We’re all familiar with the age old saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. But what is the truth behind this?
Some of us wake up ravenous and can’t wait to get our breakfast in. Whilst others can’t think of anything worse than eating straight after they’ve woken. Our busy lives can also mean fitting in breakfast is difficult, and we are often too rushed off our feet to have time to make ourselves a healthy and nutritious breakfast. Instead, we reach for coffee.
Skipping breakfast is common in the US and Europe - nearly a quarter of the US population leave it out. It is commonly accepted that eating breakfast is vital for our health and for our bodies to function properly. However, as new science emerges, arguments for eating breakfast are conflicting, with previous theories being debunked.
Let’s find out more about the so-called most important meal of the day.
Benefits of eating breakfast
A good quality breakfast is associated with better mental health. Eating breakfast can provide important fuel for the brain, as it needs energy in order to function properly. Diet can affect the brain's biochemistry, which subsequently impacts mood and mental health. Poor diet won’t provide the important nutrients needed for the manufacture of chemicals in the brain, for healthy and happy living.
Without breakfast, you may be depriving your brain of the fuel it needs to perform, which can impact your cognitive abilities. Evidence suggests that breakfast may improve concentration, memory and cognitive performance, particularly in children. Breakfast not only provides fuel for your brain, it provides energy for your body, so that you can carry out your daily activities
Additionally, breakfast is an important opportunity to consume a nutritious meal, containing healthy whole grains and fruits. Interestingly, people who eat breakfast appear to have superior nutritional profiles.
According to one study, skipping breakfast may be detrimental to heart health and increase risk of cardiovascular disease by 87%. Previous studies have also linked skipping breakfast to being overweight, and some experts claim that eating breakfast can actually be helpful for losing weight. Seems counter intuitive, right? How can eating more make you lose weight? The reasoning behind this theory is that skipping breakfast increases chances of snacking later in the day and overeating.
However, it is worth noting that these are observational studies, so one cannot confidently state that eating breakfast is the reason for weight loss or better heart health.
Is skipping breakfast unhealthy?
The answer to this is - not necessarily. Whilst you may not be obtaining energy for your brain and body, you may experience other benefits.
Confusingly, the science behind weight loss and eating breakfast is conflicting. Research suggests that skipping breakfast can in fact reduce overall calorie intake per day by up to 400kcal, which indicates that not eating first thing in the morning may be effective for reducing energy consumption.
Just to confuse things further, more recent studies debunk widely accepted views that skipping breakfast may increase weight gain. New research suggests that eating or skipping breakfast has no effect on weight loss. Other research also reports that skipping breakfast does not reduce your metabolic rate, as previously thought.
What about intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting, a popular pattern of eating, is known to effectively reduce calorie intake, improve metabolic health and increase weight loss, though effects will vary by individual. Advocates of fasting, such as ProLon, lean into the idea of cellular repair. While consistently snacking or eating throughout the day, our bodies are forced to use up all of our energy to digest food. Interestingly, fasting allows the body to focus on repair and healing, meaning that skipping breakfast could actually be incredibly beneficial on the body at a cellular level.
So is breakfast the most important meal of the day? We wouldn’t go as far to say that. But by eating a healthy breakfast (keyword: healthy), you are providing your body with energy and all the important nutrients it needs to function properly. Without it, you may begin to feel weak, tired, and experience difficulty focusing or thinking clearly. However, if you aren’t a morning person and have an aversion to food until later in the day, you may really struggle to get breakfast down. You may also be interested in giving your body a break to heal and repair. Scientific evidence doesn’t cater heavily to one side over the other and as such, we recommend experimenting with what makes you feel your best. It’s most important to listen to your body.
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