Just questioning breakfast, or whether skipping breakfast is okay, might sound outrageous. After all, it’s the most important meal of the day, right? So why are so many weight-loss coaches, sports trainers, and other intermittent fasting fanatics telling us to skip breakfast? Should we eat breakfast or not? Let’s answer this controversial question once for all!
Some folks have theorized for years that people who don’t eat breakfast have poorer diets overall, higher body mass index, and more heart health risk factors than those who eat breakfast. Theories include the idea that breakfast skippers may not have the energy in their bodies and minds to start the day and follow through with workouts, school, or job responsibilities. But more recent research suggests that this may not be true. So should breakfast can keep its title as the most important meal of the day? And if so, what breakfast foods should you be choosing for optimal health?
The Pros and Cons of Breakfast
Breakfast literally translates to “breaking the fast” from the night of sleep. Starting off the day with a healthy meal upon waking has been suggested to improve long-term health, improve energy levels and improve cognitive and mental health. However, research suggests that both lean and obese individuals expend less energy in the morning hours when in a fasted state as compared to those who eat breakfast.
In other words, if you are looking to lose weight, based on that specific research, you should not skip breakfast. That research also shows that eating breakfast increases fullness and decreases morning hunger, the desire to eat, and levels of the hormone ghrelin that increases appetite. Eating breakfast can improve appetite, satiety, diet quality, and sleep health factors. These benefits sound promising right? So, why wouldn’t you want to start each day by eating breakfast?
Most breakfast-skippers say they don’t eat breakfast for one or more of these three reasons:
- I don’t have time to eat breakfast. Sure, it may take some time to prepare something for breakfast, but there are some quick and healthy options for your morning meal that we’ll discuss further on. However, if you tend to wake up not long before you must leave for work, or don’t have convenient and healthy breakfast options on hand, then you may be tempted to turn to unhealthy options. As a result, you could can end up skipping breakfast or consuming fast food or convenience foods for breakfast, both of which can be unhealthy behaviors.
- I’m not hungry early in the morning. According to recent research, decreased appetite in the morning could be due to higher leptin levels some people experience in the morning. Leptin is a protein in the body that helps to regulate appetite and tells your brain you are full. Without it, a person may be at risk for overweight or obesity.
- Breakfast food is not appetizing. Due to long-held traditions of what is to be eaten for breakfast, some people say they don’t eat breakfast because they don’t like breakfast foods. But honestly there’s no rule that says you have to eat eggs, bacon, oatmeal or cereal for breakfast. Globally, breakfast foods range from warm soy milk, fried dough sticks, and dim sum in China, to Feijoada bean and meat soup in Brazil, to steamed white rice, fish, and miso soup in Japan, or fresh breads, deli meats and cheese, butter, and jam in Germany. Therefore, breakfast can be whatever you want it to be. It is simply a meal to help break the fast from your sleep the night before.
Intermittent fasting and breaking the fast
Speaking of fasting, intermittent fasting is an eating regimen that has gained popularity over the years, and for good reason. This way of eating works to limit the number of hours a person eats each day to allow more time for the body to fast and rest. In turn, it can help a person reduce nighttime eating, improve gut health, and help promote weight loss and healthier sleep patterns.
So, what does this have to do with breakfast?
Depending on how long a person fasts or when they schedule their fasting hours, breakfast may be cut from the meal schedule or delayed. The question is, would this delay in breakfast take away any health benefits people normally reap from eating the morning meal? The answer seems to be no. In fact, a 2018 study found that by delaying breakfast 90 minutes and eating dinner 90 minutes earlier, then fasting on either side of these meals provided health benefits. Decreases in body fat mass, and total daily calorie intake as well as potential improvements in metabolic markers, were seen in those that delayed meal times.
The Final Verdict on Breakfast
After looking at all the facts, what we have learned is that no matter when you eat your first meal, this breaking of the fast with a nutritious meal is a very important. This is especially true for growing children, whom studies have shown have higher levels of well-being, improved cognitive performance, and improved quality of life when they eat breakfast.
What is best meal to break the fast?
You don’t have to eat the traditional breakfast foods in your culture to reap the benefits of eating breakfast. Just like with any meal, be sure that your first meal of the day includes a healthy source of protein, some healthy fats, and fiber- and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Examples of some balanced breakfast options include:
- Fiber-rich steel cut oats prepared with the protein-rich almond or cashew butter and topped with healthy fats like chopped walnuts or chia seeds. To up the antioxidant-factor, add in some raspberries, blueberries, or sliced apple.
- Greek yogurt layered with berries or grapes and heart healthy fats like slivered almonds, walnuts or pistachios.
- A whole grain pita stuffed with turkey breast or non-GMO tofu and decorated with fiber-rich veggies like spinach, romaine and sprouts as well as nutritious spreads like hummus or creamed avocado.
Quick healthy breakfast options may include:
- A few hard-boiled eggs with hummus
- A cup of bone broth and ½ cup of rice with chicken (enjoyed in Asian countries for breakfast)
- sliced banana with peanut, almond or nut butter with or without a whole grain wrap to hold it all together
- a smoothie made with Greek yogurt, spinach, fruit, and a scoop of protein powder if you choose
These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to healthy breakfast choices. Get creative and choose what works for your taste buds. The important part is that you make this first meal full of high-quality fiber, protein, and healthy fats, with low sugar, that will provide your body and mind the energy to start your day off right!