By- Meena Ganagani,Practicing Clinical Nutritionist,Mumbai.
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.(1)
“Breakfast is the first meal of the day that breaks the fast after the longest period of sleep and is consumed within 2to 3 hours of waking; it is comprised of food or beverage from at least one food group, and may be consumed at any location”.(2)
Why is Breakfast important?
- Breakfast breaks your overnight fast.
- Breakfast refuels your glycogen (energy) stores.
- Breakfast kick starts the metabolism.
- Breakfast provides us with the energy to keep us going throughout the day.(3)
Benefits of regular Breakfast
Various studies have found different benefits of starting your day with breakfast, including:
- Having a lower BMI
- Consuming less fat through the day
- Meeting recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption
- Having higher daily calcium intake
- Having higher daily fiber intake
- Having better performance (memory and attention) (for school-aged children)(4)
Importance of eating Breakfast for weight loss
The first meal of the day keep can help weight gain away. Research suggests that adult breakfast skippers are at greater risk for obesity and weight gain, while breakfast eaters tend to have healthier weights. Kids and teens who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight, too. And, according to findings from the National Weight Control Registry, almost eight in 10 adults who maintain a 30-plus pound weight loss for at least a year eat breakfast every day.(5)
Disadvantages of skipping Breakfast
Unhealthy dietary behaviours play crucial role in increasing the upcoming risk of chronic diseases. Breakfast is recommended to contain 20%-35% of daily energy needs. It is considered the most important meal of the day as a part of a healthy balanced diet . Breakfast habits are significantly associated with physiological, psychological, and social health dimensions. Several studies reported associations between breakfast skipping and fatigue at noon, worsens memory and higher body mass index as well as increased prevalence of obesity-related chronic illness; deficient in total energy, vitamins and minerals , increased risk of central adiposity, and risk of insulin resistance and cardio-metabolic disorders. If the stomach is kept empty for a long time, the body will suffer a deficiency of proteins and glucose. Then blood sugar will drop down followed by mood swing. Breakfast is often described as the most important meal of the day, providing as it does sustenance and energy (i.e., calories) for whatever activities lay ahead. (6)
The basics of a healthy Breakfast
- Whole grains. Examples include whole-grain rolls and bagels, hot or cold whole-grain cereals, whole-grain English muffins, and whole-grain waffles.
- Lean protein. Examples include eggs, lean meat, legumes and nuts.
- Low-fat dairy. Examples include milk, plain or lower sugar yogurts, and low-fat cheeses, such as cottage cheese and natural cheeses.
- Fruits and vegetables. Examples include fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, 100 percent juice drinks without added sugar, and fruit and vegetable smoothies.
Together, these food groups provide complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein and a small amount of fat — a combination that packs health benefits and helps you feel full for hours.(7)
Several studies support these assumptions, showing that individuals who eat a healthy balanced breakfast have a better mental health status, more positive attitudes to life, lower rates of depression and high levels of quality of life than those who eat a poor quality breakfast. Adolescents eating a high quality breakfast also display a healthy pattern of behaviour including a relatively high level of physical activity and low consumption of fats throughout the day. This positive effect of a good quality breakfast as a marker of a healthy lifestyle is particularly signiﬁcant in childhood and adolescence, when dietary and other lifestyle pattern are initiated, resulting in long-term health and nutritional beneﬁts in adulthood.(8)