Role of breakfast and breakfast cereals with added micronutrients in supporting immunity
No matter how sleepy you or your child feels in the morning or rushes to pack for office or school, you must make sure that you never miss out on breakfast. As the name indicates, breakfast means “breaking the overnight fast”. And there is a very good reason why it is considered the most important meal of the day by doctors, nutritionists and fitness enthusiasts. Breakfast kickstarts your metabolic engine and replenishes the reservoir of nutrients to support a busy and demanding day ahead. It also supplies essential nutrients that boost your immune system and helps fight common diseases. So, the breakfast you enjoy or serve needs to pack a punch, both in terms of taste and nutrition, especially if you or your child is picky about food. To know more about why breakfast is so vital and what you can prepare easily on a daily basis, read on.
Why say yes to breakfast?
One of the most important reasons why both adults and children should eat breakfast is because it replenishes the body’s glucose stores. Through the night, the glucose store in the liver, which basically maintains your blood glucose at a stable level, gets used up. It is important to ensure that you replenish it so that you can keep going and maintain an energetic schedule throughout the day. Especially, children need a continuous supply of energy to stay active and alert during school hours. For instance, providing children with healthy carbohydrates keeps their brains active, so that they can pay attention, remember what they study and feel good throughout the day.
The second important reason why you should say yes to breakfast is to stock up on micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. These support your immune system. Remember that some of the vitamins are water soluble and they are not stored in the body. This means that you have to provide your body with these nutrients on an everyday basis. The water-soluble vitamins— such as vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins (such as vitamins B6, B12, niacin, riboflavin, and folate) are not stored within the body. In contrast, the fat soluble ones, such as vitamin A, D, E and K, are stored in the liver.
On the other hand, most of the major and trace minerals are stored in the body and a varied diet that includes plant foods, nuts, whole cereals, legumes and dairy provide sufficient amounts of these minerals. However, in case of a couple of minerals such as calcium and iron, one needs to make a conscious effort to include them in the diet.
Note that these vitamins and minerals are involved in various physiological functions of the body. For example, vitamin D and C, riboflavin, copper, zinc, and selenium are all involved in supporting the body’s immune system. Any deficiencies in any of these can result in compromised immunity and increase your susceptibility to infections.
Breakfast is the best time to ensure that both grownups and kids meet a major portion of their micronutrient requirements before they step out for work or school. Nevertheless, children tend to miss breakfast. It is estimated that about 50% of schoolchildren in India usually skip breakfast, mostly due to waking up late. This deprives them of vital nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, fibre and micronutrients.
How to ensure a breakfast packed with nutrients that support immunity?
Often, busy parents lack the time or energy to prepare a breakfast that is healthy and tasty. However, a little planning, imagination and creativity can go a long way in making even the fussiest eater happy at breakfast. Here are some food ideas that you can include at the breakfast table to supply enough micronutrients for better immunity:
- A glass of freshly squeezed orange or lemon juice for that vitamin C boost.
- Couple of spinach idlis (spinach puree added to idli batter) to fulfil the needs of iron and probiotics, for gut immunity.
- A glass of oats and milk porridge for meeting riboflavin, calcium, fibre and complex carbohydrates requirements. A spoon of jaggery powder can fortify the porridge with iron, magnesium and manganese content.
- A simple boiled egg provides selenium, an important mineral for the immune system.
- A laddoo or energy bar made up of nuts, seeds and dates is nutrient-dense and contains omega 3, zinc and iron.
- Breakfast cereals that contain added micronutrients like Vitamin and mineral and can be served with milk and fresh seasonal fruits.
Should vitamin D fortified cereals be a part of breakfast?
Apart from its role in bone formation, vitamin D is known to support immune function. Now, according to Indian guidelines, exposing at least 12%-18% of body surface area to unprotected sunlight for 30-45 minutes is equivalent to taking 600-1000 IU of vitamin D, which is the amount scientists recommend should be present in fortified foods. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency in children is a rising problem even in sunny India. This is mainly because both adults and children tend to work or play indoors, reducing their exposure to sunlight, a rich source of this vitamin. Also, most natural foods don’t contain vitamin D. However, Vitamin D deficiency can result in increased susceptibility to infections. Thus, vitamin D fortified foods such as breakfast cereals may be a solution to ensure vitamin D adequacy in Indian children.
To wrap up, both kids and grownups should have a nutritious breakfast every day, to get ample energy, function properly and support their immune system. Easy ideas like fortified cereals with milk, porridge, boiled eggs, energy bars and citrus juices can help you get started.