What to Eat for Breakfast? Eggs or Oatmeal?

by Marixie Ann Obsioma, MT, undergrad MD on April 18, 2021
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During a busy morning, it’s easy to let breakfast fall low in your list of priorities, but taking just a few minutes to have something to eat can really make a difference to your day. Most people who do not have time to cook breakfast often decide between eggs or oatmeal.

From the variety of healthy breakfast options, it seems that it is always these two that stick up. So, let’s start checking pieces of evidence about the many health benefits of eggs and oats, and perhaps even find the answer as to which is the better breakfast food of the two!

Why Eat Breakfast?

For the longest time now, doctors have warned us against the importance of starting each day by eating a healthy breakfast. It is no secret that many of us often skip breakfast because of the insufficient amount of time that we have in the morning, or at least we think that we have, not really being aware of the multiple beneficial effects that breakfast has on our health.

Energy

The body’s energy source is glucose. Glucose is broken down and absorbed from the carbohydrates you eat. The body stores most of its energy as fat. But your body also stores some glucose as glycogen, most of it in your liver, with smaller amounts in your muscles.

During times of fasting (not eating), such as overnight, the liver breaks down glycogen and releases it into your bloodstream as glucose to keep your blood sugar levels stable. This is especially important for your brain, which relies almost entirely on glucose for energy.

In the morning, after you have gone without food for as long as 12 hours, your glycogen stores are low. Once all of the energy from your glycogen stores is used up, your body starts to break down fatty acids to produce the energy it needs. But without carbohydrate, fatty acids are only partially oxidised, which can reduce your energy levels.

Eating breakfast boosts your energy levels and restores your glycogen levels ready to keep your metabolism up for the day.

Skipping breakfast may seem like a good way to reduce overall energy intake. But research shows that even with a higher intake of energy, breakfast eaters tend to be more physically active in the morning than those who don’t eat until later in the day.

Essential Vitamins, Minerals and Nutrients

Breakfast foods are rich in key nutrients such as folate, calcium, iron, B vitamins and fibre. Breakfast provides a lot of your day’s total nutrient intake. In fact, people who eat breakfast are more likely to meet their recommended daily intakes of vitamins and minerals than people who don’t.

Essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients can only be gained from food, so even though your body can usually find enough energy to make it to the next meal, you still need to top up your vitamin and mineral levels to maintain health and vitality.

Weight Loss

Some people tend to skip breakfast as a method to lose weight faster. They would surely be surprised that their weight loss journey would be much more effective if only they would take the time in the morning to get some food in their bodies. Eating breakfast helps satisfy your hunger, thus reducing the number of calories that you are about to intake throughout the day (1).

But weight loss is not the only beneficial effect of eating breakfast. By eating breakfast every day, you will be able to maintain a healthy body weight in the future, in addition to being able to prevent diabetes type 2 more efficiently. This is especially important for those of you who might be living with the common risk factors for diabetes type 2.

Better Memory and Brain Function

And if you take the time to include some healthy carbs in your delicious breakfast, you will act to improve your memory and support healthy brain functioning. In fact, a study published in 2017 has confirmed that eating a healthy breakfast effectively supports short-term cognitive function, as compared to eating a nutrient-inadequate or no breakfast whatsoever (2).

Less Risk of Illnesses

Compared with people who don’t have breakfast, those who regularly eat breakfast tend to have a lower risk of both obesity and type 2 diabetes. There is also some evidence that people who don’t have breakfast may be at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Good Food Choices

People who eat breakfast generally have more healthy diets overall, have better eating habits and are less likely to be hungry for snacks during the day than people who skip breakfast. Children who eat an inadequate breakfast are more likely to make poor food choices not only for the rest of the day, but also over the longer term.

People who skip breakfast tend to nibble on snacks during the mid-morning or afternoon. This can be a problem if those snacks are low in fibre, vitamins and minerals, but high in fat and salt. Without the extra energy that breakfast can offer, some people feel lethargic and turn to high-energy food and drinks to get them through the day.

If you do skip breakfast, try a nutritious snack such as fresh fruit, yoghurt, veggie sticks and hummus, or a wholemeal sandwich to help you through that mid-morning hunger.

