Is breakfast the most important meal in the day?

Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

We have been instilled with this statement since a very young age. 

“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper”. Many of us grew up believing we must eat a big breakfast in the morning. 

It is said that breakfast is the meal to provide energy to kickstart our day and carry out our daily activities. Whereas we should keep dinner small and light, as we are prepared to rest and do not need much energy. Some said eating heavy dinners is the cause of weight gain and other diseases. 

The benefits of breakfast

Besides the benefit mentioned above, eating breakfast brings many health benefits, according to research.[1]

  1. Appetite control. As reported by numerous studies, increase meal frequency (regular breakfast consumption) helps to increase satiety and eat less overall.
  2. Improve mood. In a study targeting Spanish adolescents, eating breakfast can help to reduce stress, improve mood and feel more positive.[2]
  3. Reduce the risk of chronic disease. Skipping breakfast has been linked to an increased risk of developing metabolic syndromes, which can lead to metabolic diseases like stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.[3]

However, some said they don’t have the habit of eating breakfast,  don’t feel like eating in the morning, or feel sleepy and cannot focus after breakfast, so they rather skip it. Does this mean they are unhealthy?

The truth is, the concept of “3 meals per day” is just a cultural norm that has been established in many societies, but it is not the only way to eat. Think of our ancestors in Palaeolithic Age, which relies heavily on hunting activities. Their food hunting and gathering practice depend on the availability of resources, rather than adhering to a strict meal schedule.  

Intermittent fasting

The most popular fasting method nowadays is intermittent fasting. 

Read more about intermittent fasting here: Does Intermittent Fasting helps in Weight Loss?

Intermittent fasting, for example, the 168, requires long hours of fasting. Some who practise IF might choose to skip morning meals instead of dinner. This skipping breakfast behaviour somehow has been studied for its potential health benefits:

  1. Increased insulin sensitivity, which leads to better blood sugar control and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
  2. Improve brain health, including memory and learning.
  3. Promote weight loss
  4. Reduced inflammation in the body, which helps lower the risk of certain diseases. 

The result is inconsistent and the argument never stops. However, it is worth noting that not everyone should follow the “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” statement. Some people feel their conditions are better without taking breakfast, so be it. 

What is the best time for breakfast?

It is generally recommended to eat breakfast within the first or two hours of waking up. However, the best time for breakfast can vary depending on the individual’s schedule and lifestyle. For example, if one has a late dinner, he is likely to delay breakfast on next day too. 

Who should not skip breakfast

Even though one can choose to eat or not to eat, there are several groups of people who are not recommended to skip breakfast: 

  1. Children and adolescents. Kids and teens are still in the stage of growing, breakfast is an important meal as it provides the energy and nutrient to sustain their high activity level in school.
  2. People with gastric problems. It is advised to eat on time and not skip meals to prevent gastric reflux.
  3. People with diabetes. People with diabetes need to maintain stable blood sugar level throughout the day. Skipping breakfast or fasting for too long might lead to hypoglycemia, which is a dangerous situation for them.
  4. Elderly with poor appetite. Some elderly lose their appetite as they grow older. It is important to make sure they eat more frequently to compensate for the energy they used throughout the day.
  5. Pregnant and breastfeeding women. This group has increased nutritional needs, skipping breakfast reduces the room for introducing more food and may lead to a deficiency in essential nutrients.

Take Away

It is important to note that everyone is different, and some people may not feel hungry in the morning. Some people prefer to eat a big breakfast, while others might prefer a light one. It is important to listen to your body and eat when you are hungry, regardless of the time of day. 

Also, if you are trying to lose weight, it is important to consider the total calorie intake throughout the day rather than just focusing on skipping breakfast. If you have any concerns about your eating habits, it is best to speak with a dietitian.

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