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The 12 Best Breakfast Foods

Katarna Mittkov / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Despite what you may have heard, eating breakfast isn't necessary for everyone.


In fact, skipping breakfast may be better than eating unhealthy breakfast foods.

However, a nutritious, well-balanced breakfast can give you energy and prevent you from eating too much during the rest of the day.

Here are the 12 best foods you can eat in the morning.

1. Eggs

Eggs are undeniably healthy and delicious.

Studies have shown that eating eggs at breakfast increases feelings of fullness, reduces calorie intake at the next meal and helps maintain steady blood sugar and insulin levels (1, 2, 3).

In one study, men who ate eggs for breakfast felt more satisfied and took in fewer calories during the rest of the day than those who consumed a bagel (3).

Additionally, egg yolks contain lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants help prevent eye disorders like cataracts and macular degeneration (4, 5).

Eggs are also one of the best sources of choline, a very important nutrient for brain and liver health (6).

Though high in cholesterol, eggs don't raise cholesterol levels in most people.

In fact, eating whole eggs may reduce heart disease risk by modifying the shape of "bad" LDL cholesterol, increasing "good" HDL cholesterol and improving insulin sensitivity (7, 8).

What's more, three large eggs provide about 20 grams of high-quality protein (9).

Eggs are also very versatile. For example, hard-boiled eggs make a great portable breakfast that can be prepared ahead of time.

Summary

Eggs are high in protein and several important nutrients. They also promote fullness and help you eat fewer calories.

2. Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is creamy, delicious and nourishing.

It's made by straining whey and other liquid from milk curds, which produces a creamier yogurt that is more concentrated in protein.

Protein has been shown to reduce feelings of hunger and has a higher thermic effect than fat or carbs (10, 11).

The term "thermic effect" refers to the increase in metabolic rate that occurs after eating.

Yogurt and other dairy products can also help with weight control because they increase levels of hormones that promote fullness, including PYY and GLP-1 (10, 12).

What's more, full-fat yogurt contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which may increase fat loss and decrease breast cancer risk (13, 14).

Certain types of Greek yogurt are good sources of probiotics like Bifidobacteria, which help your gut stay healthy (15).

To make sure your yogurt contains probiotics, look for the phrase "contains live and active cultures" on the label.

Try topping Greek yogurt with berries or chopped fruit to increase your meal's vitamin, mineral and fiber content.

Summary

Greek yogurt is high in protein, helps reduce appetite and may aid weight loss. Certain types also contain beneficial probiotics.

3. Coffee

Coffee is an amazing beverage to start your day.

It's high in caffeine, which has been shown to improve mood, alertness and mental performance.

Even small amounts of caffeine can achieve these effects (16, 17, 18).

An analysis of 41 studies found the most effective dose to be 38–400 mg per day to maximize the benefits of caffeine while reducing side effects (18).

This is roughly 0.3 to 4 cups of coffee per day, depending on the coffee's strength (18).

Caffeine has also been shown to increase metabolic rate and fat burning. In one study, 100 mg of caffeine per day helped people burn an extra 79–150 calories over a 24-hour period (19, 20).

In addition, coffee is rich in antioxidants, which reduce inflammation, protect the cells lining your blood vessels and decrease diabetes and liver disease risk (21, 22, 23, 24, 25).

Summary

Having a cup of coffee is a great way to start your day. The caffeine in it may improve mood, mental performance and metabolism.

4. Oatmeal

Oatmeal is the best breakfast choice for cereal lovers.

It's made from ground oats, which contain a unique fiber called oat beta-glucan. This fiber has many impressive health benefits, including reduced cholesterol (26, 27).

What's more, oat beta-glucan is a viscous fiber that promotes feelings of fullness. One study found that it increased levels of the fullness hormone PYY and that higher doses had the greatest effect (28, 29, 30).

Oats are also rich in antioxidants, which protect their fatty acids from becoming rancid. These antioxidants may also benefit heart health and decrease blood pressure (31, 32, 33).

Though oats don't contain gluten, they're often processed in the same facilities as gluten-containing grains. Researchers have found that most oats are indeed contaminated with other grains, especially barley (34).

Therefore, people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should choose oats that have been certified as gluten-free.

Bear in mind that one cup (235 grams) of cooked oatmeal contains only about 6 grams of protein, which won't provide the benefits of a higher-protein breakfast (35).

To boost the protein content of an oatmeal breakfast, prepare it with milk instead of water or serve it with a side of eggs or a piece of cheese.

Summary

Oatmeal is rich in beta-glucan fiber, which lowers cholesterol and increases feelings of fullness. It also contains antioxidants.

5. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are extremely nutritious and one of the best sources of fiber around.

In fact, one ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds provides an impressive 11 grams of fiber per serving (36).

What's more, a portion of the fiber in chia seeds is viscous fiber, which absorbs water, increasing the volume of food moving through your digestive tract and helping you feel full and satisfied (37, 38, 39).

In a small, 12-week study, people with diabetes who ate chia seeds experienced reduced hunger, along with improvements in blood sugar and blood pressure (39).

Chia seeds are also high in antioxidants, which protect your cells from unstable molecules called free radicals that are produced during metabolism (40, 41, 42).

In another study of people with diabetes, chia seeds decreased the inflammatory marker CRP by 40%. Elevated CRP is a major risk factor for heart disease (43).

However, one serving of chia seeds provides only about 4 grams of protein, which may not be optimal for breakfast (36).

Here is a recipe for chia pudding that contains more than 25 grams of protein.

High-Protein Chia Seed Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce (28 grams) of dried chia seeds.
  • 1 scoop of whey protein powder.
  • 1 cup (240 ml) of coconut milk or almond milk.
  • Half a cup of berries.
  • Stevia or another sweetener to taste, if desired.

