5 Elements of a Healthy Irish Breakfast
Many nutrition experts would opine that breakfast is the most important meal, and no one knows this better than the Irish.
While the Full Irish Breakfast traditionally may include processed red meats such as bacon and sausages as well as black or white pudding, all of which have been identified as cancer-causing foods by the World Health Organization, the suggestions that follow will allow you to enjoy some of the best Irish breakfast foods while staying healthy.
The following comprise all the elements of a healthy breakfast that will get and keep you going. And best of all: you can eat these any and every day.
Irish Breakfast Tea
Irish breakfast tea, which is a black tea blend, is known for its strength and delicious malty flavor, particularly given that it is usually blended from Assam teas. This will really get you going for the day. If you are extremely sensitive to caffeine, check out the decaffeinated versions of Irish breakfast tea, which still deliver its wonderful flavor without nearly as much of the strength.
Drinking tea for breakfast, rather than a high-calorie, high-end coffee drink or fruit juice will also help you lose weight and prevent further weight gain. Given that sugar-sweetened beverages have been identified as a leading cause of the obesity epidemic, it makes sense to eliminate those from your diet entirely.
Steel-Cut Irish Oatmeal
Irish oatmeal has a wonderful texture and a deliciously complex, nutty flavor. One brand that is widely available in the United States is McCann’s Irish Oatmeal, which is imported and made from 100% whole-grain Irish oats. Look for the non-GMO label and specifically the steel-cut version, as this tends to be highest in preserved fiber.
A high-fiber diet, of which oatmeal can be a part, has been linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Berries, in particular, which are high in fiber and antioxidants, make an excellent topping for your oatmeal. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and more—you really can’t go wrong here. Banana slices also taste delicious with oatmeal, particularly in combination with strawberries, and are another healthy source of fiber as well as potassium, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B-6.
Studies have repeatedly shown that a diet that is high in whole fruits and vegetables results in a lower risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. So incorporating at least one or two servings of fruit into your breakfast meal is essential.
Eggs or Baked Beans
Every breakfast should contain a source of protein to keep you going and manage hunger. Eggs have gotten a bad rap in the past, but studies have shown that that was undeserved. Eggs as a source of dietary cholesterol actually make very little, if any, contribution to your measured serum cholesterol (which is what is measured when you have a lab test done to check your cholesterol levels).
As an example, one study looked at egg consumption in nearly 38,000 Swedish men and nearly 33,000 Swedish women and found that eating six or fewer eggs per week was not associated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, or heart failure. However, in men, eating more than six eggs per week was associated with a higher risk of heart failure.
So you may want to limit yourself to one egg per day, and switch out with baked beans one day (yes, the Irish do eat beans for breakfast—not a bad idea, as you’ll see below). Or double up on the eggs and switch out with the beans or another source of healthy protein such as nuts or unsweetened yogurt on other days so that you don’t exceed the six eggs per week.
Now, about those baked beans … if you can find a preparation that is low in sodium and without added sugar, then you’re good to go on enjoying this unique component of the Irish breakfast. Beans are another healthy source of fiber as well as protein. They also contain a number of important nutrients such as folate, manganese, iron, potassium, and magnesium.
Irish Brown Bread
If you’ve already had your oatmeal, you might not want or need this one, but know that Irish brown bread can be another delicious source of whole-grain fiber. Traditional Irish soda bread contains only four ingredients: flour, baking soda, buttermilk, and salt. Make the flour a whole-grain wheat flour, and you’ve got brown soda bread, sometimes just called brown bread.
Consider an olive and/or canola oil spread instead of pure butter, as these monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, also known as “healthy fats,” have been shown to be good for your heart and cardiovascular system and may reduce inflammation throughout the body.
This bread can also be fantastic for dipping just as it is in—you guessed it--your baked beans.
- Garaulet M, Gomez-Abellan P, Alburquerque-Bejar JJ, et al. Timing of food intake predicts weight loss effectiveness. International Journal of Obesity 2013;37:604-611.
- Lin JS, O’Connor EA, Evans CV, Senger CA, et al. Behavioral counseling to promote a healthy lifestyle for cardiovascular disease prevention in persons with cardiovascular risk factors: an updated systematic evidence review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2014 Aug.
- Larsson SC, Akesson A, Wolk A. Egg consumption and risk of heart failure, myocardial infarction, and stroke: results from 2 prospective cohorts. Am J Clin Nutr 2015;102:1007-13.
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