Breakfast: Why It Matters!
Breakfast: The True Impacts of Skipping Out
During the summer, it is really easy to get out of our routines. We stay up later, sleep in longer (if work permits), go on vacation and let our good habits slip, etc. Those with children become more lax about what the kiddos eat for dinner…or breakfast…if they eat breakfast at all. Maybe, if your children are old enough to stay home by themselves, you leave out cereal, pop tarts, or bagels. How often do you come home with the cereal box un-opened? They’ve slept in until noon and decided the left over pizza was more appealing.
Maybe summer time doesn’t mean a break from your busy schedule, but instead, it makes you realize just how hectic your schedule really is. As others enjoy the luxury of relaxing vacations, your work seems to never end. You go non-stop from the moment you step out the door and by the time you get home, all you want to do is crash. You do, for a little bit, and then try to catch up on everything else you need to do. As a result, you go to bed late and when morning comes, you continue to hit the snooze button until the last- possible- minute. You rush to shower, get dressed and run out the door leaving no time at all to even think about breakfast.
Do either of these scenarios sound familiar? In both cases, breakfast is an afterthought.
We’ve all heard that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day”…but how many of us truly believe it? If we did, we would prioritize breakfast! We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and most of us work while juggling many other responsibilities. In the midst of our busy schedules, we choose to make time for what’s important to us. We make time to watch our favorite show, we waste time “facebook stalking” old friends, we waste time waiting in line at Starbucks when we could make coffee at home AND breakfast and save money ;) We’ve all done it. Why have we let this message about the importance of breakfast go in one ear and out the other?
Let me explain to why eating breakfast is critical for your overall health and I’ll also give you strategies to squeeze it into your morning.
According to new research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition , eating a protein-rich breakfast reduces hunger, boosts satiety, and reduces brain responses involved with food cravings more than a typical breakfast that is lower in protein (or no breakfast at all). Overweight teenage girls were followed for seven days. Some had a protein-rich breakfast of eggs and beef, others were given cereal with half the protein but the same amount of calories and the others continued their zero-breakfast routine.
The study found that the participants who consumed breakfast meals that included protein-rich eggs and beef, which contained 40% protein, 40% carbohydrate, and 20% fat, reported greater feelings of fullness compared with those who ate a cereal-based breakfast which contained 15% protein, 65% carbohydrate, and 20% fat. Additionally, the higher-protein breakfast also led to decreased hunger during the day and increased satiety hormone levels (to let your brain know you’re satisfied). The high-protein breakfast also resulted in less snacking of high calorie foods later in the day. Many people, especially girls and older teens, skip breakfast in an effort to lose weight. But research suggests that skipping breakfast more likely will cause weight gain rather than weight loss.
We can all relate to being sooooo hungry that we reach for anything we can get our hands on. It usually takes a while for us to register that we’ve gotten enough, once our blood sugar has plummeted. A solid breakfast kick-starts your metabolism and helps regulate hunger for the entire day. It’s much easier to make healthy choices and keep calories in check when you’re not ravenous.
Reduce risk of pre-diabetes and diabetes/ Stable blood sugar
Did you realize that missing breakfast just one day during the week can increase risk of Type 2 diabetes? According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 46,289 women were studied over a six year period. The study revealed that women who only occasionally skipped breakfast (one day a week) were 20% more likely to develop diabetes compared to women who ate it ever day. Moreover, women who “sometimes” (3 or more days a week) skipped their morning meal had a 54% higher risk. The researchers adjusted for other risk factors such as smoking, carbohydrate intake, weight, etc. These results were purely due to breakfast intake (or lack thereof). Yikes!
Why is this the case?
In a normally functioning body, the pancreas secretes the hormone, insulin. Insulin helps transport glucose into the cells to use for energy. This assists in blood sugar regulation. Overnight, our body is in a fasted state. If we don’t fuel our body when we wake up and “break the fast,” our insulin levels drop. Later in the day, when we finally consume food, insulin levels spike and are more likely to crash again. The fluctuation of highs and lows of insulin can result in your body becoming “insulin resistant,” which in the long-term leads to diabetes.
