Which foods can help get me going in the morning?

Christie Korth
Nutrition & Dietetics
Consider keeping a food diary of your breakfasts for one week and conduct an experiment. Perhaps you are the type of person who requires more protein in the morning, like eggs, beans, fish, or maybe its complex carbohydrates like oatmeal, whole grain pancakes or perhaps a combination of both. Do you do well with a bowl of fruit or with a combination of fruit and eggs or oatmeal? How do you feel when you eat a refined, simple carbohydrate such as boxed breakfast cereal vs. a home cooked breakfast?

The purpose of this experiment is to help you get in touch with what works just for your own unique body. Write down how you feel immediately after eating and then a few hours later. Most are surprised to see how certain foods impact you and what keeps you full longer. 
What you eat can help you be more alert, think more clearly, have more energy, and even be more creative, says Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of Food & Mood. Assuming you've clocked at least 7 hours of sleep, these foods will get you up, focused, and feeling like a morning person -- even if you're totally not.
  1. A spoonful of sweetness: A tad of sugar in your coffee or honey in your smoothie stimulates the release of acetylcholine, a brain chemical that enhances memory. But don't overdo it or you'll soon feel drowsy. Excess sweetness can increase sleep-inducing serotonin levels in your brain.
  2. A whole-wheat bagel: Your primo brain fuel is glucose, the basic building block of carbs. So after a night of fasting, your brain is on red alert for a carb fix. You don't need a lot -- half a whole-wheat bagel will rev up your engines. So will a bowl of oatmeal. Pick your fave.
  3. Lox for that bagel: Salmon contains a form of omega-3 fatty acids known as DHA, which makes up 97% of the omega-3s in your brain. You need lots of DHA to get your mental decks cleared for action -- part of DHA's job is to carry away cellular waste that makes your brain feel sluggish.
  4. Spicy V8: Hot and spicy foods amp up blood flow, which is like warming your engines. If tomatoes are too acidic for you in the morning, toss a tablespoon of peeled fresh ginger into hot tea or a cold smoothie for a similar rush.
  5. Soy: It contains compounds called isoflavones that help clear your mind (and may fight memory loss, too). Drink a glass of calcium-fortified soymilk, pour it over whole-grain cereal, or toss some chopped tofu into scrambled eggs.
  6. Ice water: A small glass of frosty H2O will get your blood pumping. The cold shock forces your system to defend its normal temperature, which gives your metabolism a slight boost.
  7. Coffee: But of course! Caffeine helps alertness by dampening a chemical called adenosine, which otherwise blocks energy-boosting brain chemicals. As a result, you think faster, drive better, and remember more. Just know your jitter threshold -- getting too wired can undermine efficiency.
Besides facing the day -- we all have to -- the real benefit of switching your system to “on” in the morning is that your brain starts buzzing, absorbing facts, and making sense of interesting news. And becoming a lifelong learner can make your Real Age as much as 2.5 years younger.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.