What do we mean by breakfast?

The term breakfast in English literally refers to the breaking of the fasting period of the previous night. (1) But, in nutritional terms, breakfast is the first meal consumed within two hours after the longest sleep in any 24 hour period. (2)  It has been described as the most important meal of the day, contributing substantially to the individual’s daily nutrient intake and energy needs, hence it has an immediate effect on cognitive performance and feelings of well-being, as well as extended benefits related to diet quality and weight management. (3) In this blog we will explore the importance of eating a healthy breakfast.

Why should we eat a proper breakfast?

How many of us will make time during our day to go to the gym and keep fit but in our rush to get to work in the morning will neglect to eat a proper breakfast? In this section we will focus on the reasons why we should make time in our day to eat a proper breakfast.

After a long fast during the night, eating breakfast within an hour helps insulin and blood sugar levels stay regulated while kick-starting the body’s metabolism. A well-balanced breakfast alleviates our feelings of hunger and reduces the likelihood of eating snacks which are high in sugar and/or fat. (4) Furthermore, regular breakfast consumption contributes to maintaining our health and is linked with a decreased risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. (5) In contrast, eating habits such as skipping breakfast are positively associated with a higher risk of being overweight and developing diabetes mellitus, as well as cardiometabolic health problems such as dyslipidemia and high blood pressure. (6)

The consumption of breakfast is not likely to be more critical for our general well-being than physical exercise or not smoking, yet it can be argued that breakfast is sufficiently important to establish a healthy lifestyle. Moreover, given the evidence that doing regular exercise and being a non-smoker are also key factors to general health, studies showed that those who have a daily breakfast also tend to exercise daily and be non-smokers. (7, 8–10)

In addition, people who have a healthy breakfast routine are more likely to meet daily recommended vitamin and mineral intakes including vitamin A and C, Ca, Zn, riboflavin and iron. These people also have a favourable diet quality given that they have a higher fibre and protein intake but lower total and saturated fat intake (11, 12, 13 ).

The health advantages of eating a proper breakfast are especially true for young people.The nutrition profile and adequacy of school aged children who don’t skip breakfast is strikingly better than those of their peers that go without breakfast. (14) Moreover, regular breakfast consumption is shown to be directly associated with a healthy BMI, and a decreased tendency of being overweight or obese among young people. (15, 16, 17)

And it’s not only our physical well-being that is positively influenced by a healthy breakfast routine.  Regular breakfast consumption has shown to improve mental health in young girls. (18, 19) According to a recent study, eating cereals for breakfast correlates with a positive mood and improves memory because of its effect on brain glucose after a night time fast, and regular breakfast consumption has been linked with psychological well-being. (20) Breakfast intake helps reduce stress and fatigue through lowering cortical activity, and a prospective study carried out in 12-13 year olds found that, in addition to physical activity and a normal bedtime, a regular breakfast was the most important contributor to quality of life. (21) And did you know that regular breakfast intake is a strong predictor for cognitive function related to memory, test grades and school attendance? (22)

Research shows that that dietary behaviours developed in childhood and adolescence generally continue into adulthood. Therefore, given the evidence that breakfast has a multitude of positive health benefits for young people, establishing breakfast behaviours in childhood and adolescence is imperative for maintaining healthy attitudes in adult life. (23)

What happens if we skip breakfast?

There is an assumption in dietary advice that ‘a calorie is a calorie’ and meal timing is insignificant. However, as a diurnal species, humans are expected to be awake and eat in the light; sleep and fast in the dark. That implies that skipping breakfast disrupts the body’s internal clock and late night eating leads to an increase in systemic glucose by eliciting adaptations to postprandial glycaemic response. (24, 25)

If the overnight fast remains unbroken until midday, it is highly likely that energy intake will increase later in the day to compensate for the energy deficit at breakfast. (26, 27) A higher energy consumption in the morning rather than later in the day helps adults lose weight (28) because the energy consumed at breakfast is likely to be metabolised through physical activity during the day, whereas the energy consumed in the late afternoon or evening will be stored as glycogen and fat. (26, 29) Therefore, infrequent breakfast consumption can cause individuals to become overweight or obese in the long run and this is supported by a recent study showing that skipping breakfast over a period of time results in weight gain and high risk of diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Individuals who skipped breakfast in their childhood and adulthood were found to have a higher BMI, waist circumference, fasting insulin level and LDL cholesterol concentration than those whose breakfast consumption was regular. (30, 31) However, there are other lifestyle factors like physical activity and meal patterns which also play significant roles in managing a healthy BMI and disease risk markers. (32)

People who skip breakfast for a prolonged period are less likely to make up the nutrient deficits through other meals consumed throughout the day. (33, 34) In particular, children who skip breakfast regularly are highly likely to suffer from adverse health outcomes in their adolescence and adulthood due to inadequate nutrient intake during childhood. (35) Therefore, if we want our bodies to perform at their optimum, we need to fuel ourselves appropriately and avoid skipping breakfast.  By regularly eating a proper breakfast daily we help to maintain a healthy eating pattern that sets us up for the rest of the day.