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
A study of older men published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, found that those who regularly skipped breakfast were 27% more likely to have a heart attack than those who ate breakfast daily. Researchers attribute several factors to these findings. One is that skipping breakfast makes people more prone to over-eat later in the day due to increased hunger. The consumption of these larger meals later in the day mean that the body has a much shorter time frame to process the excessive amount of calories. This can spike blood sugar levels and lead to clogged arteries. The other possibility is that the combination of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes , which are all associated with skipping breakfast, are all precursors to heart disease and make the perfect recipe for a heart attack.
Eating breakfast is beneficial for kids at school and for you during a busy workday. Studies have associated many cognitive benefits with eating breakfast, such as greater memory recall time, improved grades, higher test scores, and increased attention span.
Keren Gilbert, MS, RD, president/founder of Decision Nutrition suggested that these benefits could be attributed to stabilized blood sugar levels. When a person’s blood glucose is low, they feel lethargic, irritable, drowsy, restless and have difficulty thinking or recalling information.
- Additionally, many nutrients that are typically part of the breakfast meal are said to aid in brain development, memory retention, and concentration.
- Examples include chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts which are high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Omega-3s are important for brain development.
- Foods such as berries and citrus fruits are high vitamin C which is required to make brain neurotransmitters.
- Egg yolks and nuts are an excellent source of, choline which is important for the creation of memory cells.
- If we haven’t heard enough about a protein-rich breakfast, protein helps us to stay focused.
Healthier Diet Overall
Research consistently shows that skipping breakfast can have negative impacts on overall health. This is in part, because those who skip the meal generally fail to make up for the nutrients they miss at the breakfast meal. These include protein, calcium, vitamin C, zinc, iron, and fiber. Additionally, studies show that people who consume a balanced breakfast make better food choices during the day.
If those weren’t reason enough for you to prioritize breakfast, here’s one more interesting fact. In an article published by NPR, researchers who study circadian rhythms say that the act of eating plays a critical role in resetting our internal clocks. According to, Satchin Panda, associate professor in the Regulatory Biology Laboratory at the Salk Institute, it is essential to reset our internal clocks in order to help our bodies perform optimally.
We live in a society in which we grab a bite when we can, but, according to Panda, “If you change the timing of food on different days, then the clock is not getting the same cue everyday so the clock goes haywire and our body becomes less efficient in processing the food.”
Not everyone wakes up hungry and that’s ok. It is recommended to eat breakfast within 2 hours of waking. The key is to not wait until you’re starving, but instead consume something when you first notice that you’re becoming hungry. This will prevent over-eating and surges in insulin. Don’t just stuff a pop-tart in your mouth to get the job done. Choose something with protein, carbohydrates and a small amount of healthy fat to keep you satisfied until lunch.
As I said earlier, we make time for what’s important to us. Our health should be at the top of the list! Here are two easy ways to squeeze in breakfast.
- Wake up 15 minutes earlier. Simple. Don’t hit snooze. The extra 5 minutes of lying there will not make you feel any more rested and getting healthy fuel in your tank will jump-start your day.
- Take one day to prepare grab-n-go breakfast items such as hardboiled eggs, egg muffins, homemade sausage patties, or yogurt parfaits.
Here are some quick high-protein options that you can grab on your way out the door.
- 1 cup ricotta or cottage cheese with 1 tsp honey, cinnamon and 1 peach
- 1 piece of whole grain toast with 2 TBSP almond butter and 1 apple
- 2 hardboiled eggs with ¼ cup nuts and 1 cup berries
- 1 english muffin with ½ mashed avocado topped with 4oz nitrate free turkey
It is always best to sit down and enjoy your meal, but if time doesn’t permit, these options can easily be eaten in the car or in the office.
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