The importance of having breakfast

Habitomic Journalist
Habitomic Journalist

 Breakfast is often called ‘the most important meal of the day’, and for good reason. As the name suggests, breakfast breaks the overnight fasting period. It replenishes your supply of glucose to boost your energy levels and alertness, while also providing other essential nutrients required for good health.

Many studies have shown the health benefits of eating breakfast. It improves your energy levels and ability to concentrate in the short term and can help with better weight management, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease in the long term.

Despite the benefits of breakfast for your health and wellbeing, many people often skip it, for a variety of reasons. The good news is there are plenty of ways to make it easier to fit breakfast into your day.

Why breakfast is so important

When you wake up from your overnight sleep, you may not have eaten for up to 10 hours. Breakfast replenishes the stores of energy and nutrients in your body.

1.   Energy

The body’s energy source is glucose. Glucose is broken down and absorbed from the carbohydrates you eat. The body stores most of its energy as fat. But your body also stores some glucose as glycogen, most of it in your liver, with smaller amounts in your muscles.
During times of fasting (not eating), such as overnight, the liver breaks down glycogen and releases it into your bloodstream as glucose to keep your blood sugar levels stable. This is especially important for your brain, which relies almost entirely on glucose for energy.
Eating breakfast boosts your energy levels and restores your glycogen levels ready to keep your metabolism up for the day.

2.    Essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients

Breakfast foods are rich in key nutrients such as folate, calcium, iron, B vitamins, and fiber. Breakfast provides a lot of your day’s total nutrient intake.

Essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients can only be gained from food, so even though your body can usually find enough energy to make it to the next meal, you still need to top up your vitamin and mineral levels to maintain health and vitality.

3.   Breakfast decreases appetite.

Studies have shown that consuming breakfast first thing in the morning greatly decreases hunger and cravings throughout the day. By eating a high-fiber, nutrient-dense breakfast early in the morning, such as whole-wheat toast with a side of fruit, you’re actually less likely to be hungry throughout the day.

4.   You eat less.

By decreasing appetite, you are less likely to be hungry, and thus, less likely to eat.

5.   Breakfast helps you control your weight

People who regularly eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight or obese. It is thought that eating breakfast may help you control your weight because it prevents large fluctuations in your blood glucose levels, helps you to control your appetite, and fills you up before you become really hungry, so you’re less likely to just grab whatever foods are nearby when hunger really strikes.

6.   Breakfast boosts brainpower

Studies suggest that not having breakfast affects your mental performance, including your attention, ability to concentrate, and memory. This can make some tasks feel harder than they normally would.

Children and adolescents who regularly eat breakfast also tend to perform better academically compared with those who skip breakfast.

7.   A healthy breakfast may reduce the risk of illness

Compared with people who don’t have breakfast, those who regularly eat breakfast tend to have a lower risk of both obesity and type 2 diabetes. Also, people who don’t have breakfast may be at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

8.   Breakfast helps you make better food choices

People who eat breakfast generally have more healthy diets overall, have better eating habits, and are less likely to be hungry for snacks during the day than people who skip breakfast. Children who eat an inadequate breakfast are more likely to make poor food choices not only for the rest of the day but also over the longer term.

9.   You can prevent type 2 diabetes

There is significant research showing that you may be able to prevent diabetes by regularly eating a healthy breakfast. A possible explanation for this is that skipping breakfast can cause insulin resistance, which is a feature of type 2 diabetes.

Skipping breakfast

Studies show that people who are under or overweight, have a poor diet, have lower physical activity levels, do not get enough sleep, and are from single-parent or lower-income households mostly skip breakfast.

Some common reasons for skipping breakfast include not having enough time or wanting to spend the extra time being in bed, trying to lose weight, being too tired to bother, bored of the same breakfast foods, don’t feel hungry in the morning, and not having breakfast foods readily available in the house.

While skipping breakfast is not recommended, good nutrition is not just about the number of meals you have each day. If you don’t have breakfast, aim to make up for the nutritional content you missed at breakfast with your lunch and dinner.

If you’re time-poor you can still have breakfast. Whatever your reason for being time-poor in the morning, there are still ways that you can fit in breakfast. Some ideas include:

  • Keep it simple: Keeping it simple is the best way to eat a healthy breakfast even when you don’t have the time or energy to make it! Go for easy options such as whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk, oatmeal, walnuts, hard-boiled eggs, etc.
  • Prepare in bulk: Whip up breakfast foods of your choice in bulk during the weekend and store them in a freezer for the week ahead. For example, make a batch of breakfast muffins, burritos, or breakfast squares on a Sunday and keep it in the refrigerator.
  • Swap it out: Choose healthier ingredients to make your morning meals even more nutritious. For instance, use peanut butter instead of butter, jam, or margarine. Swap regular bacon with low-fat turkey bacon and white bread with its whole grain or multi-grain counterpart.
  • Eat light: One of the most common reasons for people to skip breakfast is that they don’t feel hungry in the morning. The key is to have a light, simple dinner so your body can digest it overnight, making room for breakfast in the morning. In addition, avoid eating dinner too close to bedtime.
  • Prepare some quick and healthy breakfast foods the night before or on the weekend.
  • Keep some breakfast foods at work (if allowed) to enjoy once you arrive.
  • Get in the habit of setting your alarm 10 to15 minutes earlier than usual to give you time to have breakfast at home.

If it’s hard for you to eat food first thing in the morning, you might like to try:

  • reducing the size of your meals in the evening and eating them earlier so you’re hungry in the morning
  • investigating some new recipes and stocking your cupboards with some different types of foods to increase your breakfast appetite
  • switching your breakfast to morning tea or mid-morning snack time instead.

When is the best time to have breakfast?

The best time to have breakfast is within two hours of getting up.

If you hit the gym in the AM, it’s best to have a light meal like a banana or an avocado toast 20-30 minutes before the workout. However, if you feel your body can perform better in a fasted state, you can have breakfast after the sweat sesh.

To conclude, breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day. Whether your goal is weight loss or simply to be healthy, you must make eating breakfast a regular habit.