Does it matter whether or not we eat breakfast? Does it matter what we eat for breakfast? And, does it matter when we eat it?
The answers are yes, yes and yes. Eating breakfast has been implicated in study after study and in a myriad of ways to be vital to sustained good health and performance. It’s essential to break the fast, or refuel your body and brain, after the long night’s sleep. Similar to putting gasoline into your car, you must put food into your body in order to help it complete its daily tasks.
We know that eating breakfast improves school performance for kids. Studies have shown consistently that children who eat breakfast have improved overall attendance and less tardiness. They also have better scores on tests, improved short-term memory and fewer problems with poor behavior in the classroom and on the playground. But what will that breakfast eating habit do to enhance work or job performance for adults?
If you are a breakfast eater, you are less likely to have a work site accident and you have quicker reaction times. Many nutritionists believe that like kids, adults have better attitudes, increased verbal fluency, better performance at cognitive tasks and need fewer sick days when they eat breakfast. They are also less likely to feel sluggish and less prone to eating erratically or giving in to junk food cravings.
Eating breakfast can help you stay slim, according to Harvard researchers, and it may reduce your risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Obesity and insulin resistance rates were 35 percent to 50 percent lower among people who ate breakfast every day, compared to those who skipped breakfast. Insulin resistance syndrome is a metabolic disorder and those who have it are at higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In another recent study, researchers Drs. Jim Hill and Rena Wing found that people who are successful in losing weight and then keeping it off for at least a year have the breakfast-eating habit. Breakfast eaters tend to consume less fat and cholesterol at the same time they are taking in more of other important vitamins and minerals, while on average weighing less than those who skip the first meal of the day.
Those who skip breakfast in order to reduce calorie intake and lose weight are sabotaging themselves. Breakfast skippers tend to more than make up for those skipped calories as they get overly hungry and give into impulsive snacking and overeating later in the day. They also have difficulty making up for the vitamins and other nutrients missed by avoiding breakfast. Breakfast eaters, on the other hand, typically take in more calcium, iron, folic acid (folate) and vitamins A, B6, C and D.
There’s an old saying regarding breakfast, “Something is better than nothing,” and it’s true. However, the very best breakfast for your short-term performance and long-term health will contain foods from at least three different food groups. Try to use a combination of carbohydrates and protein along with just a little fat to ward off hunger. Breakfasts that are very high in processed carbohydrates or sugary foods without the balancing effects of some protein and fat tend to produce a quick burst of energy that wears off quickly. Eating breakfast within two hours of waking up is optimal for refueling the body and avoiding the ravenous hunger that can strike long before lunchtime arrives.
Many excuses are given for not eating breakfast in the morning. Some people simply aren’t hungry, others feel they don’t have time or like to sleep until the last minute. Below you’ll find suggestions for healthy breakfasts that take two minutes or less to prepare:
Whole grain cereal, milk, banana
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich and juice
Whole grain toaster waffle with applesauce and low-fat sour cream
Yogurt, granola and fruit
Bran muffin, milk and fruit
Cheese and whole grain crackers with juice
Leftover pizza, enchiladas or spaghetti, thoroughly reheated in the microwave
String cheese, fresh or canned fruit, and whole wheat toast
A fruit and yogurt smoothie made in the blender, accompanied by a bagel
And for those who don’t wake hungry and ready to eat, it is easy to take along a snack to eat mid-morning. Just pack some fresh or dried fruit along with a carton of milk or yogurt and a handful of nuts. A low-fat energy bar or a bagel can be eaten with some cheese and juice.
Breakfast doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. Those who are parents can take comfort in the fact that by making breakfast a priority, they are setting an example that may last a lifetime for their children. But for all of us, no matter our age, that early morning meal makes an important contribution to our ability to function well, think clearly and feel good. The news that eating breakfast may also contribute to weight control, heart health and avoiding type 2 diabetes simply adds an incentive to adopt that habit, if you haven’t already.
Source: Debra Adamson, Colorado St Univ. Ext., Weld County