This article is part of a three part series. Part 1 discusses the pitfalls related to serving your child the standard American, processed “breakfast out of a box.” Part 2 will discuss what nutrients are essential in your child’s breakfast for maximized school performance. Part 3 will provide you with some “out of the box” ideas for breakfasts that rely on nutritious, real foods amidst the morning rush.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the importance of breakfast as an essential factor in children’s school performance — higher test scores, improved behavior and memory, and greater focus and attention span. For children with hyperactivity or attention issues, it appears to be even more critical. Skipping breakfast has also been linked to the risk of childhood obesity. But how important is the content of our children’s breakfasts to their school performance?
The studies that touch on that question directly correlate breakfast’s glycemic index with school performance. Sharp spikes in blood glucose levels are followed by a deep plunge with accompanying surge of adrenaline. You’ve probably read all the popular magazine advice that tells you that sugar definitively does not cause behavioral issues or hyperactivity. Lest you think it was just your imagination or only your child, a 1994 study in the Journal of Pediatrics demonstrated children are much more sensitive to refined sugar than adults. In fact, children’s adrenaline levels remained ten times higher than normal for up to five hours after a test dose of refined sugar. Such adrenaline elevation is accompanied by high levels of cortisol and other adrenal stress hormones and can result in increased anxiety and/or depression, shakiness, feeling light-headed or foggy, concentration issues, excitability, and abnormal behaviors. At the same time, these hormones suppress other bodily functions, including the immune system and growth.
Unfortunately, in many households, the standard breakfast has become sugar coated, highly processed, packaged cereals, usually served up with a large volume of chemical additives, preservatives and food colorings — many of which have been linked to behavioral problems, hyperactivity, and loss of focus. Packaged toaster pastries, waffles served with “pancake syrup,” “breakfast bars,” and the like are similarly loaded with the same sweetened, starchy mix.
Think Outside the Box
A breakfast for maximal brain power requires breaking the box habit. Even if you think you are doing fine by avoiding the refined sugar-laden cereals, you might consider two studies that were never published that demonstrated that eating the box may be healthier than it’s contents — with or without sugar.
Unpublished Study #1
Paul Stitt, a biochemist, author of the book Beating the Food Giants and ex-employee of a major cereal manufacturer, tells of a company lab experiment done in 1942 involving four groups of rats. The first group was fed unadulterated whole wheat kernels, water and synthetic vitamins and minerals. The second received puffed wheat, water and the same vitamin/mineral solution. The third only drank water. The fourth was provided water and the synthetic nutrients.
The rats given only water lived about a month. The rats fed water with nutrients lived about two months. The rats fed the whole wheat lived over a year, and the rats fed all the puffed wheat they desired died within two weeks—earlier than the rats receiving nothing but water! Autopsy results showed they did not die of malnutrition, but from liver, pancreas and kidney failure and spinal nerve degeneration—signs of insulin shock.
OK… I know your kids are not rats, and you probably would never consider feeding them a diet of only extruded grains (That’s the name for this high pressure process used to mix, cook, compress, mold and shape the grain.) with added synthetic nutrients, but these results indicate that there is something really toxic about eating grains adulterated in this manner — no matter how healthy or “whole” the box may claim them to be. It would appear that the chemical process used to turn a whole grain into a “puff,” an “o,” an animal shape or a shred changes the chemical structure of the protein, destroying its essential fatty acids and other nutrients and transforming its amino acids into substances that are actually destructive to the nervous system.
Unpublished Study #2
The other unpublished “study” was described by Sally Fallon in her book Nourishing Traditions. Sally later reported that it was an experiment initially done as a joke by Loren Zanier, author of Resonant Field Theory. Zanier reported that he and other researchers at the University of Michigan in the 1960s took 18 lab rats and divided them into three groups. The first group was fed corn flakes with water. The second group was fed the shredded cereal boxes with water. The control group was fed standard rat feed with water. The control rats stayed healthy through the course of the experiment. The rats eating the cardboard box became lethargic and eventually died of malnutrition. The rats eating the corn flakes died sooner than the rats eating the boxes, and before they died, these rats developed aggressive and abnormal behaviors which Zanier described as “schizophrenic.” They had fits, bit each other and finally went into convulsions.
A Puff, a Flake or an “O” is Not a Whole Grain
While many parents pay high prices to get the cereals marked “whole grains” or even higher to buy the “organic,” “whole grain” cereals available in the health food store, all of the flakes and other shapes of cooked and compressed grains use the same extrusion process. Whatever the package may promote, once extruded, the grain is no longer “whole’ and does not bear the same nutritional quality as a whole grain. The health food store cereal varieties may actually be worse for you, as they often contain greater amounts protein—the part of the grain that is made toxic to the nervous system by this processing.
If you are used to the convenience of the box, you’re probably wondering about replacements that can provide the healthy nutrition your child needs in the morning to prepare for a day of maximized learning.
Stay tuned for Back to School Breakfast Nutrition 101— Part 2. Be sure to scroll back to the top of this article and click on “subscribe” to receive links to my future Examiner articles in your Inbox.