You’ve heard it said a hundred times before: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” But do you actually know why it’s the ultimate and total boss meal of all your meals? The word breakfast actually means to “BREAK the FAST” (I know, I learned that too just now.) Aside from giving you the energy you need to start your day, having breakfast can actually determine what state your mind and body will be in for the rest of it. As important of a meal breakfast is, it’s also the easiest to skip. Whether you’re sleeping in til lunch to recover from a late night, or rushing to get to work on time, most of the people I know – primarily those in their 20s – have a nasty habit of staving off their hunger til noon. Here’s why it’s high time to kick that habit:
Breakfast Benefit #1: Weight Management
A lot of people think that by skipping breakfast, which is an entire meal, it’s helping them diet. False! Even though it seems like you’re saving calories, it’s a very counterproductive strategy, because it actually leads to high-calorie cravings later on in the day. This is because skipping breakfast has been noted in some studies to significantly increase brain activity in our “reward center”, making even pictures of food high in sugar and fat unusually more appealing, and making it harder for you to stick to healthier food choices later on.
Remember, it’s when you wake up in the morning that your metabolism is at its slowest and your blood sugar levels at their lowest. Your body practically goes into a sort of “energy saving” self-preservation mode, because the systems involved believe its starving. Skipping breakfast will slow the rate of your metabolism for the rest of the day, making it more difficult for your body to burn calories and keep them off once you do eat something.
Breakfast Benefit #2: Better Mood and Performance
This effect is a given, because breakfast basically gives the mind and body adequate fuel to run on. When you force yourself back into your daily routine without the most important meal of the day, your blood sugar levels will continue to drop, and a steroid hormone is released. Meet cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, and one of the body’s survival mechanisms.
One of cortisol’s jobs is to make sure the body has fuel by breaking down stuff it already has stored. I bet you’re thinking, “Oh good, it’ll target my fat cells.” Sure, it will, but not nearly enough to slim you down. The result is a sort of forced and self-taxing means of refuelling, which actually makes you feel more sluggish, cranky, and unmotivated.
In fact, countless studies have shown that people who habitually eat breakfast tend to have less anxiety during challenging situations, are able to deal with problems more effectively, perform better in language and arithmetic, and have a longer attention span and hand-eye coordination. This is why breakfast is especially crucial for school age children.
Breakfast Benefit #3: Better Sleep and Overall Health
Another thing you should know about the hormone cortisol is that it’s secreted in large amounts in the morning to get us going, and decreases as the day progresses. If you habitually skip breakfast and always let cortisol pump your gas for you, it remains elevated in your system and can cause several problems that can take their toll.
With your stress hormone still circulating in your blood, falling asleep and achieving deep sleep will be difficult, and everyone knows how important sleep is for overall mind and body wellness. Poor quantities and qualities of sleep, aside from depriving your body of enough time to repair itself, causes a lot of other hormonal imbalances which make you more susceptible to disease.
Skipping breakfast has also been linked to an increased risk for diabetes, obesity and heart disease, because it triggers insulin resistance – a state wherein your body does not respond to the usual amounts of insulin required to assimilate sugar, forcing it to pump out more insulin. If this happens all the time, the beta cells in your pancreas that produce insulin get exhausted. Enter diabetes.
Breakfast Benefit #4: You Can Go Big!
Fact is, your body’s sensitivity to insulin is at its highest when you wake up in the morning and maintains a healthy level of sensitivity in response to the normal drop in cortisol that comes after you’ve eaten breakfast. This basically means your body is most equipped to handle a big meal first thing in the morning!
This of course doesn’t mean you can just wolf down everything in sight. You can go big as long as you keep it clean! A good portion of protein and fiber are recommended, along with vitamins and antioxidants in some fruit. See breakfast as the meal where you can get creative and indulge a little, because it naturally makes it easier for you to cut back during lunch and dinner and keep you away from empty-calorie snacking.
Breakfast Benefit #5: Best Time to Think and Bond
That window in between getting out of bed and heading off to work is the best time to get your thoughts together and set the tone for the day. Everyone in the house is in the kitchen and conversations are at their most optimistic. Couple your breakfast with a good cup of coffee and a good morning kiss, and you’re most likely to leave the house on a more positive note and be able to accomplish more tasks.