Why A Good Breakfast Can Be Great For Your Health

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They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and whoever this ‘they’ is are right.

Eat breakfast like a king, and you are looking at a long and healthy life. Studies have shown that missing breakfast can increase the chances of gaining weight and developing heart disease.

In this article, we shall take a look why you should never miss your breakfast, and what choices are the best.

The Benefits Of Eating Breakfast

There are a number of reasons why you should never miss your breakfast, and here are some of the top reasons why.

1. Breakfast can reduce your chance of developing heart disease

A scientific study that was performed over a period of 16 years in male patients showed that individuals who missed their breakfast had a higher chance of developing coronary heart disease when compared to those who had a healthy start to the day (Cahill, 2013). In fact, eating breakfast reduced the risk by nearly 27%! Similar studies have been published in women cohorts as well.

So if you are in a rush to get to work every morning and end up missing your breakfast, remember that spending a few minutes chomping down on a bowl of fruits or a healthy cereal can be a lifesaver.

2. Improves performance and enhances focus

The nutrient boost you get from a good breakfast can keep you focused on the job, allowing you to perform better and more efficiently. Missing breakfast can be associated with a slump in efficacy.

After all, ‘a hungry man is an angry man’, and not eating for long hours after your last meal (which is the night before) will undoubtedly make you cranky.

Clinical studies that have assessed nutrition in children have clearly stated that the overnight fast and the missing of breakfast in combination can affect the cognitive function of children, particularly reducing their capability of retrieving information from memory quickly (Pollitt, 1995). Short term and long term recall memory were also affected, in addition to the ability to perform arithmetic. Missing breakfast also reduces school attendance rates.

Not so good when studying in a competitive environment, is it?!

3. Maintains healthy body weight

If you miss breakfast, you will put on weight. The concept is simple and dates back to our ancestors and normal physiology.

Instead of boring you with scientific detail here, we shall try to simplify it.

The human body derives energy from the food that is eaten. This food is rich in nutrients that supply the muscles and vital organs with the nourishment it needs.

However, what happens if you do not eat your food on time or miss your breakfast? Well, you have effectively starved yourself for a period of 12 to 15 hours! The body thinks you are ‘starving’, and converts whatever energy or nutrients that are in the body to fat tissue. Fat generates a greater amount of energy compared to simple carbohydrates.

This fat is broken down gradually to supply energy to the body slowly and over a long period of time. In fact, the human body can survive for 3 weeks without food, so in anticipation of that the body starts to generate fat.

Increased body fat means increased weight gain, which over time leads to obesity.

Missing breakfast can increase the tendency to snack mid-morning, and this often includes unhealthy foods. This too can lead to an increase in body weight.

It may be quite surprising to hear that studies have shown that obese women tend to have a smaller breakfast that women who are slim and lean! (Forslund H, 2002)

In a study looking at consumption of breakfast by school children in Delhi, Arora et al found that those who ate a regular, healthy breakfast had lesser weight gain and a lower chance of becoming obese. It is therefore important that parents stress to their child how important a meal breakfast is.

4. A regular breakfast lowers blood cholesterol levels

Yet again, a regular breakfast comes out a winner here.

Starting your day the healthy way can reduce blood cholesterol levels, research has shown. However, most of these studies have looked at the consumption of cereals rather than traditional Indian breakfasts, which makes it difficult to interpret in the Indian context.

As a general rule, breakfasts that are high in fiber content can reduce cholesterol levels. For example, a breakfast rich in psyllium fiber can reduce the levels of LDL, which is the bad cholesterol in the blood (Roberts, 1993).

But a word of caution. If you decide that cereals are the breakfast for your family, then choose carefully. Many cereals available on the market have added sugars and additional ingredients, many of which are not very healthy. Choose oats or whole grain cereals that have no added sugar. Want some sweetness? Add a tablespoon of honey or slice up some fresh fruit into it!

What Is A Healthy Breakfast?

There is a big difference between eating a ‘breakfast’ and eating a ‘healthy breakfast’.

