Despite the majority of people recognising that skipping breakfast is unhealthy (63% in a recent poll), the chances are that eating first thing in the morning isn't always top of mind in our busy lives. But what if there was evidence to convince the non-believers that breakfast really IS the most important meal of the day and what you choose to eat can make a big difference?
The fact that eating breakfast is a positive part of a healthy and balanced diet isn't new news – in fact having a meal in the morning began as far back as the Stone Age! Breakfast as we know it (the first meal of the day, taken before starting the day) began probably in the 19th century when middle class men started to work regular hours in offices. The invention of Cornflakes by Mr Kellogg at the turn of the 20th century made breakfast popular and started the breakfast revolution that we know today.
Breakfast is considered to be important as it breaks the overnight fast, replenishes your supply of energy and nutrients and gets your body ready for the day. Many studies have been conducted which highlight the negative impact of not having breakfast – lack of concentration, lethargy, mood swings, headaches... the list goes on!
More recent research has shown that skipping breakfast may actually increase your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes – in fact missing just one breakfast per week was shown to increase the risk of diabetes by 20%. The type of breakfast you choose is also important – protein rich breakfasts may have a protective effect on blood sugars, with women eating high-protein breakfasts having better control over blood sugar and insulin levels than those having a carbohydrate rich breakfast. In the long term this could have a benefit against Type 2 Diabetes. Protein rich breakfasts also help to keep us fuller for longer, so they can really help with appetite control too.
The evidence for eating breakfast when you are trying to lose weight or keep it off is pretty overwhelming. In fact, studies following people who have lost weight and kept it off for a year show that over 80% include breakfast in their eating plan.
Breakfast eaters tend to consume less calories overall across the course of the day too – so making time for it really can reap rewards. By eating first thing you are getting your metabolism revved up for the day, making it more efficient to burn calories throughout the day. As well as that, eat a good breakfast and you're less likely to reach for unhealthy snacks mid morning when you feel starving!
I'm a firm believer in breakfast, and to be honest ANY breakfast is better than nothing at all. So if you can manage to eat something in the morning – even if it's just a piece of fruit or a yogurt – that's better than nothing. A small amount of food is enough to kick start your metabolism and get things going for the day.
In an ideal world, we'd all have more time and be able to enjoy leisurely breakfasts but in the real world we need quick options to get us up and out the door on time!
Here is my take on some healthy breakfasts to get your taste buds going!
So what are you waiting for? Make this week the week to introduce healthier starts to your day – I'm sure you'll soon notice the difference!
And if you are a habitual breakfast eater already why not try and mix things up a bit. It's easy to have the same cereal every day and never make a change. Keep it interesting!
Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.