While it may be tempting to skip breakfast in order to get a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning, numerous studies indicate that it might not be such a good idea. Sleep is important of course, but eating breakfast provides a host of benefits that you would lose out on if you decide to give it a miss. Our mothers’ admonition was right: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Of course, this does not mean a breakfast consisting of donuts and Cap’n Crunch (much as I loved that as a kid), but a nutritious breakfast that provides you with long-term energy to get you started on the right foot.
Eat Breakfast to Lose Weight
While it may seem like an odd idea that you can eat to lose weight, it’s really true. Many studies have shown that those who skip breakfast actually gain more weight than those who do not. A recent study conducted by researchers at the MRC Clinical Science Center of the Imperial College in London found that the phenomenon may be due to a patterns of activity in a specific part of the brain.
Dr. Tony Goldstone, an author of the study, and fellow researchers scanned the brains of 21 people, both after they had skipped breakfast and after eating a 750-calorie breakfast. Lunch was then served to the study participants, whether they had eaten breakfast or not. Goldstone said, “Through both the participants’ MRI results and observations of how much they ate at lunch, we found ample evidence that fasting made people hungrier, and increased the appeal of high-calorie foods and the amount people ate.”
Those who skipped breakfast ate approximately 20% more on average than those who did not, and when they ate lunch they craved higher-calorie foods more often. Brain scans of the breakfast-skippers also showed more activity in the orbitofrontal cortex in response to high-calorie foods, which is the part of the brain that registers sensations of pleasure and reward. Goldstone noted, “That makes evolutionary sense if you’re in a negative energy-balance situation. You’re not going to waste your time going for lettuce.”
Eating Breakfast Can Reduce Your Risk of Chronic Diseases
A Harvard study of over 2,800 people found that those who ate breakfast on a regular basis were half as likely to have problems with their blood sugar. Blood sugar problems can be a precursor to diabetes and can raise cholesterol levels, increasing your risk of heart disease.
Eating soon after you rise in the morning can help to stabilize your blood sugar levels, as you will not have eaten for the previous 12 hours, causing blood sugar to dip just as you’re getting up. If you force your body to continue until lunchtime without food, then suddenly give it a reasonably sized meal, it can cause blood sugar to spike. The constant spiking and crashing of blood sugar can lead to insulin resistance, and then progress to chronic disease.
Dump the Donuts!
While eating breakfast is among the best things that you can do to maintain good health, it’s also important to eat the right things. Sugar features in a remarkable array of breakfast offerings, from cereal (often the first ingredient listed on the cereal box) to juice. Keep away from refined sugar as much as you can. Instead choose what many of our grandmothers grew up eating: eggs, dairy, fruit and whole grains. These will give you steady energy that can keep you going until lunchtime, and you won’t get those late-morning hunger pangs that get you raiding the snack machine for something to tide you over until lunch.
Eggs are among the best things you can eat for breakfast. Contrary to what we were taught, an egg or two a day will likely not raise your blood cholesterol. Eggs provide a lot of protein, vitamins and minerals with only about 70 calories in each. They are fast and easy to cook for those pressed for time in the morning and are great paired with some whole grain toast.
Oatmeal is another excellent breakfast choice. Not only does it lower cholesterol, but it has also been shown to reduce your risk of contracting type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Its high level of soluble fiber promotes good digestion and will keep you feeling full for longer than most cereals. Try a bowl with blueberries (which are high in antioxidants) and honey or maple syrup.
If you want to save time in the morning, decide what you want to have for tomorrow’s breakfast the night before. That way you can set the table and prepare the non-perishable ingredients. You can even soak thick-cut oats overnight so they will cook up quickly the next morning. By doing this you will be less rushed in the morning and will be less likely to skip breakfast because you don’t have enough time.