What to eat for breakfast to make you happier

Fried salmon

Fried salmon steak with potatoes and vegetables.

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What you need to know:

  • Studies have shown that this first meal of the day stimulates the brain, improving both our memory and concentration.
  • A proper breakfast also speeds up our metabolism, helping our bodies burn more calories throughout the day.

Experts argue that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and should never be skipped. By eating in the morning, we fill our bodies with nutrients and replenish our supply of glucose that boosts our energy levels for the day.

Having a proper breakfast is generally linked to good health. Studies have shown that this first meal of the day stimulates the brain, improving both our memory and concentration, as well as lowering the levels of bad cholesterol in our bodies and preventing heart disease. It also speeds up our metabolism, helping our bodies burn more calories throughout the day.

If all of this wasn't enough, having a good breakfast is also linked with greater levels of happiness. However, while breakfast is really important, not all foods will have the same benefits. Newsweek has spoken to nutritionists to find out which breakfast foods make you happier.

Corinne Zaffarese Elbourne is a pharmacist, state-registered nutritionist, and the wellness coach behind Miverbo.


Experts say the best time to eat your breakfast is within a maximum of two hours of getting up.

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She told Newsweek that breakfast has to get you "excited for the day." She likes to call it the 'mindset meal' because she truly believes that a good breakfast sets you up for a great day ahead.

Elbourne said: "Everyone should find that healthy breakfast option that makes them excited to live a healthy life. Some of my favourite breakfasts to eat to make me feel happier include a delicious protein berry smoothie, hearty overnight oats, or a cleansing kiwi and lime smoothie. All of these options can help to make you feel happier as they are packed with mood-boosting ingredients ideal for starting things on the right note and giving your body what it needs to get up and go."

Elbourne always recommends starting the day with a breakfast rich in complex carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, and fiber. It will provide sustained energy throughout the morning and help keep your blood sugars stable.

"This will help reduce energy crashes and mood swings later in the day, and stop you from reaching for a sugary snack around 11am," Elbourne said.

Salmon moile curry

Salmon moile curry dish pictured on June 29, 2023 at Red Ginger Restaurant in Parklands Nairobi.

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"I like making breakfast a bit of a ritual and turning it into a moment of self-care to set the stage for a happier, healthier day. Breakfast serves to remind us that every day is a new opportunity to make choices that nourish our body, fuel our activities, and feed our spirit."

Registered dietitian Alex Larson told Newsweek that for a healthy breakfast, you should aim for a combination of at least 20 grammes of protein, some complex carbohydrates, fruit, and/or vegetables.

His examples of healthy breakfast include: "Open-faced bagel sandwich with smoked salmon, diced avocado and an over-easy egg on top. A three-egg omelet with assorted vegetables and a side of toast with jam. Fruit smoothie made with 1 cup Greek yogurt, a scoop of protein powder, berries, and spinach."

Allie Echeverria, a nutritionist in Atlanta, Georgia, told Newsweek that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may help lower depression, and vitamin B-12 has been associated with a positive mood.


Chickpea salad with tomatoes cucumber feta cheese parsley and onions.

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Echeverria said: "Try a breakfast salad for an unexpected but delicious breakfast. Choose a leafy green such as spinach, kale, or cabbage (or blend of different greens) as your base. Add two eggs (scrambled, poached, or sunny side up work best) and two to three slices of lox. Eggs and salmon are good sources of vitamin B-12. Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Add a handful of blueberries (trust me on blueberries with salmon and eggs) for fiber and vitamin C. You can add a handful of nuts for texture and additional healthy fat."

Breakfast foods you should avoid

Larson said you should avoid a breakfast that offers only a high amount of refined carbs and simple sugars. While it will provide you with a quick source of energy, it's not going to be the sustained sort that will get them through the morning.

"Combining carbohydrates with quality protein and healthy fats will provide that balanced, steadier energy for a successful morning," Larson added.

Other foods that experts agree you should avoid for breakfast include: refined, sugary cereals; waffles and pancakes; buttered toasts; muffins; fruit juice; and pastries. Also avoid breakfast bars, processed meats, low-fat yogurts, and fried foods like hash browns.

What’s the best time to eat breakfast?

To maximise the benefits of a healthy first meal, eating it at the right time is just as important as what you're eating. The experts say the best time to eat your breakfast is within a maximum of two hours of getting up, the sooner the better.


A bowl of fresh spinach.

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Drink water before eating breakfast

Another good breakfast habit is drinking water before having your food. That's because, according to science, hydrating first thing in the morning helps your body recover from nightly dehydration, and when you do it on an empty stomach, your body absorbs it faster.

There are countless advantages to drinking water first thing in the morning. These include, among others: better skin, since water reduces wrinkles and enhances your natural glow; and better hair as water increases its shine and strength.

Drinking it also helps speed up your weight loss. That's because your metabolism can increase by up to 25 percent when you drink water on an empty stomach.

Among the many other benefits of drinking water when you wake up, you'll also have increased energy levels, a boosted immune system, fewer kidney stones, and fewer headaches.

The article first appeared on The Content Exchange