a 12-ounce serving also contains a whopping 36g of sugar. Is that a lot? Well, this equates 9 teaspoons of sugar in one drink. That’s almost the same as a 12-ounce can of Coke which contains 39g of sugar…
I know that oranges contain naturally occurring sugars. And these sugars are not unhealthy. What makes OJ unhealthy (even the 100% orange juice ones) is the number of fruits that are blended to yield a 12-ounce serving.
Yes, people have been drinking orange juice for ages. But their OJ was nothing like ours. Check out this funny, but interesting video on modern OJ.
13. Low-fat milk and non-fat yogurt
‘You’re crazy!’ said one of my patients when I told her to switch to full-fat dairy products. She wasn’t ready yet to give up milk.
Contrary to popular belief, full-fat dairy products could:
According to Mark Deboer, a pediatrician at the University of Virginia, ‘it appears that children who have a higher intake of whole milk or 2 percent milk gain less weight over time compared with kids who consume skim or nonfat dairy product’.
I never liked eating oatmeal. But then I learnt that it was a ‘health food’, and I forced myself to eat it. And I advised many of my patients to do so as well…
So, imagine my dismay when, after countless hours of research, I realized that oatmeal was just another unhealthy breakfast food marketed as ‘heart friendly’ or ‘an effective weight loss aid’.
What lurks in oatmeal?
- Gluten – The well-respected New England Journal of Medicine reported that three brands of oatmeal tested positive for gluten. In case you were wondering, the three brands that were tested were:
- Quaker oats due to its popularity – each of the four specimens tested contained considerable amounts of gluten.
- Country Choice since it is organic – three of the four specimens tested positive for gluten.
- McCann’s which is milled in an oat only factory and should, therefore, not contain any gluten
15. Non-dairy creamer
People will tell you that ‘you shouldn’t drink another creature’s milk’. But this doesn’t mean that non-dairy creamers are healthier alternatives. Consuming these ‘frankenfoods’ regularly is a recipe for disaster.
What lurks in non-dairy creamer?
- Industrial seed oils – This may come as a surprise but non-dairy creamers get their creamy look, flavor and texture from hydrogenated vegetable oils or refined palm kernel oil. In other words, non-dairy creamers also contain trans fats even if the label states that the product is trans-fat free. You see, according to the law, a product is deemed to be trans-fat free if it contains 0.5mg or less trans fats per serving. And the problem is that food manufacturers get to decide how much of a food constitutes a serving.
- Mono- and Diglycerides – These are emulsifiers that are mostly derived from partially hydrogenated oils. Yum! More trans fats! They are added to ensure that your coffee will blend with the oil.
- Sugar, high fructose corn syrup and sodium – These are added to improve the flavor of the refined vegetable oils.
- Food colorings – These mimic the way cream or milk change the color of the coffee. As mentioned earlier, these can adversely affect our brain and cause mood or concentration issues.
- Flavor enhancer – Just another name for monosodium glutamate.
- Casein – Yes, that’s a milk protein: it’s added to extend the shelf-life of the product. So, if you’re allergic to milk, you might have a reaction with non-dairy creamers. However, if you’re lactose intolerant, it is unlikely that you will react to casein since lactose and casein are very different molecules.
- Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate – This chemical additive is utilized to reduce the amount of fat and sugar needed in products. Unfortunately, it can also cause itching, swelling, and spasms in sensitive individuals.
- Dipotassium phosphate – Also known as phosphoric acid, this thickener and stabilizing agent is added to creamers to prevent clumping. Regularly consuming this food additive can spell trouble for the kidneys and the heart.
- Sodium alumionosilicate – As an anticaking agent, this aluminum sodium salt prevents the ingredients in the ‘creamer’ from sticking together by absorbing excess moisture. But ingestion of aluminum has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
16. Canned baked beans
Commonly eaten on toast, this popular English breakfast food may be putting your health at stake.
What lurks in canned baked beans?
- Bisphenol-A (BPA) – This chemical is used to line metal cans that hold baked beans. Unfortunately, BPA loves salty and acidic food and will readily leach into baked beans since commercial versions often contain a lot of salt as well as tomato paste. The problem with BPA is that, as an endocrine disruptor, it affects hormonal balance and can increase the risk of breast cancer, high blood pressure and infertility.
- Modified corn flour k.a genetically modified corn flour
Wondering what to eat instead of these 16 worst breakfast foods? Then, make sure to check my next article for practical ideas and healthy substitutes.