Monday, June 25, 2012

Eat Fish for Breakfast

I typically direct new clients to specific posts on Health-Actualization that address their personal goals or initial questions.  Following the reading, their replies usually sound like this:

Thank you.  Your blog was helpful.  By the way, do you really eat sardines for breakfast?

Yes...I do.

Most people are completely unwilling to eat fish for breakfast, ESPECIALLY sardines.  However, allow me to humor you: I'm going to take the next few minutes to persuade you to eat sardines for breakfast as well.

The Morning Paper, Coffee...and Sardines?

In this order, here are my goals/reasons for working out and eating the way I do:
  1. Improve overall health/maintain a high level of health.
  2. Maintain a high level of physical function (being able to live without joint pain while having enough strength and physical conditioning to participate any activity/sport that I desire).
  3. Have an above average amount of muscle mass while maintaining a low level of body fat (A.K.A. looking good on the beach).  
While the second reason is related to diet, I believe it is more a product of strength training.  Therefore, I'm going to leave that alone.  Let's focus on how the first and third reasons tie into my sardine breakfast.

Sardines: The Healthy Breakfast

For the sake of simplicity, I'm going to compare sardines to eggs only.  I don't believe the processed foods that many people eat for breakfast are healthy.  These processed foods include cereal, oatmeal, bagels, french toast, waffles, pancakes, and cereal bars.  These foods generally come with a long list of ingredients, feature vitamins and minerals that are infused into them (as opposed to naturally occurring), and usually only supply one macronutrient (carbohydrates) while not providing a healthy amount of the other two (proteins and fats). 

Using, here is the comparison of 150 grams of eggs versus the same amount of sardines in regards to health (150 grams is around the typical serving in a can of sardines):
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are terrific for reducing cardiovascular inflammation and therefore lowering risk of heart disease.  Sardines have 20 times the total omega-3 fatty acids that eggs have.
  • Sardines have over six times the vitamin B12 that eggs have.
  • Eggs have essentially no niacin, whereas sardines are a great source.
  • Sardines provide over six times more vitamin D and contain the recommended daily amount of vitamin D in just one can.
  • In regards to minerals, sardines provide five times more calcium (and are a great overall source of calcium); have 10% more iron; feature more than twice the amount of magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium; provide more zinc, copper, and manganese; and sardines feature about 50% more selenium, including more than the daily recommended amount in just one can.  

Fish Breakfast for a Fit Physique

If you want to look great naked, a breakfast of sardines is a more appealing option.  This is due to their superior protein content.  Sardines offer about 15-20 additional grams of protein in a 150 gram serving.  Those 15-20 grams are significant.  My points on the importance of that protein will refer to my March 27th post and the studies linked to in that article [1]:
  • The recommended minimum protein intake for people who are strength training is to eat about two thirds of your body weight in grams of protein per day (i.e. 120 grams of protein for a 180 lb. person).  If you eat below this amount, your body will not build muscle mass to its full potential following strength training workouts.  15-20 grams of protein makes up about 20% of the daily minimum for a 150 lb. person - that's not a trivial amount.
  • Weight loss studies show that groups higher in protein lose more weight than groups that eat the same amount of calories but feature diets that replace protein with carbs or fat.  
  • Finally, protein is critical to maintaining lean mass (i.e. muscle and bone tissue) during a calorie deficit.  That extra 15-20% of protein for a 150 lb. person could make a major difference in keeping muscle but losing fat during a weight loss effort.
To achieve the same protein total that a can of sardines offers, one would have to eat six large eggs.  Six large eggs total 420 calories, about 110 more than a can of sardines. 

My Sardine Summary

Before I continue to praise sardines, I don't want you to be completely deterred from eggs: eggs are one of the most well-rounded real foods when it comes to vitamins, minerals, fats and protein.  I highly recommend eggs as a part of your diet.  However, if you are looking to improve your health or your physique, sardines offer you a better option, especially for a breakfast.  I think the evidence is indisputably in favor of sardines, but let's get real: at best, 10% of you will go out and take this suggestion.  Most of you will be unable to get over the thought or sight of eating sardines.  So...have you just wasted the last five minutes by reading this post?  

No.  Here is what I recommend if sardines are simply something you are unwilling to try: eat salmon, tuna, mackerel, or another type of fish for breakfast.  Fish are generally great sources of vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein.  

I realize fish for breakfast is not part of the culture that we live in, but neither is being healthy.  High blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity are par for our culture's course.  I don't want to abide by the mentality that leads people to such ill states...and neither should you.  Give it a shot.  You might like it after a few days.  If not, at least your body will be happy.


Kristy Z. said...

Ok, two questions - why breakfast? and what are your thoughts on Lox? You mentioned Salmon so I'm assuming you're in favor but there are different varieties (wild vs farm-raised).

Dr. Sean Preuss said...

Hi Kristy,

Thanks for reading. I'm an advocate for having a high protein breakfast. In addition, breakfast sets the tone for energy and focus for the first half of the day. I'm in favor of lox. I do prefer the wild, of course, but honestly, I think farm-raised lox is still a superior option to most breakfasts, including non-organic/free range eggs.