The Fitness Zone
Breakfast is often cited as the most important meal of the day, and many health experts in the past have discouraged skipping it. The main reason for this argument is the influence it has on overall calorie intake. However, recent findings in weight management have questioned the actual impact of breakfast on the human body.
Modern lifestyles are mostly caught up in the daily grind of working long hours. Many of us commute early and miss out on breakfast. But is this really a problem?
Traditional research has always favoured us consuming breakfast, associating it with lower levels of obesity and weight management. On the other hand, recent studies have shown us those who skipped breakfast consumed fewer calories by the end of the day - but were also likely to be less energetic. Despite inconclusive evidence about weight loss, there are other reasons eating brekkie is a good idea.
1. Daily nutrient intake
It can be hard to meet the recommended intake of nutrients per day, and this is even harder when you’re only relying on two main meals. Breakfast offers us an opportunity to consume foods that are great sources of B vitamins, folate, iron and fibre. This is backed by research which shows us those who consume breakfast are more likely to meet their recommended dietary intakes for vitamins and minerals, compared to when breakfast was not eaten.
What you actually eat for breakfast is incredibly important. A chocolate glazed doughnut and five eggs have the same amount of calories, but drastically differ in terms of nutritional value. When eating breakfast you should let nutritional value dictate the types of foods you eat.
2. Heart health
Breakfast may protect us from heart disease. Studies from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) found that men who regularly skipped breakfast had a 27% higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than those who did eat a morning meal. Non-breakfast-eaters were generally hungrier later in the day and ate more food at night, which may cause metabolic changes and heart disease. Not convinced? Interestingly, even after accounting for diet, physical activity, smoking and other lifestyle factors, the association between skipping breakfast and heart disease persisted.
3. Mental health
Skipping breakfast results in low blood glucose levels and the release of the hormones, adrenalin and cortisol which can cause agitation and irritability. This can result in poor concentration, attention and behavioural problems, and lower IQ scores.
There is clearly an association with good mental health and eating a quality breakfast. Research has found that eating a breakfast with a variety of food groups which increase the intake of vitamins and minerals at the start of the day can lead to better mental health in adolescents.
4. More energy during the day
Studies by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) found those who ate breakfast were more likely to be more active in their day. Breakfast eaters compared to those who skipped their first meal consumed less food throughout the day and remained more active. However, the study concluded that weight changes remained the same between those who ate breakfast and those who didn’t. What made a difference to weight was the level of activity.
5. Better focus and concentration
Some people wake up in the morning feeling exhausted and groggy. Having that first meal early can improve your attention span, memory, speed of processing, creativity, learning and reasoning. In addition, breakfast eaters have been found to have improved reasoning skills and verbal abilities. The stabilisation of glucose levels when eating food first thing in the morning can give you that much needed early morning boost.
The bottom line
A healthy breakfast can provide a person with essential nutrients, prevent heart disease and assist with weight management. Different breakfast types determine whether you tick the right nutritional boxes. It’s important to note how your body reacts to breakfast first thing when you wake up, and style your first meal based on what suits you best.
Although research and studies have been conducted on the benefits of eating breakfast, you need to find out how eating breakfast personally affects you. Opinions in studies may vary, with some finding breakfast beneficial and others claiming no effect.
But bodies are unique and have their own requirements. If you enjoy eating breakfast, you should continue to do so. Eating a smaller meal first thing in the morning may help you be active and alert before lunch time. If you find that this applies to you, you should continue doing this.
Figure out what works for your body best and do this to keep it running at optimal performance.
About Shivaun Conn
Shivaun is a Nutrition Coach at the Australian Institute of Fitness NSW.
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