What is a proper breakfast?

As the American nutritionist Adella Davis says, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”. (36) According to the latest evidence, we should all be aiming to consume around 15–25% of our daily energy intake at breakfast (i.e., 300–500 calories for women and 375–625 for men). (37) This would be equivalent to a large bowl of porridge with semi skimmed milk and fresh fruits, or poached eggs with smashed avocado on toast, for example.

However, the impacts of an unhealthy breakfast on our health are as detrimental as that of skipping breakfast. Consumption of a fatty meal induces oxidative stress and inflammation in atherosclerosis that results in impaired vascular function.(38) Research studies show a significant rise in  the postprandial oxidative stress in healthy subjects two hours after having a full English breakfast (providing 11% protein, 34% carbohydrate, and 55% fat, approximately 5021 kJ [1200 kcal]) According to the American Heart Association (AHA), consumption of high-fat, energy-dense, fast-food–style breakfast results in an increase in oxidative stress in metabolic syndrome compared to a heart-healthy meal. (39)

Also, according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, the average child consumes the equivalent of three cubes of sugar in their breakfast. (40) This is more than half of the daily allowance recommended for children by the World Health Organization (WHO), and a study from Public Health England (PHE) conducted among 1000 children found that the sugar consumption of children below the age of 10 is three times greater than the recommended intake. (41) This is important because exceeding the sugar recommendation is associated with a risk for developing dental caries, and obesity which is a risk factor for many serious and chronic health diseases including type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, some cancers, fatty liver disease and respiratory disease. (42,43) As children’s taste preferences develop over time through continued experiences, feeding high sugary cereals to children might increase their preferences for sweetened food over time.  Therefore, in order to make the low-sugar cereal more appealing, try adding a small amount of table sugar or fresh fruits instead of purchasing high-sugar cereals for your child’s breakfast. (44)

So what should we be eating for breakfast?  Instead of choosing foods high in sugar and saturated fat, we can opt for a balanced, nutritious breakfast made up of protein, dairy, fruit and vegetables and whole grains. The right combination of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats will fuel the body and help maintain our energy levels all day long.

Protein intake in the morning lowers the levels of the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin thereby helping us fight daytime cravings. (3) The World Health Organisation states that processed meats such as bacon or sausage are conducive to cancer, so we should aim to replace these foods with eggs, baked beans, salmon, cottage cheese, milk, or yogurt in our breakfast. (45) Whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables are all good sources of fibre and viable alternatives for breakfast. Simple supplements to our breakfast such as chopping up vegetables into our omelette, adding fruits to our oatmeal, and choosing whole wheat bread instead of white bread helps keep our digestive systems healthy and keep our blood sugar levels stable during the day as well as adding variety to our breakfast routine. Whole grains are also rich in Iron and B vitamins which boost our brain and memory. (3)

According to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2018, despite a high-fat, low carb breakfast being linked with the decreased risk of metabolic syndrome, it causes high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels. (46) Opting for healthy fat choices such as avocado, peanut butter, using olive oil for our scrambled eggs instead of butter, swapping out bacon or sausages with smoked salmon or water thin ham, choosing cooking methods such as grilling or poaching instead of frying in fat, and enjoying walnuts, flaxseed, or chia seeds not only protects ours hearts but also improves our mood and helps to avoid depression. Additionally, opting for low fat dairy products will make a big difference in balancing our fat intake. (3)

But eating a regular, healthy breakfast really doesn’t have to be a chore, and here are some 400 calorie breakfast alternatives to try that are really simple and taste delicious too: overnight oats, a small bowl of porridge with semi skimmed milk and fresh fruits, or poached eggs with smashed avocado on toast. And if you have to breakfast on the go, then why not grab a whole grain sandwich from a sandwich bar or porridge/cereal with low-fat milk/yoghurt, smoothies made of fresh fruits or oats from a café or shop on your way.  Your breakfast can be flexible and adaptable to you. And if you don’t like to eat anything within an hour after you wake, then eat within two hours. (3) But remember, to be able to have a quality and productive day, you need to fuel your body from the kick-off.

