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The Nervous System and Breakfast

by Michael Brent

Food is fuel, and eating an unbalanced, unhealthy breakfast -- or skipping breakfast altogether -- is like setting off on a car trip with an empty gas tank. Breakfast supplies your body with the necessary nutrients to keep your brain and body functioning at peak capacity, and this is especially true of your body's central nervous system.

Glucose

After a night's sleep, your glucose level -- commonly called blood sugar -- is likely to be low when you wake up in the morning. It's crucial that you raise your glucose level, since glucose is the essential fuel that nourishes your brain and central nervous system. Low glucose levels can lead to poor performance of the body's nervous system; for school-age children, this will lead to grogginess and inattentiveness in class, along with a general irritability -- far from an ideal condition for learning to take place.

Carbohydrates

Glucose enters our blood from carbohydrates in the food we eat. Glucose feeds your brain cells, which require twice as much energy as your body's other cells. This is because brain cells manufacture enzymes and neurotransmitters that are transmitted to your body's nerve endings, which can be several feet away from the brain. Neurons, cells that communicate with each other, send bioelectric signals throughout the central nervous system. Low blood sugar caused by an insufficient breakfast will cause this entire system to suffer.

Breakfast and Emotional Health

According to dietitian and nutritionist Susan Fyshe, your moods and emotions are controlled by your brain and central nervous system. As a result, the effects of low glucose levels on the central nervous system will negatively affect your mood. "There's a strong link between diet and emotional health," says Fyshe. "A healthy breakfast provides nourishment for our brains and nervous system...it's an important way to start the day off the best you can be."

Healthy Breakfast Choices

To keep your central nervous system functioning properly, breakfast should include a mix of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. If you're in a rush and don't have time for a proper breakfast, some quick, easy choices include a soy-milk shake with protein powder; whole-grain toast with peanut butter and a piece of fruit; a scrambled, fried, poached or hard-boiled egg with toast and a glass of fruit juice; a breakfast parfait with yogurt, raspberries and granola; or a bowl of oatmeal with chopped nuts and a sliced banana or strawberries.

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