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To Eat, Or Not To Eat, Breakfast That Is The Question — Answered

Breakfast sets the tone for the day. Starting the day right is important for steady blood glucose levels throughout the day.

By Nandita Iyer
New Update
health benefits of breakfast

One of the prevailing debates in modern nutrition revolves around the question – to breakfast or not to breakfast. For years, we were taught that breakfast is the most vital meal of the day, following the adage "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper."

Ignoring the patriarchal angle of this saying, we now know that it oversimplifies the complex realm of nutrition.

Where Did The Concept Of Breakfast Come From?

Twelve thousand years ago and more, hunter-gatherers had no concept of breakfast. Their eating was determined by chancing upon food, hunting success and the seasons. They ate when food was available and went without it for long periods of time when it was not. Fast forwarding to 100-200 years ago, I doubt my ancestors living an agrarian life in a village in present-day Tamil Nadu ever sat down for breakfast. They possibly worked in the fields in the morning, having a filling beverage like kanji (porridge) or leftover rice from the previous day crushed into buttermilk while in the fields and then coming home for a mid-morning lunch followed by a siesta.

The earliest recorded evidence of people consuming breakfast dates back to ancient Egypt where people had bread, beer, and sometimes fruits in the morning. The ancient Greeks had a morning meal which was usually bread dipped in wine or water. In medieval Europe, breakfast was a part of the mid-morning meal which comprised bread, cheese and the previous night’s leftovers.

How Did Breakfast Evolve?

The Industrial Revolution led to the popularity of quick convenient breakfast options like ready-to-eat cereal invented by John Harvey Kellogg in the late 19th century. Urbanisation, availability of electricity, kitchen appliances, women entering the workforce and more recently, the ability to order breakfast in under 30 minutes from a variety of apps — each of these has contributed to how the concept of breakfast has been evolving with the times. Dietary trends, cultural influences, health consciousness and intermittent fasting also impact what role breakfast plays in our lives.

Team Breakfast Is Bae

1. Eating a balanced breakfast in the morning is a good way to fuel up on all the useful nutrients. It sets a positive tone for eating well throughout the day.
2. Eating a nutritious breakfast has been associated with maintaining a healthy body weight. It prevents us from feeling ravenous later in the day, resorting to overeating and making unhealthy food choices. Breakfast also possibly boosts metabolism.
3. Eating breakfast helps regulate blood sugar levels, especially for diabetics. For those who are on insulin, eating regular meals helps regulate insulin dosage. Diabetics especially benefit from eating proteins and healthy fats for breakfast along with complex carbs, which ensures a steady release of blood glucose instead of spikes and crashes.
4. If you are one to have an early dinner, then you may feel hungry within an hour or two of waking up. It is in alignment with the circadian rhythms of the body when insulin sensitivity is at its peak and digestive enzymes and other hormones support the state of being fed. It is good to eat breakfast during this interval to kick start your day feeling fuelled and energetic.

Team Breakfast Is Evil

1. Studies that show that breakfast eaters have better health parameters such as lesser chances of being obese or overweight and showing a lower risk for chronic diseases are merely observational and the positive outcomes cannot be attributed to breakfast alone. In all probability, it is due to the overall health consciousness of breakfast eaters who have other healthy habits that go along with eating breakfast.
2. There are studies to prove that there is no difference in calories burnt in a day between people who eat and skip breakfast.
3. Skipping breakfast reduces the overall calorie intake by up to 400 calories a day which is good for those who want to reduce weight. To give you some perspective, one hour of brisk walking burns around 400 calories.
4. The benefits of intermittent fasting weigh strongly in favour of team no-breakfast. Improved insulin sensitivity, metabolic health, and cellular repair mechanisms are some of the benefits to be gained even when breakfast is skipped to increase the hours of the fasting window.
5. Not all breakfasts are created equal. It is better to skip breakfast than eat unhealthy breakfasts like sugary cereals and fruit juices, commercially available baked goods with unhealthy fats and sugar.

Basic Breakfast Rules

If going without breakfast suits your health parameters, then it is ok to skip it. But remember to break your fast with something healthy such as a combination of proteins and fats so that the blood sugar levels go up gradually.

Breakfast sets the tone for the day. Starting the day right is important for steady blood glucose levels throughout the day. If you do choose to eat breakfast, ensure that it has a good amount of protein, healthy fats and fibre (from complex carbs like veggies, whole grains, lentils, beans, and sweet potato) which will fuel you right and keep you filled for long. Poached egg, sliced tomatoes and avocado on a whole grain sourdough toast is not just hipster, it’s also a good breakfast for you.

Unfortunately, most Indian breakfasts like upma, poha, paratha, masala dosa, sabudana khichdi etc. delicious as they are, are heavy on carbs alone, so you must be careful about portion control and pairing it with a good source of protein.

Some Breakfast Meal Prep Tips For The Busy Individual

1. Keeping idli/dosa batter handy ensures you have access to breakfast in just over 10 minutes. Adding veggies into the batter and a source of protein on the side like eggs or yoghurt makes it a breakfast that ticks all the right boxes.
2. Overnight oats are another easy meal prep. Choose rolled oats and soak them overnight in yoghurt or milk (refrigerated) along with a serving of chia seeds (fibre, protein, healthy fats). Avoid adding high-sugar fruits to oats, which are already carb-rich. Adding chopped nuts or sliced avocados to overnight oats is a good option. Keep them savoury.
3. Preparing vegetable and egg savoury muffins or bakes which can be portioned and kept ready works well for breakfast on the go.

The arguments for and against eating breakfast are both valid and they present different perspectives on its impact on health and well-being. Your decision to eat breakfast or skip it should be based on your lifestyle, health goals and dietary habits. If the barrage of conflicting information is overwhelming, consider consulting with your physician or registered nutritionist for personalised advice.

The key thing to remember is that being healthy is more than just breakfast. It involves maintaining an overall balanced diet, regular physical activity, getting quality sleep, and managing stress, and breakfast is just one small part of it.

 

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