Gastroenterologists Shared the Breakfast They Eat Themselves

A well-balanced, nutrient-rich breakfast like this one will set you up for a day full of energy. If you want to start the day with gut joy, gastroenterologists recommend making one breakfast: a yogurt parfait.

All you need to do is add one cup of Greek yogurt to a bowl and top it with half a cup of berries and a tablespoon of seeds (such as chia or flax). If you need a little more, add whole wheat toast covered with almond butter, peanut butter, olive oil, or avocado.

“A well-balanced, nutrient-rich breakfast like this one will set you up for a day full of energy,” says Niket Sonpal, MD, a gastroenterologist and adjunct professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City.

“Greek yogurt, berries, seeds, and a side of whole wheat toast are unlikely to leave you hungry after eating and will reduce the likelihood of overeating at lunch or dinner.” This breakfast boasts many benefits for your digestive system and gut health, which in turn can improve your overall health.

Gut health refers to the function and balance of bacteria in many parts of the gastrointestinal tract, and only with a healthy digestive system can your food be broken down and delivered as nutrients throughout your body, according to UC Davis Health. According to the university, a healthy gut also contains beneficial bacteria and immune cells that fight infectious intruders such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi and help your health by communicating with your brain through nerves and hormones.

There is no better place than breakfast to prepare for a healthy day with gut-friendly foods. Here are five benefits of having a yogurt parfait breakfast.

It is rich in both probiotics and prebiotics

This breakfast contains both probiotics and prebiotics – the perfect recipe for gut health. According to the Cleveland Clinic, Greek yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics, which maintain balance in the body by fighting off “bad bacteria” that invade (say, when you’re sick). Probiotics deliver healthy bacteria to the gut and help with digestion, inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and diarrhea, adds Dr. Sonpal.

“A combination of foods containing prebiotics and probiotics is best for the gut. Yogurt is made by fermenting lactic acid in milk with Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus,” says Elena Ivanina, a gastroenterologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Prebiotics, on the other hand, are specialized plant fibers that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines and are found in many fruits and vegetables, according to the Mayo Clinic.

This is especially true for foods that contain complex carbohydrates, such as resistant starch and fiber. Since your body cannot digest these carbohydrates, they pass through the digestive system and serve as fuel for bacteria and other microbes. Specifically, according to the University of Massachusetts Medical School, you can find prebiotics in chia seeds, flaxseed, and blueberries.

“A combination of foods containing prebiotics and probiotics is best for the gut,” says Dr. Ivanina.

It contains fiber that is good for the intestines

Seeds and berries are packed with healthy fiber, and whole wheat toast also contain about 2 grams of fiber (before toppings).

“Fiber helps to retain water in the colon, allowing for more efficient and effective bowel movements, and may also reduce IBS symptoms,” says Michael Pepper, MD, a gastroenterologist at Florida Digestive Health Specialists. “Fiber can even help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol.”

“One of the benefits of starting the day with a high-fiber breakfast is that it keeps you feeling fuller for longer, helping those trying to lose weight,” adds Dr. Sonpal.

Fiber often passes easily through your digestive tract, helping your digestion to work properly. A high-fiber diet can also help reduce your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. You should get at least 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you eat.

“When the microbiome lacks fiber, beneficial bacteria can start to feed on the protective lining of the intestines, which can lead to inflammation and disease,” says Dr. Ivanina.

It has few added sugars

If you choose unsweetened Greek yogurt in this parfait, you can enjoy your breakfast without added sugar.

“Not all Greek yogurt is good for you,” says Dr. Sonpal. “Many of the mainstream yogurt brands available in grocery stores have added flavors and sugars that feed on harmful gut bacteria.” This, in turn, can negate the wonderful probiotic benefits of Greek yogurt.

Added sugar is often hidden in foods like Greek yogurt with toppings, so people tend to eat more sugar than they think, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). For example, a serving of vanilla yogurt can contain about 21 grams of sugar – almost twice as much as a chocolate donut.

And eating too much-added sugar is associated with weight gain and heart risk.

It is a great source of satiating protein

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Greek yogurt is often considered a powerhouse because it is rich in protein, a macronutrient that is important to consume throughout the day for cell creation and repair.

Protein plays many important roles in the body, including helping to clot blood, fight infections, maintain the balance of body fluids, build and contract muscles, and carry fats, vitamins, minerals, and oxygen throughout the body.

“Greek yogurt has a very high protein content, which will keep you full until lunch and reduce hunger throughout the day,” says Dr. Sonpal. “Not to mention, you get a stronger metabolic boost after eating protein compared to fats or carbs, so you want to start your day with protein.”

Although Greek yogurt is rich in protein, it is lower in saturated fat than many other high-protein breakfast foods (such as sausage or bacon). Try to buy milk and dairy products that are low in fat.

Greek yogurt has a naturally delicious flavor that won’t make you feel like you’re missing out, even if it’s a low-fat option. “Unsweetened Greek yogurt is creamier than regular yogurt, which may be more favorable for some people,” says Dr. Sonpal.

It is filled with vitamins and minerals

Eating whole foods like berries and seeds is a great way to replenish the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

“Berries are rich in antioxidants and fiber, as are seeds, which aid digestion and lower blood sugar,” says Dr. Sonpal. “Seeds, such as chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flax seeds, are rich in B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and manganese. Starting your day with a breakfast full of vitamins and minerals (all of which are essential for optimal body function) will keep you energized for hours.”

In fact, berries are among the foods that contain the most versatile sources of phytonutrients, and their antioxidants can help fight cellular damage

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Written by Emma Miller

I am a registered dietitian nutritionist and own a private nutrition practice, where I provide one-on-one nutritional counseling to patients. I specialize in chronic disease prevention/ management, vegan/ vegetarian nutrition, pre-natal/ postpartum nutrition, wellness coaching, medical nutrition therapy, and weight management.

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