There's Good News if Breakfast Is Your Favorite Meal of the Day
Last week, Forbes reported that breakfast had lost its status as the most important meal of the day.
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Over at The Atlantic, editors published a story claiming that breakfast was no longer necessary (the title has since been changed to read: "Breakfast Downgraded From 'Most Important Meal of the Day' to 'Meal'"). Not to be outdone, USA Today has happily jumped on the breakfast-shaming bandwagon too.
Image Credit: USAToday
But there's a problem: What many of the outlets did not report was that all of the studies claiming to upend America's view of breakfast related to only one potential health benefit: weight loss. In people who were trying to lose weight, they found, eating breakfast (or skipping it) had no effect on how much they trimmed or gained.
So what about other aspects of well-being, like attention, brain power and heart health?
Here's what the past decade of research shows:
1. Breakfast is good for the brain: In kids, eating breakfast helps improve attention and focus in the classroom. A 2013 study in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that children who ate breakfast were more on-task at school than their peers who went without a morning meal. Children who regularly eat a breakfast are also far more likely than kids who don't to have better overall nutrient intakes.
In a study of nearly 10,000 children, some of whom ate breakfast and some of whom did not, the breakfast-eaters ingested less total fat and cholesterol and more fiber throughout the course of the day. In adults, a morning meal has similar benefits: Men and women who consistently noshed in the morning had lower levels of stress and higher levels of work performance.
A study of 800 nurses found that the more frequently staff ate breakfast, the less stressed they were and the fewer injuries and accidents they had.
Plus, a lot of brain-healthy foods are the ones we eat first thing in the morning, from coffee (which can help with alertness, protect against Parkinson's disease, Type 2 diabetes, liver cancer and depression) to fresh fruit (its vitamin C boosts your immune system), eggs (the perfect protein!) and whole grains (they give you energy and fill you up).
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2. Breakfast is good for your heart: A recent 16-year study of nearly 30,000 men found that men who regularly skipped breakfast had a 27% higher risk of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease than their counterparts who ate in the morning. Part of the reasoning for this is the simple fact that while we're sleeping, we're not eating.
"As we sleep all night we are fasting, and so if we regularly do not 'break fast' in the morning, it puts a strain on our bodies that over time can lead to insulin resistance, hypercholesterolemia and blood pressure problems, which can then lead to heart disease," explained study author and Harvard nutritionist Leah Cahill.
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3. Breakfast is good for the rest of the body: Skipping the morning meal can also increase chances of diabetes in women. Women who don't eat breakfast regularly have a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes than those who eat it daily, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Even amongst lean and healthy women, omitting breakfast can increase insulin sensitivity, bringing on the sharp dips and highs in blood-sugar levels that can cause intense feelings of hunger and even confusion and dizziness.
Thanks to the recent research, we now know that forgoing breakfast won't make you tired all day and won't always cause you to overeat. But eating in the morning still has some pretty definitive benefits, from improving focus and memory to protecting the heart and the rest of the body from disease.
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And let's be honest: Breakfast is awesome. If it's not the best excuse to dip a warm piece of toast in a freshly poached egg or nosh on a bowl of sweet crunchy deliciousness drizzled with ice cold milk first thing in the morning, I don't know what is. Breakfast in bed? Even better.
So if you're trying to lose weight, no, skipping breakfast probably won't hurt you. But if you want your best shot at overall health, take a moment before work to scramble a couple eggs or grab a bowl of cereal. Your body and brain will thank you.