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Do You Really Need to Eat Breakfast?

Do you feel rushed in the morning? Between getting ready, packing lunches, and glugging down a cup of coffee (or two), weekday mornings can be hectic. Skipping breakfast may be appealing, especially if you feel like you can’t fit one more thing on your plate in the morning – figuratively and literally. But are you doing more harm than good by skipping breakfast? New research shows that cutting your morning meal is, in fact, bad for your waistline.

Why People Skip Breakfast

If weight loss is your goal, it may be even more tempting to skip breakfast. It seems logical – if you put less food in your belly, it should shrink. One study published in the National Library of Medicine says those who skip breakfast may lose weight due to reduced appetite. Despite this, the study credited breakfast eaters as healthier overall. Although breakfast skippers in this study lost weight, they experienced increased total cholesterol levels. 

Breakfast skippers are actually twice as likely than breakfast eaters to pack on pounds. This is because breakfast skippers are short on energy so they move less and therefore burn fewer calories. Skipping breakfast turns down calorie burning and actually turns up your appetite for the rest of the day. 

Why You Should Eat Breakfast

Not only do breakfast eaters tend to look healthier, but they also feel better. When breakfast is skipped, levels of the hunger-causing hormone ghrelin shoot up. Hunger clouds the judgment and sends us running for a burrito or cookie later in the day. Poor judgment alone, over time, can contribute to weight gain and an unhealthy lifestyle. In addition, breakfast skippers need more encouragement to eat whole grains and fruits – normal breakfast food ingredients – throughout the day according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The foods eaten at breakfast set the tone for the rest of the day. Fruit and whole grains consumed at breakfast provide energy and macronutrient density. Breakfast foods are also associated with high fiber. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute correlates “a higher calcium and fiber intake,” with a lower BMI.

Eating breakfast is advantageous for weight management because more energy is available to get up and move around – this is known as high rebound energy and is possible with routine breakfast consumption. Breakfast skippers have lower energy levels which encourage sedentary activities.

It’s not only important to eat breakfast, but consistency is key. Eating breakfast every day is better than eating breakfast inconsistently, especially when it comes to women’s health and risk of type 2 diabetes. Another American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study documented 1,560 cases of type 2 diabetes and found that “women who consumed breakfast irregularly (0-6 times per week) were at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes than were women who consumed breakfast daily.” 

Skipping meals is also associated with increased bodyweight, hypertension, insulin resistance, elevated fasting lipid concentrations, and risk of coronary heart disease. 

Learning to Love Breakfast and Mornings

It’s easy to understand a love-hate relationship with mornings. However, learning to think of mornings as a beneficial opportunity, instead of something to dread, can have a very positive influence on your life. Morning, in and of itself, can be great for your health.

In a Northwestern University study on weight loss, researchers found people who got most of their daily exposure to even moderately bright light in the morning, had significantly lower BMI (Body Mass Index) values. In fact, 20 percent of the 54 test subjects lost more weight when they were exposed to 20 to 30 minutes of sunlight between 8am and noon.

Learning to make better use of morning time can mean opening the schedule for breakfast. If your excuse for skipping breakfast is “not enough time,” then push yourself to make time – or make your breakfasts ahead of time. A great recipe in Younger in Eight Weeks for cinnamon-berry flaxseed muffins calls for only 9 ingredients and the muffins are only 175 calories each. Plus the added flaxseed will maintain a sense of fullness longer.

Make-Ahead Cinnamon-Berry Flaxseed Muffins

  • ¾ cup almond meal or almond flour
  • 1/3-cup ground flaxseed
  • 1-teaspoon baking powder
  • 1-teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 omega-3 fortified eggs
  • ¼-cup 2% plain Greek yogurt
  • 1-tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup blueberries or raspberries

Another quick breakfast that can help you stay slim as you age is yogurt, which promotes weight loss. A recent study by the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University found that people who consumed more than 3 weekly servings of yogurt gained less weight over a 1-year period than those who ate less than 1 serving per week. This is probably due to the diversity of microbes in the probiotics, which can rev the metabolism.

Love them or hate them – mornings are here to stay, so use them to good advantage. And so is breakfast, which is in fact a very important meal of the day. So thank your mothers for (once again) being right.