We keep saying it, but when will we practice it?
“People who eat a healthy breakfast tend to eat much more healthily through the day and are less likely to binge on food when they are hungry.”
If your morning routine does not include eating breakfast, you may want to reconsider how you start your day. A mounting body of evidence is proving that breakfast has both short- and long-term health benefits that you can’t get from other meals.
With summer holidays and Ramadan both having ended in the past few weeks and schools across the country back in session, there’s no better time to get on the healthy breakfast bandwagon – especially for schoolchildren.
Research shows that people who eat breakfast are better able to pay attention and concentrate throughout the day. In fact, a review of 47 studies published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2005 found that breakfast consumption improved cognitive function related to memory and test grades, as well as school attendance in children and adolescents.
Improved cognitive function is not the only benefit of breakfast. Research shows breakfast eaters tend to have overall healthier diets and higher intakes of important nutrients. One of the first studies on the subject, published in the same journal in 1995, analysed data from more than 240,000 people and found that individuals who regularly eat breakfast consume up to 68 per cent more folate, 33 per cent more fibre and 50 per cent more vitamin C than non-breakfast eaters. Researchers also found that people who make time for the morning meal additionally get more calcium, iron and vitamin E in their diets. These findings were especially true for people who eat breakfast cereal, which is often fortified with vitamins and minerals.
Perhaps one of the most appealing benefits of the morning meal is its role in weight loss and maintenance. According to Rania Al Halawani, a dietician at MedGate Centre in Dubai, breakfast can help with weight loss by kick-starting the metabolism.
She says breakfast “activates the metabolic rate in your body so you will burn more calories and this will increase your weight loss”. Studies consistently show that breakfast-eaters tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) and are less likely to be overweight compared with non-breakfast eaters. In fact, one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010 found that people who consistently skipped breakfast in both childhood and adulthood had waists that were, on average, five centimetres larger than those of people who always ate breakfast.
According to Zeina Elhoss, a clinical dietician at Live’ly Health and Nutrition Lounge in Dubai, “skipping breakfast is a common strategy among people trying to lose weight, but certainly not a good one”.
She explains that the “body expects to be refuelled several times each day – starting with breakfast”. In fact, research shows that eating breakfast is a characteristic common to people who have been successful at losing weight and keeping it off. One study published in the journal Obesity Research in 2002 from researchers at the University of Colorado health sciences centre in the US, found that of 3,000 adults who had successfully lost at least 13kg, 78 per cent of them reported eating breakfast every day of the week.
Not surprisingly, research indicates that your breakfast choices can influence hunger and calorie consumption later in the day. Al Halawani agrees, saying people who eat a healthy breakfast tend to eat much more healthily through the day and are less likely to binge on food when they are hungry. For example, a study published in the journal Nutrition Research in 2010 reported that eating eggs for breakfast could reduce hunger and decrease calorie consumption throughout the day. Researchers found that when men ate an egg-based breakfast, they consumed 112 fewer calories at a lunch buffet three hours later and 400 fewer calories over the course of the day compared with when they ate a carbohydrate-rich bagel breakfast of equal calories.
So what should you eat for your morning meal? It goes without saying that not all breakfast foods are created equal. If your idea of breakfast is a rich, buttery croissant smothered in chocolate, you are asking for trouble. Balance and portion control are key. The American Dietetic Association recommends using three building blocks to create a healthy breakfast: protein, wholegrains and fresh fruits and vegetables.