It is important to keep our blood glucose levels in a healthy range no matter if we have diabetes or not. One step that is very important to achieve is to start the day with a healthy breakfast.
Our breakfast should be a well-organized meal with healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates. It should also be high in nutrients and fiber and low in added sugars.
Most of us are surely already familiar with GI i.e. glycemic index. The glycemic index is a way for us to measure the speed of carbohydrate foods, that is, how fast these food raise our levels of blood glucose.
Carbs are the ones that provide us with the energy to start the day. However, if these carbs digest fast, they can spike the levels of our blood sugar.
The foods that have a low GI are better for our body when compared to those that have a high GI. They minimize the spikes after every meal, and they digest slowly.
We should all remember this the next time we choose cereals for breakfast. It is crucial to be aware of what foods affect the glycemic index.
All things like the type of grain, the processing, and cooking methods can have an influence on the speed our food is digested. Processed cereals have a higher glycemic index, no matter whether they have fiber in them.
Our glycemic index can also be affected if we mix foods. To prevent blood sugar spikes we should make sure that our cereal has healthy fats and protein. The healthy cereal should be with whole grains. If we choose wisely, we can have a healthy breakfast.
Usually, at the grocery store, the cereal aisle is full of cereals that might be good for our sweet tooth, but are bad for our levels of glucose.
The favorite brands of cereal usually have sugars and refined grains, and they have empty calories and only a few nutrients. That can cause a spike in our blood glucose levels.
Read The Label
It is important to get into the habit to read the label and do it carefully. We should opt for cereals that include whole grains at the top of the listed ingredients.
The refined grains are stripped of germ and bran at the time of the processing, which means that they are not that healthy.
The whole grains have the entire grain kernel. The entire grain kernel is the source of healthy fiber.
An essential element of the diet is the fiber itself. Why? Because it helps reduce the risk of heart disease and also to control the levels of blood sugar. Whole grains are full of minerals and vitamins.
Whole Grains in Breakfast Cereals
- Wild rice
- Whole wheat flour
- Brown rice
- Wheat bran
- Whole cornmeal
The American Diabetes Association reports that oat bran, rolled oatmeal and steel-cut oatmeal are foods with a low glycemic index, and their glycemic index value is 55 or less.
On the other hand, quick oats are with a medium glycemic index, and their glycemic index value is from 56 to 69.
Foods that have a high glycemic index, with glycemic index values such as 70 and more, are instant oatmeal, corn flakes, bran flakes, and puffed rice.
We can replace the instant cereal packets with a batch of steel-cut or whole oats. We need to make it ourselves and keep it in our fridge.
Each morning we can heat our common portion in the microwave and consume healthy cereal that will digest slowly.
How to Read Labels
Be careful of the hidden ingredients. The American Diabetes Association reports that we need to pick cereals that have less than six grams of sugar per serving and that have at least three grams of fiber.
The problem is that sugar has many aliases and we can find it multiple times on the ingredient list. Bear in mind that the ingredients are in descending order by that how much the food contains.
If 3 types of sugar are at the top of the ingredients, we should know that this cereal is not for us. See the list below.
List of Sweeteners on Food Labels by Harvard School of Public Health:
- Agave nectar
- Brown sugar
- Raw sugar
- Cane crystals
- Cane sugar
- Maple syrup
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Malt syrup
- Crystalline Fructose
- Invert sugar
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Evaporated cane juice
- Fruit juice concentrates
Daily, an individual should consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium. So, bear this in mind and watch for the level of sodium on the label.
Nuts and Protein
In our whole-grain cereal, we may add nuts that can serve us as a source of protein. In addition, the nuts will give our cereal additional taste and also texture.
Adding protein can be very beneficial. Just by doing that, the protein can help manage the levels after lunch, and it can also contribute to maintaining blood sugar during breakfast.
If we want to eat more than just cereal for breakfast, we can simply eat foods that have healthy protein. Foods that have healthy protein are eggs, Greek yogurt but unsweetened, etc.
If we are the type of person that likes a crunchy cereal, we can simply add nuts, but make sure that they are unsalted. We can add pecans, walnuts, and almonds. These nuts contain polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats that are healthy for our hearts.
Note: Remember to consume the nuts above mentioned in moderation, since they are high in calories.
Dairy or a Dairy Substitute
If drinking milk fits in the meal plan we have, we can add a dairy substitute or half a cup of milk to the bowl of cereal.
However, bear in mind that milk has natural sugars. We can also cut on calories and saturated fat. All we need to do is to replace the whole milk with 2 % milk, 1 %, or with skimmed milk.
In case we do not like dairy milk or have lactose intolerance we can use almond milk or soy milk. When it comes to carbohydrate content, cow milk is very similar to soy milk but unsweetened.
Also, we should know that unsweetened almond milk has fewer calories and carbohydrates than soy milk or dairy milk.
Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes
We should eat foods that have a low glycemic index even if we do not have diabetes. Why? It is simple because it is healthy.
The Harvard School of Public Health reports that if our diet is high in refined carbohydrates that can increase the risk of us developing this chronic condition.
And on the other hand, if our diet is rich in whole grains that might help and lower the risk for the disease.
This happens because the whole grains cause the blood sugar to slowly rise. And with that, there is less stress on our body and its ability to create insulin. If we make a wise choice, our breakfast can be nutritious and at the same time quick.
So next time we select our cereal, we should pick one that has whole grains and is high in fiber. Also, we should make sure it’s low in calories, sugar, and sodium.
And to round out our breakfast, we can put a small number of toppings that are rich in nutrients such as nuts and fruits, along with the milk substitute or milk.
- Pick whole grains cereals, like rolled bran, rolled oatmeal, or steel-cut oatmeal.
- And for better texture and taste we can add protein i.e. nuts.
We Should Not:
- Remember not to choose cereals that are high on the GI i.e. glycemic index like instant oatmeal, corn flakes, bran flakes, and puffed rice.
- Avoid cereals that as the top ingredients on their list have sugars and refined grains.
Sources: Harvard; Diabetes; Healthline; Healthline