Is Breakfast Really That Important?

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From the time we were little kids, we have been taught that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” But is it really?

The experts are divided. Many cling to the long-held assumption that eating breakfast is the key to a happy and productive day. More recently, a new school of thought has emerged which argues that there is no real basis for placing such importance on breakfast, and that skipping it is just fine.

What’s the truth? Does it vary from person to person, or is there some general piece of advice that is good for everyone to follow? Let’s get to the bottom of this and find out whether that bowl of granola or is it bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich is really necessary.


The Arguments Over Breakfast

One of the common arguments in favor of eating breakfast is that skipping breakfast will make you hungrier over the course of the day which will cause you to overeat later on as a result. Thus, skipping a meal can, paradoxically, contribute to obesity. But is this really true?

It seems to make sense. If you do not eat breakfast, you will eat more food at lunch, right? For many years this conventional wisdom has been accepted, but the fact is that there is not a whole lot of evidence to support it.

In both laboratory studies and long-term real-world studies following participants as they go about their normal day, researchers found no evidence that skipping breakfast resulted in eating more. In fact, the caloric intake for the day was up to 400 calories lower than if they had eaten breakfast. So, while skipping breakfast may result in eating a bigger lunch, it is still not enough to overcompensate for the skipped meal.

One four month long study on 309 adults who were considered obese was conducted to determine whether or not eating breakfast played any role in gaining or losing weight. At the end of the experiment, the researchers found no difference in weight between those who skipped breakfast and the control group.

This transitions neatly into the next common argument for the necessity of breakfast: That eating it boosts your metabolism and therefore helps you lose weight. This is known as the process of diet-induced thermogenesis, or DIT, which is part of the digestive process.

Eating food does in fact trigger DIT, and there is also some evidence that eating in the morning triggers it more than eating later in the day. But DIT only accounts for around 10 percent of energy intake. If you eat a lot of protein it might go up to 15 percent, but that’s still not very high.

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Rather, it appears that there is a general correlation between eating breakfast and an overall healthy lifestyle. People following a healthy diet and exercise routine are more likely to eat a small, healthy breakfast because their bodies are engaged in more physical activity. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that people who skip breakfast are probably feel less energetic because they don’t take in as many calories, and don’t engage in as much physical activity as a result.

Finally, it goes without saying that the type of food you are eating for breakfast plays a major role here. Eating a huge bowl of sugary, mass-produced breakfast cereal is unhealthy, period. Eating some fruit and Greek yogurt however will be quite healthy, and be just the right way to start the day.


Potential Benefits of Skipping Breakfast

There are certain dieting methods like Intermittent Fasting which call for limiting eating to specific windows of time during the day, and fasting during all other hours. A typical intermittent fasting program calls for a 16-hour window of fasting and an 8-hour window during which all meals are consumed. Usually this results in skipping breakfast and only eating lunch and dinner, or a few smaller meals, or one big meal during the day.

There is a certain logic to it. It is designed around the idea that the humans in prehistoric eras skipped breakfast all the time. In the days before modern food preservation technologies, people had to wake up each morning and hunt and gather their food, which meant that many times there probably wasn’t breakfast just sitting around ready to eat. Some people claim that intermittent fasting has helped them lose weight, although it is worth pointing out that the fitness-minded people are generally the type of people who would gravitate toward intermittent fasting in the first place, so there are probably multiple factors at work.


READ ALSO: Need Some Breakfast Inspiration? Try These 5 Easy 5-Minute Recipes Video


Do we really need to eat breakfast? The truth is it really depends on the person. If you feel famished and can’t think straight in the morning, then yes, eat some breakfast. If you’re not hungry then don’t eat it. That’s really all there is to it.

Try experimenting with both to see what works for you, and learn to listen to the signals your body is sending.