Egg Nutrition Center Blog

Protein and Breakfast

Like most registered dietitians, I struggle to keep up with scientific developments. So much is controversial and hard to discern the effects of independent variables. I attended the “Great Debate” held years ago at USDA in Washington D.C. where the high carbohydrate diet pattern and the low carbohydrate diet pattern were hotly debated. Poor Dr. Atkins who saw the value of a lower carbohydrate intake in his patients was ridiculed for not having published his clinical findings. However, when the successful findings supporting a low carbohydrate intake began to be published doubters still doubted the findings. I think he was on the right track but the real story is low carbohydrate, high quality protein.

It is easy to feel comfortable supporting the benefits of a high protein breakfast. Susan Dopart in her blog suggests that eating a strong protein breakfast within an hour of waking up can increase your metabolic rate, lower insulin resistance and stabilize blood sugar for the rest of the day. One thing I know from personal experience is that eating an adequate amount of high quality protein at breakfast keeps me from being hungry much longer than the bagel or cereal breakfast I had been consuming daily.

This is very useful when I am traveling for business or exhibiting at conferences and can’t be sure when I will be able to take a lunch break. I am not insulin resistant but have a family history of diabetes and I can feel when my glucose levels are low. High quality protein like that in eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt is my way of keeping an even temper and focus on my activities and preventing myself from eating too many calories or undesirable foods that lack nutrients. This was also demonstrated by researchers at University of Connecticut in a study of  “Eating protein-rich eggs for breakfast reduces hunger and decreases calorie consumption at lunch and throughout the day” published in the February 2010 issue of Nutrition Research. Researchers found that men who consumed an egg-based breakfast ate significantly fewer calories when offered an unlimited lunch buffet compared to when they ate a carbohydrate-rich bagel breakfast of equal calories. Ratliff, J., Leite, J.O., de Ogburn, R., Puglisi, M.J., VanHeest, J., Fernandez, M.L. (2010) Consuming  eggs for breakfast influences plasma glucose and ghrelin, while reducing energy intake during the next 24 hours in adult men. Nutrition Research, 30, 96-103.

I think it’s time to move on from the high carbohydrate dogma that dietitians were trained to promote and see the value of high quality protein especially at breakfast both for the satiety it provides and the muscle synthesis signaling that helps maintain muscle mass.

Author: Marcia Greenblum, MS, RD