Features Of A Healthy Breakfast
  1. High in fiber
  2. High in protein
  3. Moderate in carbohydrates
  4. Low in fats
  5. Low in sugar

In India, a simple breakfast can be anything ranging from idlis, vadas, dosas, baturas, pooris, chappatis, rice and rava products, to name a few.

But how do you separate the best from the rest?breakfast is the most important meal of the day

It actually is very simple. Any breakfast foods that are fried are unhealthy, period.

Steamed foods such as rice idli or rava idli are very healthy. Baked dishes without any oil such as chapattis and rotis are healthy as well. Stuffed wheat parathas made with very little oil and vegetables can be a great start to your day. Upma prepared the healthy way can be an excellent breakfast.

Despite it’s popularity, dosas can be quite unhealthy, especially because of the oil that is added to make them. Each dosa is around 400 to 500 calories, which can take you an hour on the treadmill to burn! If you can make dosas at home with the tiniest amount of oil, then most certainly enjoy them in moderation.

It is said that the healthiest part of a donut is the hole, and the same holds good for the vada 🙂

Always have a piece of fruit for your breakfast. Papaya, bananas, apples, grapefruit, oranges etc. are all a good choice.

breakfast is the most important meal of the day

Finally, make sure your breakfast is high in fiber. Fiber can reduce the chances of developing heart disease by a significant margin, even if you already follow a low fat high protein diet.

By the way, cereal bars are not the way to start your day. They are packed with sugar and additives that make it an unhealthy breakfast solution.

Adding protein to your breakfast has been found to have additional benefits to health. It can keep the stomach fuller for longer, can reduce snacking and can also reduce weight gain significantly. If you are a non-vegetarian, or don’t mind eating eggs, then eating the egg whites can be a great source of protein.

If you normally maintain a healthy lifestyle and exercise regularly, then one whole egg a day is recommended.

Make Sure You Exercise!

Remember, eating a good and healthy breakfast is all well and good, but make sure you get regular exercise as well. Just a simple walk for 45 minutes a day at a medium brisk pace can help keep the heart healthy.

Breakfast is without a doubt the most important meal of the day, and scientific evidence presented here confirms it. It’s not just you who must follow it – make sure your family does too!


References

1. Pollitt, Ernesto. “Does breakfast make a difference in school?.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 95.10 (1995): 1134-1139.

2. Cahill, Leah E., et al. “Prospective study of breakfast eating and incident coronary heart disease in a cohort of male US health professionals.” Circulation 128.4 (2013): 337-343.

3. Forslund, H. BertĂ©us, et al. “ORIGINAL COMMUNICATION Meal patterns and obesity in Swedish women—a simple instrument describing usual meal types, frequency and temporal distribution.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 56 (2002): 740-747.

4. Arora, Monika, et al. “Association of breakfast intake with obesity, dietary and physical activity behavior among urban school-aged adolescents in Delhi, India: results of a cross-sectional study.” BMC Public Health 12.1 (2012): 881.

5. Roberts, D. C., et al. “The cholesterol-lowering effect of a breakfast cereal containing psyllium fibre.” The Medical journal of Australia 161.11-12 (1993): 660-664.

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Dr Vivek Baliga B
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Dr Vivek Baliga B

Consultant Internal Medicine And Cardiovascular Sciences at Baliga Diagnostics Pvt Ltd
Dr Baliga is a consultant in Internal Medicine and Cardiology with an interest in diabetes and cardiovascular disease. He received his training in India and the UK where he completed his post graduate training and his doctorate. He then completed his MBA from University of Phoenix, USA. He has completed the post graduate program in Cardiology from Johns Hopkins University and participated in the Advanced Certificate Course in Diabetes from the Cleveland Clinic, USA. He also holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Lipid Management from Middlesex University, UK. He is the managing partner of Baliga Diagnostics, Bangalore. He is also the founder of HeartSense and is a keen advocate of patient empowerment, having written almost every article on this website and more. In his spare time, he enjoys running and spending time with his son. Find Dr Vivek Baliga on LinkedIn here - http://heartsense.in/linkedin.
Dr Vivek Baliga B
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