Pretty much everybody knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Growing up, our mothers likely hammered home this belief, and now we pass this idea on, as fact, to our own children.
So, is it true? Is breakfast really so important?
Official nutrition guidelines claim that skipping breakfast can lead to weight gain, and including breakfast can decrease our changes of obesity. A 2015 study showed that at least 25% of Americans skip breakfast! Given the obesity statistics released by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, two out of every three adults is obese or overweight. So, is skipping breakfast the culprit?
New studies have come out recently that question the prevalent and undisputed breakfast argument, and we are learning that there is likely not one simple answer.
Let’s dive into some of the facts…
Observational Studies on Breakfast-Eaters
Several studies have shown that people who regularly eat breakfast tend to be leaner and healthier, overall. However, observational studies are not able to prove whether this increase in health stems from the act of eating breakfast, itself, or simply because individuals who eat breakfast tend to also have other healthier diet habits overall, such as a higher vitamin, mineral and fiber intake.
This same study tells us that people who typically do not eat breakfast also have higher probabilities of smoking, exercising less, and drinking more.
Does Breakfast Boost Your Metabolism?
This is a myth, and one that is deeply seeded in the minds of any health-conscious eater. As a Nutritionist, I certainly used to advise my clients to always eat breakfast for this very reason, that it offers a “boost” to the metabolism. Now, it is true that taking in food at any time during the day revs up your metabolism (which is why eating the bulk of your carbohydrates in the 2-hour window post-exercise is a great weight-loss trick), but there is no evidence suggesting that breakfast alone boosts metabolic activity more-so than any other time of day.
Does Skipping Breakfast Make You Gain Weight?
Multiple studies have been conducted with the goal of answering this question, such as this 2014 example from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, concluding that eating or skipping breakfast amongst over 300 obese adults made no difference whatsoever.
This and other studies dispute the thought that skipping breakfast leads to weight gain, and even suggests that, for some, it can be a tool in losing weight, as it means we are eliminating an entire meal (generally between 400-500 calories per day).
One important factor to consider in the breakfast/weight-loss debate is that for some, skipping breakfast makes you hungrier, and therefore increases cravings and calorie consumption later in the day, particularly in the form of refined carbohydrates and refined sugar. And this will certainly lead to weight gain.
So, Should I Eat Breakfast?
The bottom line when it comes to the eating breakfast or not, is that it really boils down to personal choice, and biochemistry. Similarly, to that there is no one-size-fits-all dietary approach in any realm of diet, whether or not breakfast is right for you depends largely on how you feel.
Some are simply “morning people.” You get up early, and the morning hours are when you feel most productive and energetic. This group of people is more likely to thrive on a hearty and consistent breakfast routine, and feel depleted as the day goes on, without it.
Another group of people that should incorporate breakfast within one hour of eating, are those suffering from adrenal fatigue. Maintaining stable blood sugar throughout the day is key for supporting and healing the adrenal glands, and breakfast plays an important role.
However, if you are a healthy adult, whether or not to eat breakfast is your choice, and should largely depend on how you feel with and without it. Of course, making sure to consume an appropriate amount of nutrient-dense calories within the day is still hugely important.
Healthy Breakfast Options
- 2 eggs, 2 handfuls of raw or cooked greens (kale, chard, spinach, etc), and a 1/2 cup of raw sauerkraut.
- Frittata or egg scramble with grass-fed beef and vegetables of your choice, with 1/2 baked sweet potato.
- Whole, plain yogurt with a tablespoon of ground flax seeds, one piece of organic fruit, and a touch of honey or maple syrup as a sweetener.
- Smoothie with unsweetened coconut or almond milk, 1 cup frozen or fresh berries, 1 handful of greens, 1 serving of a high quality protein powder, ice and water as desired.
-  Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “40-year trends in meal and snack eating behaviors of American adults.” Retrieved February 11, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25088521
-  Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Nutrient intake, diet quality, and weight/adiposity parameters in breakfast patterns compared with no breakfast in adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2008.” Retrieved February 11, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25458992
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. “The effectiveness of breakfast recommendations on weight loss: a randomized controlled trial.” Retrieved February 11, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24898236