Well, first of all, breakfast doesn’t happen till 12:30pm. That’s because I’m doing intermittent fasting.
What is intermittent fasting and why do people do it?
Intermittent fasting is an eating schedule in which you consume all your meals within an 8-hour window during the day. During the remaining 16 hours you do not eat at all. There has been a lot of controversy around this regimen with detractors claiming that it’s arbitrary or a fad. But it turns out that this is a very healthy way to eat. Humans have evolved to eat during the day and sleep at night, with a long period of fasting.
Weight loss. Many people adopt intermittent fasting to lose weight because it changes metabolism: after many hours without food, the body exhausts its energy stores—the calories from your last meal— and starts burning fat. Insulin is also at play: when you eat, your insulin levels go up, and when you fast they decrease dramatically, which aids fat burning. Also, by limiting eating hours, most people end up taking in fewer calories.
But here’s what’s crazy:
Fasting has a measurable impact on our cells and how they function. Here are some surprising advantages to fasting:
- It helps the body rid itself of harmful toxins and damaged cells.
- It decreases inflammation in the body, which is at the root of most chronic illnesses and can lead to cancer and other diseases.
- It lowers blood pressure and generally improves cardiac health.
- Lower insulin levels don’t just help with weight loss. There is a link between chronically raised insulin levels and the constellation of “Western diseases” that includes metabolic syndrome and heart disease.
- It appears to enhance cognitive ability, particularly improvement in memory.
- It can lead to longer life expectancy.
Here is a recent study about the benefits of intermittent fasting, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (must subscribe for free articles), and here is an analysis of the study by Harvard Medical School. Johns Hopkins also has an interesting article on intermittent fasting by a renowned neuroscientist.
Am I hungry in the morning?
Sometimes. But I’ve adapted to the routine. I usually get up between 7:30 and 8:30am, drink a glass of water and then take a power walk before the Texas heat becomes unbearable. Then I drink green tea or lemon water during my fasting hours.
This is my amazingly useful and attractive tea pot. I keep it filled with fresh herbs—usually genmaicha Japanese green tea, but occasionally loose leaf hibiscus or a cinnamon clove blend; if my gut hurts or I am stressed I use fresh chamomile leaves. This keeps me hydrated and also takes the edge off hunger.
Why green tea?
Green tea is loaded with powerful compounds like antioxidants with health-enhancing properties. It contains something called EGCG which helps prevent cell damage. Polyphenols, a type of antioxidant, suppress tumor cells by improving the cellular function of tissues. Populations which drink green tea have lower incidences of cancer. Green tea also improves cardiovascular health. And it can lower blood sugar, a welcome antidote to meals and snacks containing high-glycemic foods like white rice and bread (and hidden sugars, and dessert…)
Why lemon water?
Lemon is a modest little fruit. Most of us just think of it as a way to zing up a glass of water or a filet of fish. But it does so much more!
- It makes your body more alkaline. Most of us eat foods which make our bodies acidic, and an acidic environment predisposes us to disease.
- It contains lots of potassium which is good for heart and brain health.
- Its vitamin C strengthens your immune system.
- It has natural antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-parasitic properties.
- Read more about the power of lemon here.
12:30. Time for breakfast
I am always excited for this moment. I look forward to it every day with great anticipation because my taste buds go crazy with pleasure, and my hunger dissipates almost immediately.
- a quarter to half a jug of Mother Culture drinkable whole yogurt (or about 8-16 oz.) This is one of my favorite foods on earth. Even people who prefer everything to be sweetened (my son) or who hate yogurt (my husband) love it. This is one of the few “fast” foods that gets the GFF stamp of approval. It’s processed using the traditional method of fermenting milk with healthy bacteria called cultures. This brand uses raw milk and low-heat pasteurization to preserve valuable enzymes. So I start my day with a natural probiotic, which feeds the healthy microbiota in my gut. Yogurt contains almost every nutrient your body needs, including lots of calcium, B vitamins, magnesium (which most people are deficient in) and more. And because it’s naturally full of healthy fat, it satiates me almost instantly.Here’s why it’s a fast food: I stick a metal (washable) straw in it and drink up. If I’m working at my computer, it sits on my desk like a cup of coffee and I just sip on it. I even take it in the car if I’m on the run. Don’t worry if you don’t have access to this brand. Just choose a whole yogurt (or kefir) with no sugar from pastured cows, goats, or sheep. Try to find something local. And if you’re adventurous you can try making it yourself!
- A handful of nuts. My mother is allergic to nuts and goes into anaphylactic shock when exposed to them so I grew up in a nut-free house. When I discovered nuts as a teenager, I thought I had found Eldorado. At the time, nuts like walnuts and pistachios came with the shell and you had to work for each nugget. Now everything comes shelled in a bag (or in bulk from bins) and they are easy as pie to eat. Nuts are a phenomenal fast food.It’s tempting to buy roasted and salted, and you can if you must, but nuts are always healthier raw and unsalted. In fact, if you try just a few a day, you will probably get used to their inherent taste. Sprinkle them on oatmeal, salad, soups, stir-frys, even scrambled eggs. There’s a huge and growing selection to choose from. I alternate between walnuts, pecans, almonds, pistachios, and pili nuts. What’s a pili nut? you ask. It’s my new favorite nut from the Philippines which I discovered it at a Paleo food expo. You can only buy them online. In fact it’s the only item I have ever ordered from Amazon on a subscription basis because I can’t live without them, lol. Read about them here. I also have a few Brazil nuts each day because they are the food highest in Selenium, an oft-overlooked nutrient which is necessary for the proper functioning of your body.
- A piece of fruit. This is easy peasy—whatever is in season! It changes all year round. Right now I gobble up a nectarine or plum, or fresh berries. Right from the fridge to the faucet to my mouth: fast food. These are good carbs and they’re good for fast energy.
So breakfast does not have to be an extravagant effort. But it also doesn’t have to be cereal, the other easy but vastly inferior option. What’s wrong with cereal, you ask? Oh my goodness—so much!
Start your day with whole, nutritious, seasonal food. It can be fast, easy, and delicious. Eating on the run or at the office? You can drink the yogurt in the car. Cut up the fruit to make it easy finger food and take two containers with you for the fruit and the nuts. And don’t forget to drink plenty of filtered water throughout the day.
NOTE: intermittent fasting isn’t necessary and it’s not for everyone. If you’re interested, do some research first. If you are able to, begin your eating window on the earlier side. My window starts later in the day (12:30-8:30pm) because my family eats dinner on the late side and I want to eat together.
NOTE2: allergic to or sensitive to dairy? Try a coconut based yogurt like Cocoyo, Yoconut, or Cocojune. Buy plain versions and add smashed banana, berries, peach slices, or a bit of honey if you want to sweeten it. If you have access to a natural foods grocer, check for a local brand like Living Cultures Superfoods. Allergic to nuts? Try seeds: pumpkin and sunflower are my favorite for snacking.
NOTE3: Here are some things you don’t want in your yogurt: calcium disodium EDTA, Acid esters of Mono and Diglycerides, FD&C colors, parabens, propylene glycol, sodium benzoate, BHA, and BHT. See the full list.