Breakfast – it’s the most important meal of the day, isn’t it? That’s probably what you’ve been hearing all your life. “Don’t go to school without eating your Cornflakes!” “You can’t go to work on empty stomach.”
But is it good advice? Does the science actually back up the mantra?
The answer, it seems, is ‘maybe not’.
Why such a nebulous response? There are several reasons. First, years of research have produced a strong body of evidence that indicates a nourishing breakfast can help with cognitive function and work efficiency. Breakfast gives your blood glucose levels an early boost and glucose is food for the brain.
However, there is also evidence that suggests a lengthy period of fasting – in the range of 14 hours – can be very helpful if you’re trying to lose weight. Your gut, as it turns out, appears to be more efficient at burning food if it gets a good rest.
The name breakfast is the clue here – ‘break fast’.
Now, keep that in mind as you consider how, as a society, our dinner habits have changed. Most of us tend to have our evening meal a few hours later than our parents and grandparents did.
But work and school hours have not changed over the past couple of generations. Many of us are still eating breakfast at roughly the same time of day, and that means the fasting window has shrunk.
So what, then, is the workaround? Well perhaps the most obvious one is to skip brekkie altogether, and open your food window at lunchtime. If that works for you, good. But if it doesn’t and you feel you can’t function well without breakfast, consider delaying it by a couple of hours.
Of course, being able to do that will depend on what sort of flexibility you have in your life. It may not be a practical option.
If you feel you can’t skip or delay breakfast, there may be another change you can make. And that is what you eat for breakfast. If sausages, bacon and eggs are your go-to morning meal, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that science suggests that’s not a great option.
But you might be surprised to learn that many of the cereals you buy at the supermarket are probably not a great breakfast choice, either. Why? Well, while their names might suggest they are healthy, many are very high in sugar or other simple carbohydrates. Load up on those and your blood sugar levels rise sharply, instead of giving you a slow, sustained energy release. And if you’re more of a ‘toast and jam’ person, the news is, unfortunately, just the same.
The truth about breakfast is that the science is conflicted. One strand suggests that skipping breakfast could lead to overcompensating later in the day, but a Monash University study found that those who did have breakfast averaged a higher daily calorie intake.
It might simply come down to what works best for you. If you’re a brekkie kind of person who wants to lose weight or simply become healthier, consider changing what you eat for breakfast. Swap out cereal for rolled oats. Instead of bacon and eggs, have two eggs. Swap jam for avo on your toast.
With a few subtle changes, you might yet become a breakfast champion.
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