So now that we have convinced you to make the decision to get up a bit earlier every morning and get to prepare yourself a healthy breakfast, let’s discuss the never-ending battle between two most popular breakfast options, oats and eggs. Which one is better at delivering all of the previously mentioned health benefits and more?

Are Oats Really Healthy?

As you probably know, oats are a whole-grain food, commonly eaten as a healthy breakfast option, which they are. They are usually cooked using water or milk, and you can get quite creative when it comes to adding additional ingredients to ensure a healthy yet highly delicious breakfast. But you can also use oats to prepare healthy versions of muffins, cookies, and granola bars, among other delicious cooking options.

We cannot exaggerate the fact of how incredibly nutritious oats really are. Let’s dive into the nutritional value of the good old oats.

Rich in Fiber

Oats are filled with fiber, especially the soluble fiber known as beta-glucan. With that being said, oats are able to reduce both the “bad” (LDL) and the total cholesterol, reduce the blood sugar levels and insulin levels, while also supporting the health of the microbiome at the same time (3, 4).

Remember that half a cup of oats, which is what you usually need for a healthy breakfast in the morning, is packed with 8 grams of fiber. Oats will be able to satisfy your hunger while also influencing the number of calories that you are about to intake with the following snacks and meals of the day.

Contain High Amounts of Protein

Oats represent a valuable source of protein as well. In fact, oats contain more protein than any other grain (5). That half cup of oats also comes with around 13 grams of much-needed protein. This is yet another nutrient that will help you stay away from any empty calories while you go with your day.

Packed with Vitamins and Minerals

Rich in many vitamins and minerals, including manganese, copper, phosphorus, zinc, folate, thiamin, magnesium, and many more, oats will help you stay healthy while you eat clean (6).

Healthy Source of Carbs

Oats are a healthy source of carbs which we all crave in the morning, relying on them for that energy boost that helps wake us up. Around 25 grams of carbs can be found in a quarter-cup of uncooked oats, and you can increase your carbs intake even further by adding some fresh fruits for extra taste and carbs. The carbs will ensure long-lasting energy throughout the day, using a low-calorie source such as oats (7).

Have Antioxidants

Being an important source of antioxidants, as they are, oats will help you fight any inflammation and boost the function of your immune system. Polyphenols and ferulic acid are the two antioxidants that are found in the greatest amounts inside our beloved oats. Antioxidants will also additionally help you reduce your blood pressure levels and maintain it within healthy levels while improving your blood flow at the same time (8).

Supports Gut Health

Because oats support a healthy gut microbiome, they help prevent and treat constipation and ensure an effective and fast metabolism, which means that more calories will be burnt, being a much-wanted effect during the weight loss journey.

Aside from the above-mentioned health benefits, oats are also inexpensive and easy to prepare. You can have a good, healthy serving of oats in just a few minutes. You can also prepare it the night before like in the case of overnight oats. The options are never-ending with how creative you can be around your oatmeal in the morning, trying out new recipes every single day!

So to sum it up, oats will satisfy your hunger, reducing the number of calories throughout the day, supporting a healthy gut, reducing any present inflammation, and on top of that, keeping yours away from diabetes type 2, among other beneficial effects.

The question now is, can eggs beat oats? Can they cause even more beneficial effects and bring additional nutrients to your breakfast game?

Why Are Eggs Healthy?

And now, for all of you egg lovers out there, let’s share some of the most important health benefits of eating eggs in the morning.

Contains the Best Quality of Protein

Eggs are one of the best, high-quality protein sources that you can find. Roughly 6 to 7 grams of protein per egg are found in the delicious morning eggs. And if you are interested in losing weight, then you must have read about the importance of including as much protein as you can in your daily diet. Protein is your best friend when you are trying to lose weight, helping you build lean muscle mass fast and efficiently, speeding up your metabolism, satisfying your hunger, and reducing the number of calories throughout the day (9).

Natural Source of Vitamins and Minerals

Eggs are a great, natural source of many vitamins and minerals, among which are Vitamin B2, B6, and B12, but also Vitamin A, D, E, K, in addition to also providing selenium, zinc, iron, copper, and so much more (10).

