The gut health benefits of eating a full English breakfast

Full English breakfast. (Getty Images)
Men who tuck into a full English breakfast could be more attractive to women, but what are the gut health benefits? (Getty Images)

Of all the things that you think could make you more attractive, what you have for breakfast wouldn't necessarily be one of them.

But, new research has linked what you tuck into in the morning to how much you're desired by others.

The small study published in Plos One, looked at the impact on facial attractiveness of eating refined carbohydrates (so-called "bad carbs") for breakfast compared to eating unrefined carbohydrates ("good carbs").

Researchers at the University of Montpellier found the amount of carbohydrates someone eats was statistically linked with their facial attractiveness as rated by heterosexual members of the opposite sex.

From showing photos of around 100 men and women after eating the different breakfasts, they found there was an impact on their attractiveness, and this altered slightly depending on what they had just eaten.

According to the findings, those who had a high-glycaemic breakfast – one with refined carbohydrates like those found in white bread and processed foods – were associated with lower facial attractiveness ratings for both men, and to a lesser extent women.

Some interpreted the research as this meaning that a plate full of classic English breakfast ingredients - as long as you remove the white toast - mostly doesn't contain the refined carbs that could make faces seem less attractive.

Therefore assuming the idea that an English breakfast and all its meaty trimmings could be seen as an attractive breakfast choice.

It seems some believe the combination of fats and proteins, such as dairy and meats, with fewer refined carbs, could be a hit with the ladies in the attractiveness stakes.

On the flipside, however, those who choose a more continental-style breakfast of refined-carbohydrate foods – croissants, waffles, pastries, bagels and cereals – tumble down the turn-on list.

Commenting on the findings Amandine Visine and colleagues at the University of Montpellier, France, said: "Facial attractiveness, an important factor of social interactions, seems to be impacted by immediate and chronic refined carbohydrate consumption in men and women."

The researchers say further research, including for larger and more diverse sample sizes, is needed to deepen understanding of exactly how refined carbohydrates may be linked to attractiveness and other social traits.

New research has found your breakfast of choice could have a bearing on attractiveness to the opposite sex. (Getty Images)
New research has found your breakfast of choice could have a bearing on attractiveness to the opposite sex. (Getty Images)

How healthy is a full English breakfast really?

While it may raise your profile in terms of attractiveness, the full English breakfast hasn't always got the best reputation in terms of its healthiness.

Of course just how good or bad it can be for you depends on the ingredients you add or substitute.

"The glycaemic index of an English breakfast will differ depending on what you choose to include or exclude on your plate," explains Dr Sammie Gill, Symprove’s registered gastroenterology dietician.

"The added complexity is that glycaemic responses to the same foods can vary a lot between people, plus cooking method can also change the glycaemic index.

For example, when eaten on its own, white toast will break down and lead to a more rapid increase in blood glucose levels compared with wholegrain toast (because the latter contains higher amounts of fibre which is linked with better glycaemic control). Dr Gill says adding butter will also change the glycaemic index.

"Importantly, we need to remember that an English breakfast doesn’t contain one food type," she adds.

"It’s a meal containing a varied mix of carbohydrates (including fibre), fats and proteins - it’s well known that adding fat and/or protein to a meal has the potential to reduce blood glucose responses and lower the overall glycaemic index."

Gut health benefits and risks of a full English breakfast

Whether or not it ups your pulling potential, there are actually some plus points to tucking into a morning plateful and there are some tweaks you can make to an English breakfast to make it a little more "gut healthy".

"To start with, baked beans are a must with any English breakfast – these are high in fibre, packing in around 8g per half can (a third of your daily recommended fibre intake). So prioritise on your plate," advises Dr Gill.

To make your full English even more gut friendly, she suggests adding a couple of slices of wholegrain toast.

"Grill some mushrooms, tomatoes, and spinach – all of these plant-based foods are packed with fibre, plant chemicals, (as well as vitamins and minerals) which all support gut health," she continues.

"Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) – known for its anti-inflammatory properties, EVOO is packed with plant chemicals that are linked with supporting gut health and overall health."

Adding in a cup of coffee or tea alongside your breakfast will provide an extra dose of plant chemicals.

"Remember, around 95% of plant chemicals are thought to reach the large intestine where they are broken down and transformed into beneficial compounds by your gut microbes," Dr Gill advises.

Closeup on a young woman's hands as she is having breakfast
Closeup on a young woman's hands as she is having breakfast

And what about the gut health risks of the hangover favourite?

"Typically, an English breakfast wouldn’t be complete without bacon and sausage, although it’s not recommended to consume these types of processed meats on a regular basis," Dr Gill adds.

"Research to date has shown that processed meats are associated with an increased risk of gut-related cancers."

It’s advisable that if you do eat these foods, eat them occasionally, not regularly.

"I’d also suggest cutting the fat off the bacon first and grilling instead of frying," Dr Gill continues. "Another option is to try sausages made with chicken or turkey, or one of the many varieties of plant-based sausage instead.

"Typically, fewer ingredients on the nutrition label are better choices."

Gut health: Read more

Watch: Five reasons why you should prioritise gut health