Brainiest breakfasts

A shonky breakfast gets your body off to the worst possible start. As cold weather creeps up on us, it’s time to rediscover hearty ways to begin the day

Depriving yourself of a decent breakfast is likely to leave you fuzzy-headed, forgetful – and susceptible to a terrible case of the munchies as the day rolls on. The best breakfasts for your brain contain a mix of low-GI carbohydrates and fibre (for slow-burning energy) and protein (to keep you feeling full). Here’s how to build a brainy breakfast:

Start with a fibre-rich carbohydrate: 

Wholegrain bread – check that wholegrain flour, not refined flour or wheat flour, is the top ingredient in the list. Multigrain bread doesn’t necessarily contain whole grains.

Oats packed with vitamins and minerals, oats are high in fibre, a source of protein and have been shown to lower levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body.

Cereal look for high-fibre, low-sugar options, such as bran flakes or wheat biscuits.

Muesli – make your own, choose a bircher-style variety, or choose a toasted muesli or granola that is low in sugar.

Add a source of protein

Eggs as well as containing a whole alphabet of vitamins and minerals, an egg’s protein is more easily absorbed by the body than protein from any other source.

Unsweetened Greek yoghurt – add sweetness with honey, maple syrup or fruit rather than sugar.

Smoked salmon – high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help you think more clearly, improve your memory and mood. Omega-3 can also help reduce depression, anxiety and lower your risk of developing mental illnesses such as dementia.

Tinned beans – choose beans that are packaged in brine rather than tomato sauce, which can be very high in sugar and salt.

Low-fat cottage cheese or ricotta – higher in protein and calcium and lower in saturated fat than butter or margarine, these are delicious on toast.

Toss in nuts and seeds

Walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds, plus pumpkin, sunflower and chia seeds are all full of protein, beneficial fats and essential minerals.

Top it off with nature’s best

Avocado the ultimate superfruit if ever there were one, avocados are packed with vitamins as well as omega-3. They help your body absorb nutrients from other foods more effectively and reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.

Blueberries and bananas – famous brain helpers, bananas are an excellent source of vitamin B6, which improves memory and cognition. Blueberries, meanwhile, are linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, improved abilities to learn new things and increased capacity to deal with stress.

Tomatoes and kiwifruit – both are high in vitamin C, which helps your body better absorb vitamins and minerals, such as iron.

Egg and Avocado Breakfast Salad on Wholegrain Toast

1 egg
1/4 avocado, diced
wholegrain bread, toasted
lemon juice
handful of rocket lettuce

optional: parmesan cheese
extra virgin olive oil

Bring a small pot of water to boil. Carefully add egg and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from pot, run under cold water, then peel, dice and set aside.

To serve, lightly mash avocado on top of toast. Add a splash of lemon juice, diced egg, salt and pepper. Top with rocket, parmesan and a dash of oil.

Serves 1

Berried Bircher

2 tbsp rolled oats
1 apple, grated with juice
1 tbsp desiccated coconut
1/2 lemon or orange, squeezed
a few almonds, roughly chopped
a handful of berries
1/2 banana, thinly sliced
a few dried or fresh dates, roughly chopped
unsweetened yoghurt, to serve

Mix rolled oats with 2 tbsp water and leave in the fridge overnight. (If you forget this step, just leave out the water and proceed with the method below).

Combine rolled oats, apple, coconut and lemon or orange juice in a small bowl. Top with almonds, berries, banana, dates and carefully mix, making sure not to mash the banana. Serve with a dollop of unsweetened yoghurt.

Serves 1

Lemon Greens, Poached Eggs and Homemade Hash Browns

1 large potato, peeled and grated
3 free-range eggs
1 tsp wholegrain mustard salt pepper
1 tsp grapeseed oil
1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 broccoli, in florets a few almonds, slivered
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 tsp white wine vinegar wholegrain bread, toasted

optional: free-range bacon or sausages

Gently fry sausages or rashers of bacon, if including. While these are cooking, grate potato and squeeze in handfuls to remove as much water as possible. In a bowl, combine potato with a whisked egg, mustard, salt and pepper. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat.

Spoon the mixture into the pan to create two hash browns. Cook on each side until golden. Set aside.

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Add zucchini and broccoli and cook for a few minutes. Remove from heat and drain any remaining liquid, then add almonds, salt, squeeze of lemon juice and zest. Set aside.

Bring a shallow pan of water to the boil and add vinegar. Turn off the heat and carefully pour the remaining 2 eggs into the water. Leave for 6-7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.

To serve, top hash browns with zucchini, broccoli, sausages or rashers and a poached egg.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Serves 2

Perfect Porridge

1 cup rolled oats 2
1/4 cups milk or water pinch of salt

optional: milk, cream, yoghurt, honey, nuts, seeds or stewed fruit

Combine oats, milk or water and a pinch of salt in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. The more you stir your porridge as it cooks, the fluffier it will be – and the less it’ll stick to the pot.

To serve, pour into bowls, add milk, cream or yoghurt and drizzle with honey, sprinkle with nuts and seeds, or add a spoonful of stewed fruit.

Note: Oats are available in a range of textures from wholegrain to finely ground. The finer the oats, the smoother your porridge. How much milk or water you need depends on the type of oats – and how runny you like your porridge. Check the guidelines on the oats packet for starters.

Serves 2

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