Kim GregoryComment

Is your breakfast bad for you?

Kim GregoryComment
Is your breakfast bad for you?
1_Health.jpg

We’ve been told that it’s the most important meal of the day. But is this actually true? Here we sort the Weetabix from the waffle…

 

We’ve been brought up to think breakfast is the most important meal of the day. 

Whether it’s a bowl of oats or a rushed slice of toast and jam, most people believe something is better than nothing in the morning.

But what if that belief is a myth?

 

Does it matter if we skip breakfast?

Whether it’s down to lack of time or just lack of hunger first thing, around one in four adults regularly skips breakfast.

Studies have shown that missing a morning meal can have serious health consequences, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure. 

Breakfast-skippers are also more likely to have poor nutrition and suffer from diabetes.

But new research has suggested that skipping breakfast may not lead to consuming more calories throughout the day, as previously thought.

With a mountain of information on both sides, it can be tough to decide what’s right for you.

 

Choose substance over size

Naturopathic nutritionist Elspeth Waters believes starting the day with a balanced breakfast is key to keeping sugar cravings at bay.

After a good night’s sleep your blood sugar levels will be lower than normal. Elspeth says that breakfast is vital to enable your liver to stabilise the amount of blood sugars.

She explains: ‘Overnight the liver has been working hard to metabolise all the toxins it’s been experiencing in the day.

‘Something like fruit or a green juice first thing will help to kick-start everything in the right way.’

According to Chinese culture, the stomach is most ready for food between 7am and 9am, making it the perfect window to chow down on a healthy brekkie.

But Elspeth says breakfast doesn’t have to involve eating like a king, and substance is much more important than size. 

She recommends a bowl of granola packed with nuts and seeds topped with berries. 

For those who can’t face the idea of breakfast, even grabbing a banana will have benefits over skipping food altogether. 

Elspeth, a nutritionist listed on Nutritionist Resource, argues that going to work on an empty stomach will leave you reaching for coffee or refined sugars long before lunch.

And the consequences of low blood sugar levels include struggling to think and deal with stressful situations, and bad moods. 

She says: ‘Your brain really, really needs glucose for fuel. A salty packet of crisps or a sweet pastry are the things you’ll crave, instead of getting that from fruit or vegetables.

‘Once you get on that blood sugar rollercoaster, it’s very difficult to get off.’

 

Can breakfast make us overeat?

Despite the arguments supporting the importance of breakfast, new studies are giving more weight to the idea of postponing your morning meal.

Research by biochemist Professor Terence Kealey questions what he has dubbed the ‘glorification of breakfast’.

In his book, Breakfast is a Dangerous Meal, he says eating first thing can actually increase our overall daily calorie intake.

It’s long been thought that a good breakfast prevents overeating throughout the day, but a recent study at Cornell University in New York found this not to be the case. 

When participants were given a light breakfast of 350 calories, the number of calories they consumed during the rest of the day remained unchanged.

The study’s senior author David Levitsky says people who skip breakfast may feel hungrier, but they won’t necessarily eat more calories later on to compensate for the missed meal.

He says: ‘I realise that skipping breakfast runs counter to common belief — that breakfast is an important meal for weight control — but the data does not support this view. 

‘Of course, these results apply to healthy adults — if you’re diabetic or hypoglycaemic, for example, you need to eat breakfast to maintain glucose levels.

‘But generally, we must learn to eat less, and occasionally skipping a morning meal may be a reasonable way to accomplish this.’

 

Better late than never

Fiona Kirk, nutritionist and author of the New 2 Weeks in the Fast Lane Diet, agrees that you don’t have to be a slave to the breakfast habit.

She says: ‘I prefer to call it your first meal of the day rather than breakfast, as it is perfectly acceptable from a health and weight loss perspective to have something nourishing an hour or two into your day.

‘If you’re not hungry at seven or eight in the morning, don’t fret, but don’t leave it too long or there is a strong chance you will get to mid-morning and, as your energy levels take a dive, find yourself grabbing something that won’t do your waistline any favours.’

Fiona says a first meal of the day should include protein to help keep hunger at bay, fruit or vegetables to boost vitamins and minerals, a little fat to wake up fat-burning enzymes, and occasionally a small amount of starch. But she urges people to avoid sugary cereals, bread and rolls, which can increase sugar cravings later in the day.

 

TIPS FOR A HEALTHY BREAKFAST

Kick-start your metabolism with fruit or a vegetable smoothie.

Include some protein to keep hunger at bay.

Don’t skip breakfast altogether — your brain needs energy to function well.

Avoid sugary cereals, muffins and pastries.