Eating a delicious customized donut from donut places such as Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Duck Donuts may not be the healthiest breakfast but it may just be what your brain needs to jumpstart its function for the day! This is particularly true when you have trouble remembering things or concentrating on things in the morning. The reason: Donuts have sugar that your brain needs.
But don’t overdo the donuts either as too much sugar can be bad for your health, too. The mantra of moderation applies to these sugary yet so delicious treats, as is the case for all food.
Decreased Sugar Levels
When you sleep, your body continues to use sugar to maintain its normal functions. In fact, your brain considers sugar – or glucose – as indispensable without which its cells will eventually die. This is the reason why even when you don’t exactly have a sweet tooth, your body will crave for something sweet, such as from naturally sweet fruits or from glazed donuts with the works.
When you wake up in the morning, your blood sugar level will be at precipitously low levels. Your brain will then do whatever is necessary to get your body’s blood sugar level up and so you get the sweet cravings in the morning. You may satisfy it by eating your usual breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast with a glass of orange juice or a cup of black coffee but these will not be enough for your brain’s needs.
While stuck in morning traffic, for example, you have trouble concentrating and you still feel hungry. Your brain is actually craving for its sugar fix and you can choose to ignore it or you can give in to it. You may want to seriously consider the latter because your body will benefit from it.
Sugar as Brain Food
No, we’re not just making it up just to promote donuts as healthy food, far from it. Researchers have discovered the chemical reactions that happen when glucose enters the brain – and it’s something that everybody who says donuts aren’t great breakfast items should know, too.
Sugar is used by the brain as an energy source so that it can perform its normal functions. These functions include the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter crucial in good memory, concentration, and mood. Here’s how it works.
The brain makes acetylcholine from choline, a chemical that can be obtained from the diet in general and from acetyl groups created from metabolizing sugar. Choline can be sourced from food containing lecithin that, in turn, can be found in a wide range of baked goods including cupcakes, donuts and chocolate cakes. When you eat a chocolate-covered donut, for example, as part of your breakfast, you are essentially feeding both your brain and body.
Again, acetylcholine is an important neurotransmitter because of its functions including but not limited to:
- Learning new things and remembering them
- Regulating your mood
- Increasing your concentration ability
- Controlling the quality of your movements
As your day progresses, your brain particularly your acetylcholine neurons continue to consume choline. Your brain, after all, keeps on learning and thinking thus its consumption of glucose as an energy source.
But as the afternoon arrives, you’re becoming more sluggish in both mind and body. You may want to reach for donut again but we suggest that you reach for coffee instead.
While your brain was learning and thinking, your acetylcholine neurons are starting to turn off, so to speak, because of the actions of another chemical, adenosine. Basically, adenosine inhibits the function of acetylcholine so much so that its influence on brain function increases the longer you’re awake.
Coffee – or more particularly, the caffeine in it – prevents adenosine from taking over and releases more acetylcholine in the brain. The result: You will become more awake, more attentive, and more alert for the tasks ahead until the caffeine wears off and it’s time for dinner.
So, don’t fight your urge to indulge in a breakfast donut every morning. Your brain actually needs the sugar in it and you can start your day on a better footing. You will even find yourself enjoying a better mood so you are more than ready to face the morning traffic followed by your work at the office.
But don’t indulge in one too many donuts in the morning either. You are well-advised to stick to one serving of donut to meet your brain’s requirements without subjecting your body to more sugar than it needs. You may have seen the effects of a sugar crash in kids and it isn’t something that you need in the middle of the day.
Add other healthy items to your breakfast, too. You should always eat a balanced meal with protein, carbohydrates and fat as well as vitamins and minerals with every meal. You may, for example, eat an omelet with diced vegetables, a breakfast donut, and an orange juice for breakfast and know that you’re doing your body and brain a great service.