People have long said that breakfast should be “fit for a king” — it’s supposed to be the most important meal of the day, after all. But is eating breakfast really that important? While some people may get by with eating brunch, preferring to spend their mornings getting dressed and going to work, sans a bite of breakfast, most research supports good breakfast habits.
Some might argue that too much emphasis has been placed on eating lunch and dinner. Compared to those two, there’s only so much you can do with breakfast ingredients, which usually include various preparations of eggs, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and some kind of grain — in America, at least. But who said that you have to eat traditional breakfast foods for breakfast? Regardless, those foods still provide some of the most important nutrients you can get out of your day. Protein, fiber, and carbohydrates energize the body and set it up for a day full of activities.
Diets that focus on the breakfast being the biggest meal of the day have been shown to reduce appetite, contribute to weight loss, and better cholesterol. A study from Tel Aviv University found that people who consumed the most amount of calories (50 percent of daily intake) at breakfast, tapering off with each subsequent meal, thus eating only 14 percent of daily allotted calories for dinner, were not only more likely to lose weight (19.1 lbs. versus 7.9 lbs.) but also more likely to lower so-called bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, LDL) while increasing good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, HDL).
Along with the Tel Aviv study, others have shown that big breakfasts reduce blood glucose and stabilize insulin levels. This happens because people who eat bigger breakfasts are less likely to snack or feel hungry during the day. In turn, their blood glucose levels remain stable, rather than spiking every time they snack — blood glucose spikes can be more dangerous, as they force the heart to work harder to pump blood. These results are important because spiking blood glucose levels are not only a risk factor for diabetes, but metabolic syndrome as a whole, encompassing risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and arterial diseases like hypertension.
So, breakfast must be good for something — nobody wants diabetes or heart disease — but could it just be that eating earlier in the day, in general, is better than eating more later on or snacking constantly? A November 2013 study found that diabetic patients who skipped breakfast but ate a hefty Mediterranean diet, consisting of the total amount of calories as two other test diets, produced a similar metabolic response to those who ate a low-fat breakfast, despite being nearly double the amount of calories. This could have happened, though, because Mediterranean diets are already pretty healthy, consisting of olive oil, nuts, fruit, vegetables, beans, grains, and a moderate intake of fish and poultry.
Although skeptics may argue that these findings aren’t causal, they admit a correlation. What this means is that there’s some connection between the two, even if only loosely. So, choosing a healthy, nutritious meal will only make you healthier, no matter the time of day. But also, see what’s right for you. If you feel that you’re less hungry after a big breakfast, or that you’re able to eat less with each subsequent meal throughout the day, then do so.