Why Is It Good to Eat Breakfast?
Are you one of those people who skip breakfast because you're always in a rush or just not that hungry in the morning? Or perhaps you grab a sugary pastry or a fast-food sandwich on the go? Well, it's time to rethink your breakfast routine because eating a good breakfast can have a significant impact on your overall health and well-being. “Eat your breakfast, share your lunch with a friend, and give your dinner to your enemy” – a famous old saying makes us believe that our ancestors were paying attention to their daily diet, and there are reasons for that!
How it used to be
The history of breakfast dates back to ancient times when people would break their overnight fasting with a hearty meal. In medieval Europe, breakfast was a feast that included meat, cheese and bread, while in other parts of the world, breakfast consisted of rice, fish, or other traditional foods. But it wasn’t until the 19th and early 20th centuries that researchers began to study the effects of breakfast on health and well-being. So, what did they find out? Well, studies have shown that breakfast is essential for maintaining energy levels, improving cognitive function, preventing chronic diseases and much more.
So, whether you’re a breakfast lover or a breakfast skipper, it’s time to start paying attention to the most important meal of the day. Well, at least according to some authors. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the benefits of eating breakfast, debunk common breakfast myths, and provide tips for making healthy breakfast choices. Get ready to start your day off right!
Metabolism is like the engine of our bodies, as it helps to convert the food we eat into energy that can be used for vital processes. When you eat breakfast, your body receives a signal it’s time to get going for the day. This helps to jumpstart the metabolism and get it working efficiently. However, when you skip breakfast, your body may assume that it doesn’t need to start the engine just yet. So, your metabolism stays slow and doesn’t get the boost it needs to start burning calories. This can make it harder for your body to lose weight. Makes sense, right?
Research has shown that people who eat breakfast tend to have a faster metabolism than those who skip it. This means that they burn more calories throughout the day, even when they’re just sitting around. In fact, studies have found that people who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight or obese compared to those who skip it. However, blaming only the lack of this meal for gaining pounds would be too simple.
Eating breakfast helps your brain to get the energy it needs to work properly. Just like your body needs food for energy, your brain needs glucose to be active. Glucose is a type of sugar that your body gets from the food you eat, especially carbohydrates like cereal, oatmeal, or toast. Think about it – when you wake up in the morning, your body hasn’t had any food for a while. This means that your glucose levels might be low, which can make you feel tired, grumpy, and unable to concentrate. Eating breakfast helps to refuel your body with glucose and gives your brain the energy it needs to start the day.
Research has shown that people who eat breakfast tend to perform better on tasks that require cognitive function, such as memory, attention, and problem-solving. They also tend to have better academic performance at school. On the other hand, people who skip breakfast may have a lower cognitive function or even have a harder time concentrating and remembering things.
Don’t let hunger possess you
When you eat breakfast, it helps to control your hunger later in the day. This means you won’t feel as hungry and you won’t be as likely to snack on unhealthy foods. Eating a healthy breakfast can also help you make better food choices throughout the day.
When you skip breakfast, you might feel really hungry by lunchtime, and you might be more likely to eat unhealthy foods or to overeat. This can make it harder to maintain a proper weight.
Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast tend to consume fewer calories throughout the day than those who skip it. This is because they feel full and satisfied after eating a healthy breakfast. In a study conducted by Jess A. Gwin and Heather J. Leidy from 2018, groups of breakfast eaters and those skipping were studied over a 7-day period for signs of appetite and eating behavior. Ultimately, eating breakfast was shown to lower appetite and food rewards, raise satiety, and reduce occurrence of unhealthy snacking compared to skipping breakfast.
What about a headache?
For many people, migraine is triggered by hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels). So it might be a good idea not to skip meals, especially breakfast, which is the first meal after a night’s rest. It is very important that glucose is delivered to the body gradually after consuming a meal. Thus, care should be taken to compose food from complex carbohydrates and not from products rich in simple sugars, such as candy or sweet drinks.
In a study conducted on 83 677 university students in Iran, researchers found that those who consumed breakfast frequently had 26% lower odds of primary headaches compared with those who consumed it less than once a week. The study also found that this association remained significant even after taking other potential factors into account. Female students and those with BMI < 25 kg/m2 had a significant inverse association between breakfast consumption and primary headaches.
LGI or HGI breakfast? What does that even mean?
Blood sugar levels are responsible for supplying glucose, the main source of energy for the body’s cells, including the brain. Blood sugar levels are regulated by hormones, including insulin and glucagon, which are produced by the pancreas. Insulin helps lower blood sugar levels by taking glucose from the blood and transporting it to cells, where it can be used for energy. The level of sugar in our blood plays an important role in maintaining the health of our body, but also impacts our mood and well-being. That is yet another reason why it’s necessary to start the day properly. Keep in mind that eating foods with a low glycaemic index (LGI) causes your blood sugar levels to rise slowly. By contrast, eating foods with a high glycaemic index (HGI) causes your blood sugar levels to rise quickly. A healthy daily diet should be easier to achieve if you focus on this and choose LGI meals.