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  • Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour.

You can find a great selection of chia seeds here.

Summary

Chia seeds are high in fiber and packed with antioxidants that may reduce inflammation and decrease disease risk.

6. Berries

Berries are delicious and packed with antioxidants.

Popular types include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries.

They're lower in sugar than most fruits, yet higher in fiber.

In fact, raspberries and blackberries each provide an impressive 8 grams of fiber per cup or 120 and 145 grams, respectively (44, 45).

What's more, one cup of berries contains only 50–85 calories depending on the type.

Berries also pack antioxidants called anthocyanins, which protect your heart and may help you age better (46, 47).

Berries have been shown to reduce markers of inflammation, prevent blood cholesterol from oxidizing and keep the cells lining your blood vessels healthy (48, 49, 50, 51).

A good way to add berries to your breakfast is to eat them with Greek yogurt or cottage cheese.

Summary

Berries are high in fiber and low in calories. They're also rich in antioxidants that may decrease your risk of disease.

7. Nuts

Nuts are tasty, satisfying and nutritious.

They're a great addition to your breakfast, as they're filling and help prevent weight gain (52, 53).

Even though nuts are high in calories, studies suggest you don't absorb all the fat in them.

In fact, your body only absorbs about 129 calories of a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of almonds (54, 55, 56).

This may be true for some other nuts as well, though at this time only almonds have been tested.

Furthermore, nuts have been shown to improve heart disease risk factors, reduce insulin resistance and decrease inflammation (57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63).

All types of nuts are also high in magnesium, potassium and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.

What's more, Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium — just two Brazil nuts provide more than 100% of the recommended daily intake (64).

Nuts are also beneficial for people with diabetes. In one study, replacing a portion of carbs with 2 ounces (56 grams) of nuts led to reduced blood sugar and cholesterol levels (65).

Topping Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or oatmeal with 2 tablespoons of chopped nuts provides crunch and flavor while increasing your breakfast's nutritional value.

You can find a great selection of nuts here.

Summary

Nuts are a filling, nutrient-dense food that may help reduce heart disease risk and improve blood sugar control.

8. Green Tea

Green tea is one of the healthiest beverages on the planet.

It contains caffeine, which improves alertness and mood, along with raising metabolic rate (16, 19, 20).

Green tea provides only 35–70 mg of caffeine per cup, which is about half the amount in coffee.

Green tea may be especially helpful against diabetes. A review of 17 studies found that green tea drinkers had reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels (66).

It also contains an antioxidant known as EGCG, which may protect your brain, nervous system and heart from damage (67, 68, 69, 70).

Find a great selection of green tea here.

Summary

Green tea has many health benefits. It contains an antioxidant called EGCG, which benefits your brain and nervous system.

9. Protein Shake

Another great way to start your day is with a protein shake or smoothie.

Several types of protein powder can be used, including whey, egg, soy and pea protein.

However, whey protein is absorbed most quickly by your body (71).

Whey has also been studied the most and provides several health benefits. Additionally, it seems to reduce appetite more than other forms of protein (72, 73, 74).

One study comparing four high-protein meals found that the whey protein meal reduced appetite the most and led to the lowest calorie intake at the next meal (74).

In addition, whey protein can help lower blood sugar levels when consumed as part of a carb-containing meal. It can also preserve muscle mass during weight loss and aging (75, 76, 77).

Regardless of the type of protein powder used, a high-protein shake can be satisfying and filling. Add fruits, greens, nut butter or seeds to provide fiber and antioxidants.

Summary

A protein shake or smoothie is a great high-protein breakfast choice that promotes fullness and helps stabilize blood sugar levels.

10. Fruit

Fruit can be a delicious part of a nourishing breakfast.

All types of fruit contain vitamins, potassium, fiber and are relatively low in calories. One cup of chopped fruit provides about 80–130 calories, depending on the type.

Citrus fruits are also very high in vitamin C. In fact, one large orange provides more than 100% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin C (78).

Fruit is also very filling due to its high fiber and water contents (79).

Pair fruit with eggs, cheese, cottage cheese or Greek yogurt for a well-balanced breakfast that will sustain you for hours.

Summary

Fruit is a good source of vitamins, potassium and fiber. It also contains antioxidants that can help reduce disease risk.

11. Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are incredibly healthy.

They're rich in viscous fiber, which helps you feel full for several hours after eating (38, 39).

Flaxseeds may also improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels, as well as protect against breast cancer (80, 81, 82, 83).

Two tablespoons (14 grams) of ground flaxseeds contain 3 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber (84).

Try adding flaxseeds to Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or a smoothie to increase the fiber and antioxidant content of your breakfast.

Just make sure to choose ground flaxseeds or grind them yourself, because whole flaxseeds can't be absorbed by your gut and will simply pass through your system.

Summary

Flaxseeds are high in viscous fiber, which helps you feel full. They may also improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels.

12. Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is a fantastic breakfast food.

It's high in protein, which increases metabolism, produces feelings of fullness and decreases levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin (10, 11, 85).

In fact, cottage cheese has been shown to be as filling and satisfying as eggs (86).

Full-fat cottage cheese also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which may promote weight loss (13).

One cup of cottage cheese provides an impressive 25 grams of protein (87).

Add berries and ground flaxseeds or chopped nuts to make it even more nutritious.

Summary

Cottage cheese is high in protein, which promotes feelings of fullness and increases your metabolic rate.

The Bottom Line

Whether or not you eat breakfast is a personal choice.

Despite what you may have been told as a child, skipping breakfast does not necessarily have negative effects, as long as you eat a balanced diet throughout your day.

If you do eat in the morning, make sure to start your day off right by fueling your body with the healthy and nutrient-dense foods outlined in this article.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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