Getting something nutritious in your stomach first thing in the morning provides many benefits. But is breakfast really the most important meal of the day—more than lunch or dinner? The answer isn’t as black and white as your parents told you.
Is Breakfast the Cause or the Effect?
Studies show that people who eat breakfast have a significantly reduced risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and other conditions. But is breakfast responsible for those benefits, or are people who have a healthy lifestyle simply more likely to eat breakfast? Scientists aren’t sure.
What Is Breakfast?
These days, it’s hard to even decide what breakfast is. For some families, it’s only a “decent” breakfast if there are pancakes, eggs, hashbrowns, sausages, toast and juice. For other people, breakfast is a smoothie.
It may not really matter. You don’t need a huge meal for breakfast to work its magic. Eating granola with yogurt may be just as filling as devouring pancakes and bacon.
What Are the Benefits?
Many doctors and nutritionists recommend eating breakfast as part of a healthy diet. There are good reasons for this:
Energy: Imagine that your car’s gas tank is almost empty in the morning. Would you fill it up or risk commuting on fumes? Well, breakfast is fuel for your body. If you want to feel energized, you need to put something in the tank.
Mental focus: Your brain needs fuel just as much as your muscles. Some protein can be exactly what you need to boost your mood, improve your concentration and chase away brain fog.
Metabolism: Breakfast isn’t magically going to help you lose weight, but it can help you avoid putting on extra pounds. It gets your metabolism going in the morning, burning up calories instead of going into “starvation” mode.
Healthy nutrients: When you eat breakfast, you’re more likely to choose nutritious foods, such as whole grains, fruit, yogurt and nuts. Foods that are high in protein or fiber are filling, so you’re less likely to crave junk food.
Is Skipping Breakfast Bad for Your Health?
Finding the time for breakfast is smart. That said, you don’t have to make a rule of it. Scientists are starting to see that healthy living is more flexible than previously thought.
Take exercise. Is there a difference if you do 20 minutes of exercise every day or work out for two hours on the weekend? Both routines are healthy.
Meals are the same. If you oversleep by accident and only have a few minutes to get to work, is skipping breakfast the end of the world?
No. You may feel a little sluggish, but you’re not going to suddenly gain 10 pounds. Some people keep a bag of almonds at work for just such an occasion.
Are Smoothies Healthy?
There’s no set time or meal size for a nutritious breakfast. If you can only squeeze in something fast on your way out the door, you can still feel good about it:
Homemade muffin from the fridge
What if kid-related emergencies mean you can’t eat anything until 10:00 a.m.? It’s not a big deal. Be balanced. Give your day a good start with something filling, but don’t stress too much about it.