how important is breakfast
Family Health

How Important Is Breakfast, Really?

For years, we've heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That's great if you wake up hungry, but not so great if you don't have a morning appetite. Have you ever thought, "How important is breakfast, really, and what happens if I don't eat it?"

If so, you've come to the right place. Here's the full truth about eating breakfast.

Fuel for Your Gas Tank

When the alarm clock goes off, hours after your last meal, your body is low on energy. That's where breakfast comes in. Eating early in the day replenishes those empty fuel stores, helping you spring back into action. Breakfast also supplies your brain with glucose and has been shown to boost memory, according to an article published in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience.

That said, breakfast is about much more than refueling. Many of us don't get enough key nutrients, and breakfast delivers these in the form of fiber from fruit, cereal, and whole-grain toast, and calcium and potassium from milk and yogurt. That might not sound like a big deal, but the research shows that when we skip breakfast, we're unlikely to make up these nutrients later in the day.

The Weight Loss Equation

Despite all the hype, there's no evidence that forgoing breakfast will make you gain weight. However, a healthy breakfast can help control hunger for hours on end, and that may help you make better food choices later in the day.

Your best bets? Foods that contain slowly digested protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Try a poached egg on whole-wheat toast with mashed avocado (sprinkle it with crushed red pepper and garlic powder for an extra kick!), or whole-grain cereal with berries, nuts, and low-fat or nondairy milk such as soy or almond milk.

Cleaner, Clearer Arteries

If heart health is on your mind, you'll definitely want to set aside time for a bite before heading out the door. New research reveals that skipping breakfast may increase the risk of atherosclerosis. When researchers reviewed the diets of 4,000 people, they found that roughly 75 percent of those who didn't eat breakfast had plaque buildup in their arteries.

By comparison, breakfast eaters fared far better, and the bigger their breakfast, the greater the benefits. While 64 percent of those who ate a light breakfast had artery-clogging plaque, only 57 percent of people who feasted on a hearty breakfast had plaque issues.

Better Blood Sugar

Starting your day with an empty stomach may also spell bad news for your blood sugar. Waiting until lunchtime to eat may interfere with your body's ability to metabolize carbohydrates later in the day. That's because chronic breakfast-skipping has been shown to promote inflammation that renders your body less able to use its own insulin.

If you have diabetes, the effects may be even more far-reaching. A study from the American Diabetes Association found that when people with diabetes bypassed breakfast, their blood sugar levels were 40 percent higher after lunch and 25 percent higher after dinner than on days when they ate three meals.

How important is breakfast, really? It might not be the most critical meal of the day, but if better health is your goal, there's no need to skip your morning meal.

Posted in Family Health

Karen Ansel is a nationally recognized nutrition consultant, speaker, journalist and author. Her work has been featured in Fitness, Shape, Oprah, Weight Watchers, Parade, Woman’s Day, and Women’s Health magazines. She received her Master's of Science in clinical nutrition from New York University. An active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Karen belongs to several dietetic practice groups including Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, Food and Culinary Professionals, and Nutrition Entrepreneurs.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.