Is it really the most important meal of the day?
HEALTH | AGENCIES | Breakfast is often described as the most important meal of the day, but is skipping this morning meal really detrimental to health?
Breakfast literally means “to break the fast.” It is the first meal of the day after a stretch of not eating overnight.
Breakfast earned its title as the most important meal of the day back in the 1960s after American nutritionist Adelle Davis suggested that to keep fit and avoid obesity, one should “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”
Breakfast provides the body with important nutrients, to start the day feeling energised and nourished. Many also believe that it can promote weight loss.
But is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?
As with most things in nutrition, the answer is complex. While some research suggests that skipping breakfast is not harmful, other research suggests otherwise.
Eating regular meals and snacks, including breakfast, allows for more opportunities throughout the day to give the body the energy and nutrients it needs to function optimally.
However, as long as a person can fit their nutrients in during other meals, breakfast may not be the most critical meal of the day.
Here is what the science says.
Evidence in support of eating breakfast
Most of the claimed benefits of eating breakfast are primarily derived from observational studies, which cannot prove cause and effect. For example, one 2021 systematic review of 14 observational studies found that those who eat breakfast seven times per week have a reduced risk for: heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, abdominal obesity, cardiovascular-related death, and elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
Again, this particular group of studies can only suggest that those who eat breakfast are more likely to have a reduced risk for the cardiovascular and metabolic diseases mentioned above. It cannot prove that breakfast is what is causing it.
However, an analysis of data on over 30,000 North Americans shows that people who skip breakfast may miss out on important nutrients. The most common nutrients those who skipped breakfast fell short on include: folate, calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamins B1, B2, B3, vitamin C, and vitamin D.
Another randomized control trial carried out over 4 months tested the effectiveness of a recommendation to eat or skip breakfast on weight loss in 309 adults with overweight or obesity trying to lose weight in a free-living setting. At the end of the study, researchers concluded that eating breakfast did not have any significant impact on weight loss compared with not eating breakfast.
Should you eat breakfast?
Because breakfast gives us the opportunity to fuel our body with nutrients, it is an important meal. However, according to recent studies, it may not be the most important meal of the day. Certain groups of people, such as fitness professionals or athletes who train early in the morning, may also feel better after eating breakfast.
What should you eat for breakfast?
If you enjoy breakfast, begin your day with nutritious foods. Some healthy breakfast foods include: eggs, yogurt, berries, whole-grain toast, avocado, and nuts.
The bottom line
Although research suggests that breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day, it is still important. It serves as an opportunity to help you fuel your day and provide key nutrients that your body needs. If you choose not to eat breakfast, there is no reason to feel guilty, and there is not much evidence that it can negatively impact your health. What is important is to eat in a way that works best for you while living a healthy lifestyle and ensuring your nutrient needs are being met during your other meals.
Source: Adapted from Medical News Today