Is it essential to eat breakfast first thing in the morning?
I have been asked many times whether it is bad to miss breakfast. I have also heard many people tell me that they don’t eat breakfast but rather have only a big lunch or a big supper. Well, what is the truth? Is it better to have breakfast or to skip it out and eat later or on? Or should you have a small meal compared to a large one?
For years we have been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. There is a saying that eat breakfast like a King, Lunch like a queen and supper like a popper.
Well, what I am going to let you know is that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to answering all these questions. What is most important is to understand whether what you are choosing to do is adding to your health in the long run.
Pros of Breakfast
Skipping breakfast has been shown to leave people often hungry, so they’re more likely to make poor decisions when it comes time to eat lunch. Eating a balanced, substantial breakfast can help you avoid overeating at your next meal and snacking on unhealthy foods throughout the day due to low energy, low blood sugar, and low nutrient intake.
A large clinical review done by the Medical University of Warsaw Poland looked at 13 studies to investigate the impact of eating breakfast on weight gain and consistently found that people who regularly eat breakfast had better protection against becoming overweight or obese than breakfast-skippers.
Another study showed that dieters lost more weight when they ate the majority of their calories in the morning (roughly 700 calories), compared to those eating more throughout the day and at nighttime.
Eating the right foods upon waking up, especially kinds that are high in healthy calories and high in healthy fats have been shown to make people more prepared to work, move and make better decisions all day long
What about skipping or having a late breakfast?
However, on the flip side, there is now growing evidence to suggest that eating your first meal of the day after 10 am can have significant health benefits too.
There is a concept called intermittent fasting that I believe has a lot to offer those who can learn to adapt to it. This involves either eating between a small window of time each day (usually eight to ten hours) while abstaining from eating for the remainder of the day/night (fasting for 14 to 16 hours). And the best window for this is 8 pm to 10 am or 8 pm to Noon. This would then most likely mean that you would skip breakfast.
Some studies show that health benefits of intermittent fasting include the ability to improve insulin sensitivity (the hormone that balances blood sugar levels, burn fat for fuel more quickly, improve blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce cravings, improve brain function, and lose weight or maintain a healthy weight without needing to count calories.
So, despite the fact that we’ve always been told never to skip breakfast, many people who practice intermittent fasting will also see significant results.
Intermittent fasting will lead to calorie restriction that has been shown to help long-term weight management and to increase longevity.
After speaking with my dad about this concept, he mentioned to me that this is really what people did a few years ago. They woke up in the morning and went to tend to their gardens, carrying a snack/meal that would be eaten at about 11 am. And the last meal of the day was rarely past 7-8 pm. So intermittent fasting may not be a new concept.
The word breakfast, actually implies that we should break a fast. And it does not necessarily mention that it should be at 7 am. In fact, eating breakfast early in the morning was introduced into our cultures when formal employment and office jobs became more common. Because people had to leave home early and would probably not have an ideal time at work, their breakfasts tended to be before they leave the house.
That being said, despite the longevity and health benefits of intermittent fasting, it might not be a realistic option for many people because of our working lifestyles, because of personal preference but also for individuals who have blood sugar control problems.
People who have low or high blood sugar and who struggle with cravings may not do well on intermittent fasting and should consider eating more regular meals.
It will likely comes down to the quality of food you consume when you do choose to eat, plus personal preference.
Is it a good idea to fast in the morning and then eat poor quality refined and processed foods throughout the rest of the eight to 10-hour window? No, of course not.
But if you personally find that skipping breakfast helps you better manage your hunger levels, cravings, and food intake while still allowing you to eat plenty of whole-nutrient foods later in the day, it might be a good option for you.
To sum up the importance of breakfast timing, breakfast seems to help many people eat a healthy diet overall, but on the other hand, some people do best skipping breakfast.
We are all different, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that works best for everyone. Focus first on consuming high-quality foods and then consider if shifting your meal times around a bit could further benefit you.
I find that intermittent fasting is better tolerated when someone is healthier. So, if you are interested in intermittent fasting, first begin by eating healthier and more regularly and then slowly get into the practice of intermittent fasting.
What are the healthier breakfast options then?
In my opinion, foods that are high in healthy carbohydrates are ideal for breakfast, and the 2 best sources of this are fruit and grains.
Additionally, adding some high-fat items like seeds and a few protein-rich foods like eggs may also be useful.
My advice on how to structure your breakfast
Upon rising have 500mls (2 to 3 glasses) of room temperature or lukewarm water with an option of lemon or cucumber slices
Next, have 2 to 3 servings of fresh whole fruit. A serving size is estimated by the size of your fist. Aim to have a variety of colours as well but select what you prefer. It would be good to have some chia or flax seeds with the fruit.
You can opt to have only that for your breakfast, or you can have some additional breakfast items. If you would like to have something in addition to fruit, aim to have it if possible 20 to 30 minutes after the fruit. A few additional things to consider adding include
Whole and intact grains. My preference being
Have no more than 3 eggs a week. Opt for organic free range (local) eggs and prefer boiled over frying.
Have a cup of herbal or green tea, without sugar and if possible without milk. Honey is an acceptable sweetener but remember that it carries more calories than sugar
If you must use animal milk, use low-fat milk but also consider getting unsweetened plant varieties like almond milk
Have a vegetable/fruit juice with no sugar added
If you want to consider using a spread for your bread, I recommend using more natural nut butter like peanut butter or honey
You should be able to structure your breakfast in a way that suits your preference. But always aim to make whatever meal you are going to have as healthy as it possibly can be.
I hope at this point you are able to appreciate that the major emphasis on breakfast should be on getting a healthy breakfast whatever time of the day you choose to have it and the time will really depend on personal preference and how you feel you want to impact your health and weight with the timing of your meal.
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I wish you a great month and hope you will start enjoying healthier breakfasts.