Yes, yes, we don’t need to be reminded – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But then why do so many of us forget this inescapable fact and most of the time, just skip it? Tight on time? Trying to slim down? Too busy applying makeup? Statistics show that a quarter of adults skip breakfast on a regular basis (1).
What then is the science behind the old adage and why is it that we should make time for the all-important morning meal?
Importance and benefits of eating breakfast for adults
It’s all in the name… breakfast literally means 'breaking the fast'. After hours of fasting overnight, we should be eating a healthy breakfast every morning to provide the body with essential fuels to stay energized and face up to all the physical, mental and emotional challenges of the day ahead. Just like any type of vehicle, our bodies function more effectively and efficiently when fueled.
Here are some of the important health reasons you should be taking the time to eat a proper breakfast every morning:
1. Cognitive function and memory
A hearty, nutritious breakfast restores your body’s glucose levels which are essential for efficient brain function. By eating breakfast, you are likely to improve your memory and concentration levels. Studies have also shown that children who eat a good breakfast achieve better grades than those who skip breakfast! (2)
2. Kick-start metabolism and regulate blood sugar and insulin levels
Your metabolism naturally slows down during sleep, so eating breakfast sets your metabolism in motion for the day. If you want to keep your metabolism working at max all day, ensure you eat at regular intervals, beginning with an early breakfast. Eating breakfast also regulates blood sugar and insulin levels which provide your body with adequate energy resources throughout the day.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, skipping breakfast may also increase the risk of more serious health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. This is likely to do with the body being more prone to hypertension, insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar levels (3).
Good Zing expert and Nutritional therapist Maria Mekhael says, “Breaking the fasting period between dinner and morning with a balanced meal has been shown to support better glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity throughout the day. It can also help stabilise levels of ghrelin (a.k.a the hunger hormone), and prevent spikes and dips in your blood sugar which lead to energy slumps, mid-morning sugar cravings and overeating at lunch.”
3. Weight loss
One of the most common excuses for skipping breakfast is weight-watching and attempts to cut calories. In fact, skipping breakfast is likely to have the complete opposite effect on your health. By starving your body of fuel at breakfast you are more likely to consume high-calorie and low-nutrient foods later in the day that have an adverse effect on your health and weight. Eating breakfast will minimize those ever-dreaded hunger pangs and munchies which lessens snacking and overeating later in the day.
4. Happiness and energy levels
Eating breakfast can also make us happier, improve our mood and lower stress levels. All by providing our bodies with the fuel it needs to feel more energetic, active and full of life.
What to eat for breakfast
Breakfast doesn’t have to be an effort. It just requires a bit of smart and forward thinking to guarantee you eat healthily rather than grabbing the quickest or easiest thing out there. Here are a couple of tips for the sorts of healthy breakfast foods and recipe ideas to try and include to help you stay healthy, feeling happy and full of energy:
1. Combine carbs and protein
Eating a combination of carb-rich foods such as oats, cereal or wholegrain breads and proteins such as eggs, milk, yoghurt and nuts provides your body with precious nutrients to keep you functioning at your best. You can create easy, simple and healthy breakfast ideas with most of what you already have in your kitchen. Carbohydrates provide essential energy for brain function and proteins help you feel fuller for longer and make you less likely to snack later in the day.
Mekhael says, “Always try to include a source of protein with breakfast – eggs, nut butter and Greek yoghurt are easy options to incorporate – as this helps to fuel brain function, stabilise energy levels and promotes healthier blood sugar balance.”
2. Add some wholegrain
Wholegrain foods are full of vital nutrients such as Vitamin B, iron, zinc and magnesium, as well as a good source of protein and fiber. Wholegrains keep you feeling full for longer and studies have shown them to reduce the risk of more serious health issues like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. They’re also much tastier than their blander, less nutritious equivalents (4).
3. Get on track with your 5-a-day
Breakfast is the ideal time to get ahead with your daily intake of fruit and veg. Add a banana or some berries to your cereal or yoghurt, have a fresh fruit juice or smoothie, or try including some fresh tomatoes and mushrooms on your wholegrain toast.
Your body is often dehydrated after functioning without taking in fluids overnight. It’s crucial that we top-up the body’s fluids first thing in the morning to avoid dehydration during the day. Ensure you take on plenty of fluids at breakfast – coffee and tea are okay but not as hydrating as other beverages such as water, herbal tea or fruit juice.
Best time to eat breakfast after waking up
Many of us aren’t hungry first thing in the morning and resort to grabbing a bite to eat during our morning commute or after arriving at work, if we even bother at all.
Yet according to experts, breakfast should ideally be eaten within the first hour of waking up in the morning. Eating within the 'golden hour' allows you to reap maximum rewards on all the health benefits of having an early breakfast. Studies show that eating within the first hour of waking up has lead to better weight loss results in those looking to consume less calories, as well as improves brain function and concentration throughout the day (5).
So, what's not to love about breakfast, people?
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1. Oxford Academic Journal: https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/158/1/85/174075
2. US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3737458/
3. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: ajcn.nutrition.org
4. Diabetes UK: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/carbohydrates-and-diabetes/wholegrains-and-diabetes-
5. US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23357955