The rate of glucose entry into the bloodstream and duration of elevated blood glucose concentration are the factors that induce hormonal and metabolic changes, which may affect health. Mounting evidence suggests that the prolonged after-meal state contributes to the development of chronic disorders. A review in adults concluded that there is now a large body of evidence providing robust support for LGI diets in the prevention of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Interestingly, LGI breakfast may have a direct impact on weight management. There is evidence that the acute effects of LGI breakfast can lead to long-term hunger reduction. Self-reported hunger decreased in the preadolescent children after 6 weeks on a low glycaemic load diet (based on replacing at least 50% of high GI foods with LGI foods).
Dealing with chronic disorders
By chronic diseases we usually mean those illnesses that have a long-term occurrence and can have serious health consequences, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. When you eat a healthy breakfast, it provides your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly. This can help to reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases.
Research has shown that people who skip breakfast are more likely to develop chronic diseases than those who eat breakfast regularly. This is because skipping breakfast can lead to unhealthy eating habits and a lack of important nutrients. Speaking about chronic diseases, especially cardiovascular ones, it’s worth noting that a breakfast with a high glycaemic index is associated with stronger effects on arterial stiffness, blood sugar and insulin levels. In contrast, the low glycaemic index diet helps reduce cardiovascular risk by lowering blood sugar levels, improving insulin and lipid sensitivity, and promoting proper vascular function. It is an established indicator of a good heart condition.
Eating a healthy breakfast can also help to regulate your blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar levels are too high, it can lead to insulin resistance, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Eating breakfast can help to prevent these spikes in blood sugar levels and thus reduce the risk of developing diabetes.
Is there an ideal breakfast?
So, is there an ideal meal for a healthy morning? Of course, you must take into consideration your diet guidelines while planning your breakfast. Starting the day with a decent meal is a good way to provide the body with the energy it needs to get into action effectively. Ideally, breakfast should account for 25-30 percent of the energy of the whole day’s diet, that is, with a 2000 kcal diet, it should provide 500-600 kcal.
Breakfast is the first meal after the night break, which provides restoration of reserves drained during the night and energy for the first half of the day, so it should not be skipped and should be properly balanced. Breakfast is supposed to include foods that provide both easily digestible carbohydrates that can satisfy hunger quickly, as well as longer-digestible carbohydrates that will allow us to benefit from the energy provided by breakfast for a longer period of time. Also, be sure to include protein and fat products. It is worth noting that ideally, breakfasts should be varied and include products from all floors of the food pyramid: grain products, products providing animal and vegetable protein, good quality fats as well as vegetables or fruits. Now it’s time for a short summary and ideas that you can take into consideration.
Did you know that…
- Skipping breakfast can lead to weight gain. It may seem counterintuitive, but skipping breakfast can actually make it harder to lose weight. When you skip breakfast, your body goes into “starvation mode” and slows down your metabolism to conserve energy. This means that when you do eat, your body is more likely to store those calories as fat. In fact, studies have shown that people who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight or obese than those who eat breakfast regularly.
- Eating breakfast can improve mood and reduce stress. When you wake up in the morning, your body has been without food for several hours. Eating breakfast can help stabilize your blood sugar levels, providing you with the energy you need to start the day feeling alert and focused. Additionally, studies have shown that people who eat breakfast regularly tend to have lower levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. So, if you want to start your day feeling calm and focused, be sure to have a nutritious breakfast!
To sum up
Breakfast is an important and, as we have learned, often irreplaceable part of our lives. If you reach for a cup of coffee first thing in the morning while already thinking about work, you might want to reconsider your morning routine. The human body needs energy in the morning – breakfast can provide it and, in a sense, “kick-start” the metabolism. Also, breakfast helps us achieve better results in activities that require brain activity. Research has shown that people who eat breakfast tend to perform better on tasks that require cognitive function, such as memory, attention, and problem-solving. Also, breakfast protects us from the bad habit of reaching for sweets, regulating our appetite and eating behaviors. Yet, don’t forget you still need a strong will to be consistent with that.
Moreover, breakfast consumption has a positive effect on the frequency of headaches, reducing their occurrence by almost a quarter. When thinking about breakfast composition, we should take into account that the glycaemic index of foods can affect our well-being and appetite. Results show that high glycaemic index breakfast results in stronger responses on arterial stiffness, blood glucose, and insulin levels. In contrast, the low glycaemic index diet helps reduce cardiovascular risk by lowering blood sugar levels, improving insulin sensitivity and lipids, but also promoting good vascular function. Thus, it is clear that breakfast has a huge impact on our well-being. Above all, it should be nutritious and varied.
Brand-Miller J. et al., Dietary glycaemic index: health implications, J Am Coll Nutr, 2009.
Fajcsak Z. et al., The effects of 6-week low glycaemic load diet based on low glycemic index foods in overweight/obese children pilot study, J Am Coll Nutr, 2008.
Gwin JA, Leidy HJ., Breakfast Consumption Augments Appetite, Eating Behavior, and Exploratory Markers of Sleep Quality Compared with Skipping Breakfast in Healthy Young Adults, Curr Dev Nutr., 2018.
Heine RJ. et al., What does postprandial hyperglycaemia mean?, Diabetic Med., 2004.
Sanchez-Aguadero N. et al., Postprandial Effects of Breakfast Glycemic Index on Vascular Function among Young Healthy Adults: A Crossover Clinical Trial, Nutrients. 2017.