I have notoriously been the worst when it comes to a healthy, nutritious breakfast, my preferred morning meal being a chocolate croissant with a full-fat latte and real sugar stirred in. If I told you how many chocolate croissants I used to consume per week, you might worry about me.
My sweet tooth extended beyond picking pastries for breakfast, with a strong daily craving after lunch for some kind of cookie, sugary drink, or piece(s) of chocolate. There was only one time in my life when I went without sugar—it was a 40-day Lent challenge—and I’d been trying to recreate that restraint ever since. Of course, that was ten years ago and, until recently, I’d gone nary a day in the last decade without satisfying my urge for sweets.
Which brings us to a few weeks ago, when I started having a high-fiber cereal with dried cherries for breakfast. Suffice it to say that I fully expected to stay fuller for longer. I fully expected to feel more energized. I did not, however, fully expect my sweet tooth to disappear. The possibility was not even on my radar.
And yet, to my complete surprise, that is precisely what happened. Post high-fiber cereal plus dried cherries, I found myself completely sated for five to six hours. In fact, after having a bowl at 8 a.m., I did not even think about food or feel hungry until 1 p.m. And my desire for desserts? Gone. The switch had been turned off. There’s a jar of chocolates on my desk that I’m used to reaching for every day. I forgot it was there. I didn’t care.
It wasn’t really until day three of the new breakfast habit that I truly grasped what was happening. At a work event that evening, waiters were passing plates of savory and sweet treats around. There were chocolate covered strawberries. There were artisanal marshmallows. I would never—ever—have previously passed up the opportunity for an artisanal marshmallow, period, and especially not after my coworker raved about how incredible it was. But turning down the marshmallow had nothing to do with willpower—my body was wholly uninterested in consuming sweets. I didn’t want that marshmallow. I just didn’t want it.
Since all of this was entirely out of the ordinary for me, I decided to look into the matter further. How was it possible that having fiber cereal for breakfast had changed me so much, so immediately?
The simple answer: Fiber stabilizes your blood sugar (glucose) levels. Eating junk food and the kind of refined white flour in, say, your average croissant causes rapid spikes and drops in blood sugar levels. As a result, you feel tired, hungry, and crave more junk food. Those are the times you eat something like a pastry for breakfast, and two hours later (if that), feel like you want to eat a Pop Tart or Hershey’s bar (a.k.a. how I operated before making the fiber cereal switch).
In addition, our blood sugar levels are naturally at their lowest in the morning—which is why breakfast is such a key meal. They peak about an hour after breakfast, and return to base level for several hours after that.
As opposed to junk foods, which spike and then drop blood sugar, high-fiber foods like barley, oats, rye, and buckwheat gently (versus suddenly) raise and then stabilize glucose levels, thus minimizing sugar cravings. The high-fiber cereal I was eating in the morning (Kashi GoLean, in case you were wondering), contains 10 grams of fiber per serving, in addition to 13 grams of protein, which contributes to the extended feeling of fullness and diminished desire to eat sweets.
In addition, like many unhealthy things, sugar begets sugar, and regularly having it can train your taste buds to want more of it. After those first three days without my usual sugar fix, I continued to not crave the addictive stuff.
Ever since I adopted this cereal habit, I have felt like less and less of a slave to sugar, mostly not wanting it altogether, but also feeling satisfied with smaller amounts of it and far more in control.
Do you have a high-fiber breakfast? Will you try it out after reading this? Tell me below!