So, yes, breakfast is important!

Eating a regular healthy breakfast has clear health benefits, contributing to both our physical and mental well-being, and we should avoid skipping breakfast and perpetuating unhealthy eating patterns. But we should also think about what we are eating for our breakfast: choosing a breakfast which includes fibre, dairy products and healthy fat options will enhance our physical and mental health and will keep us sharp and motivated all day.  So start the day off right with a proper, healthy breakfast!

 

 

 

    References

  1. O’Neil CE, Byrd-Bredbenner C, Hayes D et al. (2014)
  2. Ruge T, Hodson L, Cheeseman J et al. (2009)  Fasted to fed trafficking of Fatty acids in human adipose tissue reveals a novel regulatory step for enhanced fat storage.J  Clin Endocrinol Metab 94, 1781–1788
  3. BDA (British Dietetics Association)
  4. Family correlates of breakfast consumption among children and adolescents.A systematic review Natalie Pearson *, Stuart J.H. Biddle, Trish Gorely School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leicestershire LE11 3TU, United Kingdom
  5. Albertson, A. M., Franko, D. L., Thompson, D., Eldridge, A. L., Holschuh, N., Affenito, S. G.,et al. (2007). Longitudinal patterns of breakfast eating in black and white adolescent girls.. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 15(9), 2282–2292..  
  6.  Billon, S., Lluch, A., Gueguen, R., Berthier, A. M., Siest, G., & Herbeth, B. (2002). Family resemblance in breakfast energy intake: the Stanislas Family Study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 56(10), 1011–1019.
  7. Cahill LE, Chiuve SE, Mekary RA et al. (2013) Prospective study of breakfast eating and incident coronary heart disease in a cohort of male US health professionals. Circulation 128, 337–343
  8. Mekary RA, Giovannucci E, Willett WC et al. (2012) Eating patterns and type 2 diabetes risk in men: breakfast omission, eating frequency, and snacking. Am J Clin Nutr 95, 1182–1189
  9. Odegaard AO, Jacobs DR Jr, Steffen LM et al. (2013) Breakfast frequency and development of metabolic risk. Diab Care 36, 3100–3106
  10. Smith KJ, Gall SL, McNaughton SA, Blizzard L, Dwyer T, Venn AJ.Skipping breakfast: longitudinal associations with cardiometabolic risk factors in the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;92:1316–25.
  11. Lien L, Dalgard F, Heyerdahl S, Thoresen M, Bjertness E. The relationship between age of menarche and mental distress in Norwegian adolescent girls and girls from different immigrant groups in Norway: results from an urban city cross-sectional survey. Social Science & Medicine 2006; 63:285–95
  12. Nicklas TA, Bao W, Webber LS, Berenson GS. Breakfast consumption affects adequacy of total daily intake in children. J Am Diet Assoc 1993;93:886-91
  13. Nicklas TA, Reger C, Myers L, O’Neail C, Breakfast consumption with and without vitamin-mineral supplement use favourably impacts daily nutrient intake of ninth-grade students. J. Adolescent Health 2000;27:314-21
  14. Mekary RA, Giovannucci E, Willett WC, van Dam RM, Hu FB (2012) Eating patterns and type 2 diabetes risk in men: breakfast omission, eating frequency, and snacking. Am J Clin Nutr 95: 1182–1189.
  15. Mekary RA, Giovannucci E, Cahill L, Willett WC, van Dam RM, et al. (2013) Eating patterns and type 2 diabetes risk in older women: breakfast consumption and eating frequency. Am J Clin Nutr 98: 436–443
  16. Croezen, S., Visscher, T. L., Ter Bogt, N. C., Veling, M. L., & Haveman-Nies, A. (2007).Skipping breakfast, alcohol consumption and physical inactivity as risk factors for overweight and obesity in adolescents: results of the E-MOVO project. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition advance online publication November 28, 2007.
  17.  Dubois, L., Girard, M., & Potvin Kent, M. (2006). Breakfast eating and overweight in a pre-school population: is there a link? Public Health Nutrition, 9(4), 436–442
  18. Lien L, Dalgard F, Heyerdahl S, Thoresen M, Bjertness E. The relationship between age of menarche and mental distress in Norwegian adolescent girls and girls from different immigrant groups in Norway: results from an urban city cross-sectional survey. Social Science & Medicine 2006; 63:285–95.
  19. Nicklas TA, Bao W, Webber LS, Berenson GS. Breakfast consumption affects adequacy of total daily intake in children. J Am Diet Assoc 1993;93:886-91
  20. Nicklas TA, Reger C, Myers L, O’Neail C, Breakfast consumption with and without vitamin-mineral supplement use favourably impacts daily nutrient intake of ninth-grade students. J. Adolescent Health 2000;27:314-21
