Hepatitis C Management: The Most Important Meal of the Day
Living with chronic Hepatitis C leaves some with a disadvantaged liver, requiring extra attention to their body’s nutritional needs. Unfortunately, many forgo a nutritious breakfast, often referred to as the most important meal of the day.
As the meal that sets the metabolic stage for the next 24 hours, breakfast done right is surprisingly rare. Regrettably, a healthy combination of fiber, protein, carbohydrates and other valuable nutrients is scarce in most Americans’ breakfasts.
A healthy morning meal provides energy, satisfies the appetite and gives the body fuel for conquering the day ahead. According to Erica Giovinazzo, MS, RD, a nutritionist at Clay Health Club and Spa in New York City, “You want to aim for a breakfast that combines good carbs and fiber with some protein.” For those with Hepatitis C, there are plenty of reasons to seek these elements out for breakfast:
- Good carbs, otherwise known as complex carbohydrates, are broken down slowly by the body into sugars, which is used for energy. Because fatigue is the primary symptom reported by Hepatitis C sufferers, a steady supply of energy is very valuable.
- Protein helps you stay full longer than carbohydrates, which induces satiety. Because feeling full longer helps maintain an ideal weight, eating protein in the morning helps prevent the development of a fatty liver. Read about “The Advantages of Consuming Protein for Liver Health.”
- Protein is metabolized into amino acids, the building blocks for constructing new, healthy liver cells.
- Fiber is valuable to those with Hepatitis C because it absorbs excessive fat in the bloodstream for excretion. Excessive fat in the blood can lead to fatty liver disease, a problem that would exacerbate Hepatitis C.
In addition, experts suggest:
- avoiding simple carbohydrates, sugar, saturated fat and preservatives – these all cause inflammation in the liver.
- including a little healthy fat, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals – these all reduce inflammation in the liver.
To help your liver get optimal nutritional support in the morning, consider these examples of what to choose and what to stay away from for your first meal of the day:
- Good Choice #1 – Oatmeal with blueberries and a handful of unsalted walnuts, pecans or almonds. Oats are a great complex carbohydrate that supplies a steady stream of energy, contains Vitamin B and lots of fiber; blueberries contain fiber and are full of antioxidants; and nuts deliver a good dose of healthy fat and protein.
- Bad Choice #1 – Bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a roll or bagel. This very common breakfast sandwich contains plenty of protein (bacon, egg and cheese), but is also high in saturated fat and preservatives – known liver inflammation instigators. The roll or bagel is a simple carb (not complex), and will cause blood sugar levels to spike, providing a short burst of energy followed by an energetic crash.
- Good Choice #2 – Whole wheat tortilla filled with scrambled eggs, asparagus, spinach and half a grapefruit*. This combination delivers a complex carbohydrate (whole wheat tortilla), protein (egg), fiber (tortilla, grapefruit and vegetables), antioxidants (veggies and grapefruit) and vitamins and minerals (egg and veggies and grapefruit). *Grapefruit interacts with certain medications. Thus, discuss potential interactions between this citrus fruit and your medications with your doctor.
- Bad Choice #2 – Regular pancakes with syrup, sausage, hash browns and orange juice. Although this appears to be a typical American breakfast, it invites fatty liver disease, diabetes and obesity. Sausage is a protein but it is also full of preservatives and saturated fat. All of the other ingredients – pancakes, syrup, hash browns and orange juice – are either pure sugar or break down into sugar quickly. These will cause a sharp rise in blood sugar levels, priming someone for insulin resistance, fatty liver disease and obesity. In addition, all of this sugar will lead to an energy crash shortly after eating.
- Good Choice #3 – Whole grain toast with avocado and plain, nonfat Greek yogurt with bananas and strawberries. Whole grain toast is a complex carbohydrate and avocado is a good fat with lots of fiber. Plain, nonfat Greek yogurt is high in protein, calcium and probiotics (beneficial for the digestive system). In addition to fiber, bananas and strawberries also contain potassium, Vitamin C and antioxidants.
- Bad Choice #3 – Donut and a light-and-sweet coffee. This combo seems like an obviously bad breakfast choice, but so many people grab this on their way to work in the morning. Donuts (or other breakfast types of pastries) are made with white flour (a simple carb), sugar and fat. There is little nutrition to be gained from a donut. Although coffee in and of itself is okay, a light-and-sweet coffee is made with half and half and sugar, which is basically fat and sugar. This breakfast practically guarantees you will be fighting sleepiness in an hour and will encourage insulin resistance.
- Good Choice #4 – A comprehensive protein and nutrition shake. For those without the time to prepare a nutritious breakfast, look for a shake that contains pea protein (a vegetarian, low-allergen source of protein), complex carbs (barley malt powder, rice bran powder), probiotics, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and a combination of herbs to support liver health…
- Bad Choice #4 – Sugary cereal with whole milk. This quick and easy breakfast is simple carbs and sugar, which spells bad news for blood sugar levels. Although milk is a protein, whole milk contains a lot of fat. This breakfast would be much better if the cereal is a high fiber, low sugar, complex carbohydrate kind and it is prepared with nonfat milk…even better with some fresh fruit tossed in!
Combining protein, complex carbs, fiber, healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals into our important first meal of the day is ideal for those with Hepatitis C. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t eat this way. It’s time to change the food we eat in the morning. By making smarter breakfast choices, you can feel good and guide your liver away from inflammation and towards healing.
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http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20676415,00.html, The 20 Best Foods to Eat for Breakfast, Amanda MacMillan, Retrieved February 8, 2015, Health Media Ventures, Inc., 2015.
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