For more information on the importance of good nutrition to prevent caregiver burn-out, including recipes, read my new book “Calmer Waters: The Caregiver’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s and Dementia”—available June 1, 2016 where all books are sold.
Yes! It is absolutely important to eat a good breakfast, and here’s why. This is true for everyone, but especially important for caregivers. It’s recommended that we eat within one hour after waking to stabilize our blood sugar—which has dropped during sleep—so that your mood stays even and you can perform at your best. If not, you’ll be more apt to reach for a bagel or doughnut or another cup of coffee. After loading up on carbs and empty calories (lacking in nutrition), it’s typical to feel hungry again within a couple hours. And every time our blood sugar crashes, it’s a signal to the body to store calories. The same goes for a hungry body. If you don’t eat breakfast, your blood sugar will be low, and this too is a signal to the body to store calories, which adds fat around your middle.
One of the most critical things you can do for your health and your mood is to keep your glucose levels stable. And that means it’s important to include a healthy protein with breakfast.
Low blood sugar impairs your concentration and judgment, leaves you tired and fuzzy-headed, and sometimes makes you irritable. These symptoms often disappear after you eat something and your blood sugar rises. Part of the solution is emphasizing a diet rich in protein and non-starchy, high-fiber vegetables. Both protein and fiber help stabilize blood-sugar and insulin levels, which helps to prevent mood swings.
Some things to be aware of
What if you feel hungrier after breakfast? Your body has adapted to not eating breakfast or to eating a poor breakfast. Try eating less at night, or if you eat breakfast at 8am and get hungry at 10am, have a snack that contains protein, such as a protein shake, a small handful of nuts, yoghurt and fruit, or cottage cheese and fruit. You don’t want to get ravenous before lunch and then make a poor food choice.
What if you’re nauseous in the morning but you’re not pregnant? This might be an indication that your blood sugar is too low, and it’s important that you eat!
I need my caffeine fix! Is that bad? Studies show that those who drink the most coffee often suffer from chronic depression because caffeine depletes the body of B vitamins—crucial for dealing with the stress of caregiving —, vitamin C, calcium, potassium and zinc. Caffeine increases thirst because it dehydrates the body, and it overstimulates and weakens the kidneys, pancreas, liver, nervous system, stomach and intestines.
According to the Mayo Clinic, 2-3 cups of coffee can spike systolic pressure up to 13 points and diastolic pressure up to 14 points. If you have high blood pressure, limit your coffee intake to 3 cups a day, and avoid drinking it before exercise or physical labor, which both naturally raise blood pressure.
On the other hand, studies have show that caffeine can delay Alzheimer’s disease in people who are at risk. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (2012) found that people older than 65 who had higher blood levels of caffeine developed Alzheimer’s disease 2-4 years later than people with lower caffeine levels. The study included 124 people who had mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Typically, 15% of people with MCI will go on to develop full-blown Alzheimer’s disease each year.
The study participants who had less than 1,2000 ng/ml of caffeine levels in their blood developed Alzheimer’s. This is equivalent to drinking several cups of coffee a few hours before their blood was taken. The people whose memory loss did not progress to full-blown Alzheimer’s had higher levels of caffeine in their blood. Coffee appeared to be the only source of caffeine for the participants in the study.
So monitor how you feel after you drink coffee. A safer choice might be a cup of chai or green tea, which has numerous heath benefits, including antioxidant protection.
Breakfasts of Champions
Instead of eating a bowl of cornflakes with a banana and low-fat milk, have a 2-egg omelet, slice of whole grain toast, a cup of fresh fruit and a cup of steamed greens such as kale. Then notice the difference in how you feel. You’ll have more stamina, less anxiety and depression, and will able to get through the whole day more easily.
- Whole-grain mini-quiche with 1/2 cup berries
- Oatmeal with prunes or raisins, walnuts or almonds, and cinnamon, whole milk
- Multigrain hot cereal, Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit, almonds
- Eggs with beans, salsa, and a side of greens
- Bagel with hummus, tomato and goat cheese
- Smoothie with greens, fruit, protein and flax
Recipe for Gluten-free Flax Meal Muffins
- ¾ cup brown rice flour
- ¾ cup buckwheat flour
- ½ cup ground flaxseed
- ½ cup date sugar (or sweetener of your choice)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ cup raisins
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup oil of your choice (I used grape seed oil)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 cup buttermilk or coconut milk
Preheat oven to 375º. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with unbleached paper liners and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, flaxseed, sweetener, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and raisins.
In a second large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, applesauce and buttermilk. Add flour mixture to buttermilk mixture and stir until just combined.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool muffins in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Recipe for overnight oatmeal made in a slow cooker
- 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats –do not use the instant oats. (serves 4)
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 1 cup steel cut oats (serves2)
- 4 cups water
- Mix oats and water in slow cooker and set for 8-9 hours. These recipes work in a 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 quart capacity slow cooker.
The possibilities of things to add are endless. Some ideas: maple syrup, honey, butter, milk, coconut milk, brown sugar, raisins, dried apricots, prunes, dried cherries, dried coconut, fresh fruit, cinnamon, ginger, almond butter, apple butter, chia seeds, chopped walnuts or almonds, flax meal, etc.
Try some of these recipe and let me know how you feel. Have a great breakfast, and a great day!