It’s time that America wakes up to the benefits of a healthy breakfast. According to Food Insight’s 2009 Food and Health Survey, 93% of Americans agree that breakfast is an important meal, however, less than half (44%) are actually eating it every morning. You’re probably wondering “What’s the big deal?”, but there are so many reasons against omitting the first meal of the day, I cannot list all of them to you, but I will give you a handful: it makes you gain weight, your brain and memory will pay for it, and you will lack energy to do the things you love. I will show you the comparisons of those who don’t eat breakfast and then those who do.
Firstly, I will tell you about non-breakfast eaters. A lot of people tend to skip breakfast thinking they’ll lose some weight, but this is not the case. In WebMD’s harshly titled article “Skip Breakfast, Get Fat” they say that forgoing the first meal of the day actually tricks your brain into thinking you want more unhealthy foods — foods that can make you fat, or at least increase your risk for weight gain. A team from Imperial College London held a study on this. The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to look at how eating affects the brain’s “reward” center. The study involved 20 healthy, non-obese people who skipped breakfast before the exam. For the test, they looked at random pictures of fattening food (like pizza, cake, burgers, chocolate, etc) and healthy, wholesome food (such as vegetables, fish, and salad). The brain’s reward center lit up more intensely (i.e. became more active) when the person saw the unhealthy food as opposed to a healthier choice. On the flip side of the coin, when the participants ate breakfast and had the same exam an hour and a half after they ate, the brain’s reward center did not show any greater activity. When asked to rate the appeal of each food picture, those who did not eat breakfast craved the junk food more than the other food, but after they ate, they looked at the pictures again and those cravings ceased.
When you skip breakfast, your metabolism will go into famine mode. Three or four hours after you eat, your metabolism will shut down and act as if it needs to store food. This is a blessing when there is actually a famine, and you can’t eat for days, your body has the function to put on pounds to protect you from starving. However, this is probably not the case for most people. More than likely, you are trying to get rid of fat by skipping breakfast. But when you do that your body will actually store fat. By eating breakfast, you are communicating to your body that you are well-fed and healthy, and in no need of extra fat storage.
It will also impact your energy. The majority of Americans drink coffee in the morning to compensate for the tiredness, but think again. People who only drink coffee still do not perform as well on memory tests as those who eat breakfast.
Are you ready for the contrast? Breakfast eaters do significantly better than those who skip breakfast (as long as it’s a good, wholesome, healthy breakfast). Having a sharp metabolism is an important part of weight loss. If you don’t eat between dinner time the night before and lunch the day after can add up to 18 hours without food. For the entire morning, instead of working at peak rates and burning off more calories, your body will be trying to conserve everything it can. Studies following people who have lost weight and kept it off for more than a year show that 80 percent of them include breakfast in their eating plans. In an article called written by Live Science, they stated “In one recent study, people who ate breakfast as their largest meal lost an average of 17.8 pounds over three months. The other participants consumed the same number of total calories per day, but ate most of their calories at dinner, according to the study published in July in the journal Obesity. The large-dinner group only lost an average of 7.3 pounds each over the same time period.” Also, in a 2003 study from the American Journal of Epidemiology, results concluded that people who skip breakfast are 4.5 times more likely to be obese than those who take a morning meal.
A 2005 Journal of the American Dietetic Association review found that eating breakfast is likely to improve cognitive function related to memory and test grades. In other words, breakfast keeps you smart! Researchers found that when people ate a high-fiber, low-carb breakfast, they had more energy throughout the day compared with people who didn’t eat breakfast at all.
Let’s face it, eating breakfast is one of those things we know we should do but we skip it anyway. Let’s change that. Think about how better we’ll all feel, and how healthier we’ll be in the long run. It’s time to revolutionize America’s eating habits, and we can start with breakfast.
** disclaimer: I do not encourage counting calories, even though I referred to this term in this post. I think it’s bad psychologically (but that’s a whole other post!)