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Workplace Safety Begins with Breakfast

Eating a healthy breakfast before heading to work may be as important to construction site safety as wearing a hardhat.

Unfortunately, breakfast is also a meal that often gets the short shrift. In the rush to get out of the house, many people begin their day with high-in-calorie, low-on-nutrient fast food. That is, if they eat anything at all. Lots of people don’t. Either way, workplace safety can suffer.

Research published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that people who skip out on a healthy breakfast – like 31 million Americans do every day – go about their workday more tired and less focused than those who take a few minutes to have a bowl of oatmeal and a piece of fruit. Punting on breakfast increases the likelihood for on-the-job injuries.

Here’s why this first meal of the day is so important:
When people sit down to breakfast, they are literally breaking a fast that began the night before when they went to bed. The body has been busy during this time of so-called “rest.” Sleep is when hormones that assist with healing and other important functions are produced. Glucose, the sugar in blood that comes from eating food and which provides energy, is required for this essential work. During the day, most people replenish their supplies of glucose by eating every three to four hours. After a night of sleep – six to nine hours for most people – glucose levels are depleted. Eating breakfast restores glucose and lifts that foggy feeling that many people have when they first wake up.

Mental sharpness may not be the only thing that suffers when breakfast is short-changed.

A recently completed 16-year study on men’s eating habits from Harvard School of Public Health found that when people don’t take time to eat a healthy breakfast, their risk for a heart attack or death from coronary heart disease goes up.

From 1992 to 2008, researchers reviewed food questionnaires and health outcomes from more than 26,000 male health professionals between the ages of 45-82 years.

The results?

After taking into account lifestyle factors that included diet, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption, study participants who routinely passed on breakfast had a 27 percent higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than those who took time to eat in the morning.

“Skipping breakfast may lead to one or more risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, which may in turn lead to a heart attack over time,” said lead author Leah Cahill in a statement to the American Heart Association, which published the study last summer.

The message, then, is that no matter how busy your morning, make time for breakfast. These suggestions from the Mayo Clinic are nutritious and quick. Choosing one option from each of these groups will get your day off to a great start.

  • Whole grains: whole-grain rolls, bagels, hot or cold whole-grain cereals, low-fat bran muffins, crackers, Melba toast
  • Low-fat protein: peanut butter, lean meat, poultry or fish, hard-boiled eggs
  • Low-fat dairy: skim milk, low-fat yogurt, low-fat cottage and natural cheeses
  • Fruits and vegetables: fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, 100 percent juice beverages without added sugar, fruit and vegetable smoothies

Nutrition & Fitness for Laborers

The LHSFNA’s Health Promotion Division offers a workshop on nutrition and fitness for Laborers. For more information, call 202-628-5465.

The Becoming Physically Active and Weight Matters brochures, which contain tips and information on exercise and diet, can be ordered through the online Publications Catalogue.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]

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