On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Pastry a Questionable Breakfast Choice

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I am asking you to weigh in on a discussion at my workplace. Assuming that a well-balanced breakfast isn't an option, would it be better to have a pastry for breakfast or no breakfast at all? -- S.Q., San Francisco

DEAR S.Q.: Your question presents a choice between two undesirables. I favor having breakfast over nothing, but feel the need to improve your eating options. Granted, some people do not eat breakfast, opting instead for some variation of "coffee and" for a morning meal. Regardless of whether this is due to preference, habit, poor time-management or a combination, the fact is that the body hasn't received essential nutrients since the previous day.

We depend on food for energy, but our choices need to provide the essential vitamins, minerals and other phytochemical substances that contribute to our health. Many nutrients do not hang around for long periods, which is why it's important to eat healthful foods periodically throughout the day. Research has demonstrated how breakfast can encourage alertness, enhance mental performance, and help stabilize our blood-sugar level throughout the day. Sure, your body can adapt to a lack of morning sustenance, but don't assume that that's you at your best.

A pastry breakfast would not be a problem if it were an occasional event. The nature of the "pastry" could also be a factor. I say this because I find it difficult to give any sort of thumbs-up to a breakfast consisting solely of sweetened bread that was deep-fried, then frosted with sugary goop. While the addition of caffeinated coffee will provide temporary stimulation, it is somewhat deceiving in that it shifts the nutrient burden to the next meal. Better to replace your pastry with a muffin, perhaps made with a modicum of whole grains and containing dried fruit. Another option would be a handful of nuts, seeds and dried fruit. Add fresh fruit, such as a handful of berries, or a glass of juice and/or some sort of milk, and you now have a variety of nutrients to start the day.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: A recent column on allergies and shellfish was in need of some minor correction. "Shellfish" is something of a "basket term" -- mostly to differentiate the critters from the ocean (that we eat) that don't have fins and scales from "them's that does." They're not a family, at least not in the phylogenetic/taxonomic sense.

Clams, oysters and scallops (not to mention limpets, barnacles, octopi, cuttlefish and squid) are phylum Mollusca, while crabs, lobsters and shrimp are phylum Arthropoda. Family is designated further down, so to speak. These two phyla could not be more dissimilar in most ways, except for the fact they both live in the ocean!

Allergies to one set do not necessarily imply allergies to the other -- and possibly not even to other members of the phyla. It may be possible to be allergic to clams, for instance, but not to octopus or squid (calamari). Just thought I'd clear that up, since I learned about taxonomy at an early age from the late, great Leonard J. Waxdeck of Piedmont (California) High School, one of the finest marine biology teachers ever! -- K.H., San Rafael, California

DEAR K.H.: Thanks for this information. And isn't it wonderful to recall the impact of those special teachers in our lives?

Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.