  21. Timlin MT, Pereira MA, Story M, Neumark-Sztauber D. Breakfast eating and weight change in a 5 year prospective analysis of adolescents project EAT (Eating Among Teens). Pediatric;2008;121;e638-45
  22. Gastrophysics: The New Science Of Eating
  23. Song WO, Chun OK, Obayashi S, Cho S, Chung CE (2005) Is consumption of breakfast associated with body mass index in US adults? J Am Diet Assoc 105:1373–1382.
  24. Timlin MT, Pereira MA, Story M, Neumark-Sztauber D. Breakfast eating and weight change in a 5 year prospective analysis of adolescents project EAT (Eating Among Teens). Pediatric;2008;121;e638-45
  25. Gastrophysics: The New Science Of Eating
  26. Penguin, London, UK (2017)
  27. Dubois I., Girard M, Potvin Kent M, Farmer A, Tatone-Tokuda F. Breakfast skipping is associated with differences in meal patterns macronutrient intakes and overweight among pre-school children. Public Health Nutr 2009;12:19-28
  28. Schlundt DG, Hill JO, Sbrocco T, Pope-Cordle J, Sharp T. The role of breakfast in the treatment of obesity: a randomized clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr 1992;55:645-51
  29. Keim NI., Van Loan MD, Horn WF, Barbieri TF, Mayelin PL. Weight loss is greater with consumption of large morning meals and fat-free mass is preserved with large evening meals in women on a controlled weight reduction regimen. J Nurt 1997;127:75-82
  30. Preziosi P, Galan P, Deheeger M, Yacoub N, Drewnowski A, Hercbeg S. Breakfast type, daily nutrient intakes and vitamin and mineral status of French children, adolescents, and adults. J Am Coll Nutr 1999;18:171-8.
  31. Drummond S, Crimbie N, Kirk T. A critique of the effects of snacking on body weight status. Eur J Clin Nutr 1996;50:779-83.
  32. Smith KJ, Gall SL, McNaughton SA, Blizzard L, Dwyer T, Venn AJ, Skipping breakfast: longitudinal associations with cardio metabolic risk factors in the childhood determinants of adult health Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2010;92:1316-25
  33. Resnicow K. The relationship between breakfast habits and plasma cholesterol levels in schoolchildren. J School Health 1991;61:82-5
  34. Nicklas TA, Bao W, Webber LS, Berenson GS. Breakfast consumption affects adequacy of total daily intake in children. J Am Diet Assoc 1993;93:886e91
  35. Sjo¨berg A, Hallberg L, Ho¨glund D, Hulthe´n L. Meal pattern, food choice, nutrient intake and lifestyle factors in The Go¨teborg Adolescence Study. Eur J Clin Nutr 2003;57:1569e78
  36. McHill AW, Phillips AJ, Czeisler CA et al (2017) Later circadian timing of food intake is associated with increased body fat. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 106: 1213–9. [PubMed
  37. Spence, 2017 C. Spence Gastrophysics: The New Science Of Eating Penguin, London, UK (2017)
  38. Viteri FE, Gonza´lez H. Adverse outcomes of poor micronutrient status in childhood and adolescence. Nutr Rev 2002;60:77e83
  39. 7 Littleton HL, Ollendick T. Negative body image and disordered eating behavior in children and adolescents:what places youth at risk and how can these problems be prevented? Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review 2003; 6: 51–66
  40. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/young-children-still-exceeding-sugar-recommendation
  41. Smith AP. The concept of well-being: relevance to nutrition research. British Journal of Nutrition 2005; 93(Suppl 1): 1–5
  42. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/young-children-still-exceeding-sugar-recommendation
  43. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-diet-and-nutrition-survey
  44. US Department of Agriculture. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Available at: www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/ foodcomp/search. Accessed February 1, 2010
  45. Jennifer L. Harris, PhD, MBA,a Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD,a Amy Ustjanauskas, BA,a Punam Ohri-Vachaspati, PhD, RD,b and Kelly D. Brownell, PhDa aRudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut; and bRobert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, New Jersey WHO Q&A on the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat October 2015.
  46. Assessing the nutrient intake of a low carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet: a Hypothetical case study design Caryn Zinn,1 Amy Rush, 2 Rebecca Johnson 2.

No Comments

Be the first to start a conversation

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)