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Jun 20

Healthy Eating Week: 4 of 5

How many times have you heard the saying, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”?  The British Nutrition Foundation would certainly like you to believe that.  But is it true?

Can eating breakfast really improve your health?

Can eating breakfast really improve your health?

There are some studies that suggest that people who want to lose weight have a slightly better chance of doing so if they eat breakfast.  That seems a little paradoxical, doesn’t it?  Or at least it does if you still subscribe to the ‘calories in, calories out’ model.  If you do, you might be confused.  How could eating extra calories help you lose more weight?

The traditionalists would argue that if you eat breakfast, you’ll eat less during the rest of the day, and so you’ll eat fewer calories overall.  Actually, that doesn’t seem to be true according to studies.  In fact, those who skip breakfast may eat less throughout the rest of the day than breakfast eaters.  Instead, something far more interesting and important might be happening.

What seems to happen is that those who eat breakfast improve their glucose tolerance for the whole day.  This in turn means they are less likely to store fat.  It also seems that those who eat breakfast burn through energy more quickly than those that don’t.  I think this is what people mean when they say that breakfast ‘kick-starts your metabolism’.  It’s not strictly true, but it describes the effect you might see, which is fair enough.  Eating breakfast also seems to improve memory, concentration and performance in school-age children.

Eating breakfast may help improve mood and concentration in children.

Eating breakfast may help improve mood and concentration in children.

Does it matter what’s in your breakfast, or will any old breakfast do?  There are surprisingly few studies which explore this.  One is a study where primary school children were fed an oatmeal based breakfast, a cereal, or no breakfast at all.  When they ate the oatmeal they were able to pay better attention, remember things better, and perform complex tasks more efficiently.  This suggests that a breakfast that releases energy slowly may have more benefits than one which releases energy quickly.  However, it’s not quite that simple.  Our individual biology may influence what kind of breakfast will be most helpful for any one person.  What suits me may not suit you so well.

Get to work on an egg - and add some vegetables too!

Get to work on an egg – and add some vegetables too!

 

In the longer term, my opinion is that getting as much nutrient density as possible into your diet is the way forward, and that applies to breakfast too.  We used to be told to ‘go to work on an egg’, and I think that’s still sound advice.  Eggs are packed with protein and nutrients.  What’s more, you can enjoy them with avocadoes, mushrooms and tomatoes and get some nutrient-dense vegetables at the start of your day.  Too busy to cook eggs in the morning?  Hard-boil them the night before and tuck into them the next day.  Please don’t eat them on public transport, though, as it will not make you popular with your fellow travellers!

Hate hard boiled eggs?  Me too.  Instead I make a frittata (Spanish Omelette) and eat a wedge when I’m in a hurry.  You can find one of my frittata recipes here.

So, although breakfast probably isn’t the most important meal of the day, it certainly seems to play an important role in overall health, and in your ability to succeed at any intellectual work you may be doing.  If you do eat breakfast, get in as much nutrient density as you can, avoid sugary breakfasts with no nutritional value, and really make the start of your day count!

Would you like some ideas for healthy breakfasts that are quick, easy and definitely not boring?  Join my Breakfast Club here.  It’s free until the end of June.  breakfast-club-no-date

 

1 comment

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