Myth or Reality: Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day
Myth or Reality: "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper," is a famous quote by renowned American nutritionist Adelle Davis. The belief has been propagating for several decades now and is religiously followed by millions of people around the world.
On the other hand, Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of medicine, recommends a light, fruit and vegetable-filled breakfast. These days, fitness enthusiasts are indulging in and advocating high-protein breakfasts as well.
There is so much emphasis on breakfast today that most people believe that it is the most important meal of the day. It’s considered a grave sin to skip breakfast, and many serious health issues like obesity, diabetes, and hypertension are attributed to it.
Today we put the notion to the test.
Keep reading to find out if the belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is a myth or reality.
What is Breakfast?
Breakfast is composed of two words, "break" and "fast." It basically means to break the fast. The "fast" in this case is your sleep. Most people sleep six hours a day and have dinner a couple of hours before going to bed. They are essentially "fasting" for a third of the day, which depletes the body of blood sugars. Fasting has its own benefits. But the first meal of the day provides a much-needed boost to the body and energizes a person to get on with his day.
How did the Belief that Breakfast is the Most Important Meal Originate?
The belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day originated in the US in the 19th and 20th centuries. With the advent of the industrial revolution, urbanization, and liberalization, a sedentary lifestyle became much more common.
People spent their time sitting at work instead of toiling away at farms. Women also entered the workforce, resulting in the whole family consuming light and easy-to-prepare foods in the morning.
All these factors paved the way for the introduction of cereals, pancakes, croissants, and bacon for breakfast. Cereal companies like General Foods used their lobbyists to argue that breakfast was the most important meal and that the best way to begin the day was with a bowl of cornflakes or fruit loops.
Eggs and bacon were later popularized through the same marketing tactics. Today, there are numerous competing theories about which type of breakfast is best. But the view that has remained mostly unchallenged is that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?
Finally, we address the issue at hand. No, breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. It’s only important for food manufacturers and fitness influencers to sell you their breakfast products.
All meals are essential and should be composed of an adequate quantity of fats, carbs, proteins and fibre. How a person should have breakfast depends on their lifestyle and digestive system. Some people can’t handle food first thing in the morning, while others, like athletes and powerlifters, need constant energy and can’t go too long without consuming something.
Skipping breakfast often can lead to weight loss, which can be both good or bad, depending on one's perspective. Having breakfast has its perks but not having it is not such a cardinal sin as its made out to be. There is no conclusive evidence that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Benefits of a Healthy Breakfast
Breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day, but that doesn’t mean it is of no importance.
Check the reported benefits of breakfast below.
- Fuel: Breakfast provides the energy to carry out daily activities after 8–10 hours of starvation.
- Improves Cognitive Performance: A healthy and nutritious breakfast is known to boost cognitive performance, improve attention and reduce brain fog.
- Boosts Metabolism: After several hours of not consuming any food, the metabolism of the body slows down and blood sugar levels deplete. Breakfast kickstarts the metabolism and increases fibre and carbohydrate digestion.
- Controls Weight: Having breakfast reduces cravings. According to studies, people, particularly children, tend to overeat later in the day after skipping breakfast.
There are studies linking regular breakfast to reduced risks of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. However, they are all observational studies and can’t concretely prove if it’s really breakfast that is preventing diseases or other factors.
For instance, people who eat regular, healthy breakfasts also tend to focus more on their overall health than average people. And the quality of breakfasts also comes into play. A morning meal of doughnuts and fried chicken is more harmful than beneficial.
Breakfast is essential for maintaining the body’s circadian rhythm and providing a much-needed dose of nutrients and energy after 8-10 hours of fasting. However, the belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is a myth. You can have the most nutritious breakfast possible every day, but it will do nothing for your health unless you’re also sleeping adequately and exercising regularly.
Also, some people don’t have a high nutrient requirement or are trying to lose weight. Nowadays, intermittent fasting has also grown in popularity. Skipping breakfast is not recommended, but there is no harm in doing so if a person is meeting his daily calorie and nutrient intake from other meals.