13 February 2024

Get Your Brain Firing and Go Low GI

A new year begins, and it is back to work and school for most of us. We all want to start the new year feeling fresh and firing on all cylinders. Did you know that including a low GI breakfast can make all the difference to how our brain functions including cognitive performance and mood?

What is the Glycemic Index?

The Glycemic Index (GI) is a tool that measures how carbohydrates affect blood glucose levels. It then ranks the quality of carbohydrate based on this score. Carbohydrates are an essential part of our diet providing fuel for the brain, most other organs, and muscles during physical activity.

However, not all carbohydrate foods are equal. High GI carbohydrates cause blood sugar levels to spike and then crash, whereas low GI foods are digested and absorbed more slowly. This slow release of glucose into the bloodstream is proven to be much more beneficial for the body from improved energy levels to management of type 2 diabetes to weight loss.

What happens if we skip breakfast?

Our brain needs energy to function. Depriving it of food in the morning by skipping breakfast has been linked to poorer concentration, alertness, and mental performance. Have you ever had a ‘foggy head’ when trying to carry out morning tasks? According to research, those who skip, or delay breakfast are more likely to experience low mood compared to those with a scheduled eating pattern of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.[i]

For Parents and Children who skip breakfast….

If your child does not eat breakfast, then you are not alone. Breakfast is the most frequently skipped meal with 20–30% of children and adolescents in the developed world skipping breakfast. Unfortunately, research has found that skipping breakfast has a negative impact on brain activity and associated cognitive, behavioural, and academic outcomes.[ii]

‘Breaking the fast’ is particularly important for our little ones who have higher sleep demands and therefore depleted glycogen stores when they wake in the morning. Children also have a high brain glucose metabolism with it being twice as high in children aged 4-10 years compared with adults. So, feeding the brain with a continuous supply of glucose from a quality breakfast is the best start our children can have to the day.[iii]

If you are a parent who is struggling with your child eating breakfast, consider your own breakfast habits. One study found that children with mothers who skipped breakfast were two-three times more likely to skip breakfast compared to children with mothers who ate breakfast. Furthermore, the chances of children skipping breakfast was even higher when both parents skipped breakfast.[iv]

Low GI and Cognitive Performance

Including low GI carbs at breakfast will provide a steady flow of glucose to the brain, helping you to concentrate, providing you with sustained energy and contributing to satiety (the feeling of fullness), making you feel fuller for longer. Feeling satisfied all morning after eating a low GI breakfast can curb those cravings to overeat unhealthy foods during the day. Studies show that adding low GI carbs to your breakfast, can also improve heart health and weight management and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

One study examined how the GI of different breakfast cereals affects the attention and memory of children aged 6-11 years. A series of computerised tests on attention and memory were conducted including one before breakfast and three times after breakfast, at hourly intervals. What they found was that children’s performance declined throughout the morning. However, this decline was significantly reduced if they consumed a low GI breakfast cereal compared with a high GI breakfast cereal on measures of accuracy of attention and secondary memory.[v]

Supercharge Your Morning with these Low GI Certified Breakfast Products:

If mornings are busy, try these easy to prepare, Low GI Breakfast recipes: 

 

By Rebecca McPhee, Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) & Health Coach Consultant.

References

[i]  Wilson J.E et al. An eating pattern characterised by skipped or delayed breakfast is associated with mood disorders among an Australian adult cohort. Psychological Medicine, October 2019.

[ii] Katie Adolphus, Clare L. Lawton, and Louise Dye. The effects of breakfast on behavior and academic performance in children and adolescents. Front Hum Neurosci. 2013; 7: 425.

[iii] Marta CacciatoreEleonora Agata GrassoRoberta Tripodi, and Francesco Chiarell. Impact of glucose metabolism on the developing brain. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2022; 13: 1047545.

[iv] Okada C, Tabuchi T, Iso H. Association between skipping breakfast in parents and children and childhood overweight/obesity among children: a nationwide 10.5-year prospective study in Japan. International Journal of Obesity 2018; 42:1724-32.

[v] Jeanet Ingwersen, Margaret Anne Defeyter, David O. Kennedy, Keith A. Wesnes, Andrew B. Scholey. A low glycaemic index breakfast cereal preferentially prevents children’s cognitive performance from declining throughout the morning. Appetite. Volume 49, Issue 1, July 2007, Pages 240-244.

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