Contains Healthy Fatty Acids

Representing a source of healthy fatty acids, with around 5 grams of fatty acids per egg, eggs are a food choice to start your morning with and get a jump start on your healthy fatty acids for the day. Not to mention that eggs are one of the few foods that also provide Omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for a healthy heart function, in addition to many more healthy body functions (11).

Even though eggs are high in cholesterol, they do not have any effect on your “bad” cholesterol. Instead, eggs work their way up to giving your “good” (HDL) cholesterol levels instead (12).

Supports Cardiovascular Health

But eggs do not stop at supporting healthy heart function by simply providing the needed Omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, eggs also provide betaine and choline, which are two nutrients that most of us fail to introduce to our bodies on a daily level (13).

Packed with Antioxidants

Eggs are packed with healthy antioxidants as well, including lutein and zeaxanthin. Through these antioxidants, eggs help boost the function of your heart, brain, eyes, skin, and so much more (14).

We are all very well introduced to the two traditional ways of cooking eggs. They can be fried or boiled. But there are also so many additional ways of cooking eggs. From having them pouched, baked, and scrabbled, to even preparing omelet muffins that will quickly become your breakfast option on the go.

Which Is Better, Oats or Eggs?

Now that we have all the main benefits of eating eggs and oats as your breakfast option for the morning let’s get into discussing which one of the two is better. This is a topic that different people have different opinions on. Those who are in love with oats will tell you that oats are the best, and the same goes for those who cannot imagine preparing anything else but eggs in the morning. But what does science tell us? Which one of the two is simply better?

It is all about what effect you are looking to achieve with your breakfast. If it is long-lasting energy, then you might be interested in eating some oats to which you will add some seasonal fruits. If you are looking for a way to boost your metabolism in the morning, then you might want to try eating eggs instead.

A 2017 study looked into the ability of both eggs and oatmeal to lower the appetite by lowering the ghrelin levels throughout the day. Researchers have discovered that eating eggs has positive effects on lowering the ghrelin levels in the body, thus lowering the appetite and hunger. The study concluded that eating two eggs in the morning has better satiety as compared to eating oatmeal, while it has no adverse effect on the biomarkers that have been associated with the risk of CVD (15).

So what we can conclude from the previously mentioned study is that eggs are better at satisfying your hunger. If you are expecting to have a late lunch, then we highly recommend relying on eggs in the morning to make sure that you will not be starving yourself while waiting for lunch to come.

Eggs are also a great breakfast option that you can use if you want to boost your antioxidant levels, specifically those of the two antioxidants that we mentioned earlier – choline and zeaxanthin. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition has revealed that consuming two eggs for four weeks has done a better job of boosting the levels of these two antioxidants as compared to eating the heart-friendly oatmeal (16).

But you know what? You do not have to pick and choose one when you can simply have both of them as your breakfast option. If you can efficiently control your portion size, then you are free to include both eggs and oatmeal in your breakfast without having to give up on one of them. By including both eggs and oatmeal, you will be able to provide the needed protein from your eggs, while providing the carbs that eggs lack, and instead are included in your oatmeal.

For the best weight loss results, we would recommend pairing egg whites with some overnight oats to which you will add some of your favorite seasonal fruits such as berries, banana, apple, etc. and maybe a teaspoon of peanut butter or almond butter for extra taste.

Key Takeaway

After exploring numerous studies, we wish we only had one answer for you. Instead, we have many. It turns out that it depends on what you are really looking to gain from your favorite breakfast food. Is it extra energy or high protein intake? Is it a way to boost your antioxidant levels in the body or a way to introduce some healthy fiber instead? Or perhaps you can think about pairing the two and getting the best of both foods?

References:

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6352874/

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5241917/

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2663451/

(4) https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/mnfr.201600715

(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22530714

(6) https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/cereal-grains-and-pasta/5708/2

(7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22187640/

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19941618

(9) https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/protein-in-egg

(10) https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/117/2

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5415167/

(12) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16340654

(13) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2782876/

(14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10426702

(15) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5331520/

(16) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2017.1365026

 


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