Is breakfast essential?
- ‘Fasting’ is when a person abstains from consuming food or drink that triggers the body’s digestive response. People typically fast from food daily when they sleep at night, which necessarily means they are not eating.
- The word ‘Breakfast’ first came about in the mid-15th century to mean ‘the first meal of the day’ when one breaks their fasting period.
- It is believed that ancient Romans are credited with creating the oldest pancake recipe, known as Alita Dolcia – a dish made of milk, flour, egg, and spices. Today, pancakes are standard worldwide breakfast dishes.
- A 2021 One Poll survey found that among working Americans, 64% regularly skip meals, with 57%, or one in five people, skipping breakfast in the morning during the work week.
- The most popular breakfast food in America is cereal, with eggs and fruit following in second and third place.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day due to its positive impact on health and is therefore essential. Breakfast is important as it breaks one's overnight fast—hence the name 'breakfast.' Dr. David S. Ludwig, a nutrition expert at Harvard-affiliated Children's Hospital Boston, states that skipping breakfast throws off the normal circadian rhythm of fasting and feeding. Breakfast is the worst time to skip a meal.' Studies have also shown that eating breakfast replenishes glucose (blood sugar) levels and improves energy levels which is important for adequate bodily function throughout the day.
Eating breakfast has also been proven to improve cognitive function. In a student-centered study, data revealed that the students who ate breakfast had better overall academic performance than those who did not eat breakfast. This is due to the improved cognitive function from the increased availability of glucose from eating breakfast in the morning. The Food Research and Action Center reported that students who ate breakfast the morning of a standardized test had significantly higher scores in spelling, reading, and math when compared to students who did not eat breakfast.
Incorporating breakfast regularly into one's eating regimen also offers a number of health benefits. Reportedly, individuals who eat breakfast regularly are less likely to experience obesity. Also, a 2016 study via Saveetha Dental College revealed a link between body mass index (BMI) and breakfast consumption, with 20% of the breakfast
consumers registering as obese, while 51% of the breakfast skippers were obese according to BMI. For these reasons and more, breakfast is a vital tool essential for maintaining one's health.
Contrary to the advice of parents and The Muppets alike, breakfast isn't the day's most important meal. In fact, this notion was pushed by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the man behind breakfast cereal. He aggressively promoted the need for breakfast and consuming low-calorie breakfast food such as his own corn flakes.
While the idea of breakfast being non-essential may seem hard to digest (pun intended), scientists are stacking evidence supporting it. Several scientific reviews have uncovered that scientists may be overstating the importance of breakfast. For instance, investigations into the proposition that skipping breakfast results in weight gain show limited to no evidence.
On the contrary, research has found that skipping breakfast can lead to weight loss. That's possible, considering skipping meals reduces one's total calorie intake. And this is what intermittent fasting is all about.
Intermittent fasting doesn't only make breakfast optional. It advocates delaying that meal or even skipping it altogether, as extended fasting periods allow the body to pull energy from existing stored fat. What makes this practice of extending fasting periods more appealing is the numerous benefits it offers, including boosting verbal memory, improving heart health, and controlling diabetes.
That said, individuals skipping breakfast should fit important nutrients commonly found in common breakfast foods in their remaining meals. That way, they won't miss out on any nutrients by opting out of such food. So, with not much evidence indicating skipping breakfast can negatively impact health, the meal can be considered more of a personal choice rather than an essential meal. Just as in medicine, there's no one-size fits all approach when it comes to food.