While growing up, we all heard: “Eat your breakfast! It’s the most important meal of the day.”
While growing up, we all heard: “Eat your breakfast! It’s the most important meal of the day.” Well, Mom appears to have been right. Research shows that running out of the house without a morning meal may be bad for both your heart and your weight. (1)
To be sure, past studies have found that people who eat breakfast, particularly whole-grain cereals, are less likely to be overweight than people who don’t. What makes this latest research a standout is its precise measuring of multiple factors, including calorie intake, circulating insulin, glucose, and cholesterol levels.
Dr. Hamid R. Farshchi and his team at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom directed 10 young normal-weight women to spend 14 days on a diet plan that included a morning meal (bran flakes with low-fat milk) and, after a two-week interval, another 14 days on the same diet plan, only this time they didn’t eat their bran flakes and milk until noon.
For both plans, the women ate three meals and two snacks by the end of each day, and under each plan, they were allowed, if they wanted it, a mid-morning chocolate-covered cookie.
At the end of each two-week period, the scientists measured blood values as well as metabolic responses before and after drinking a milkshake. They found that the skipping-breakfast plan was associated with “significantly higher fasting total and LDL cholesterol than was the eating-breaking plan.”
After the breakfast-free period, the women also showed poorer insulin sensitivity. Over time, poor insulin sensitivity, known as insulin resistance, can lead to higher and higher blood sugar levels and possibly type 2 diabetes.
The skipping-breakfast plan did not bode well for weight loss efforts either. Calorie intake was significantly higher on breakfast-free days.
Past research indicates that what you eat at breakfast matters a great deal, too. Your best bet: whole grain cereals. Scientists have found that adults who consumed whole grain cereals in the morning had markedly lower daily fat and cholesterol intakes than did those who ate other foods at breakfast – or omitted breakfast.(2) Research using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination reached similar conclusions.(3) Another study also found that daily total and saturated fat intakes were reduced only when breakfast contained cereals.(4)
And if you’re trying to lose weight, your optimal choice is hot whole-grain cereal like oatmeal rather than ready-to-eat dried varieties because the hot cereal will tend to fill you on a lot fewer calories. Oatmeal has just 300 calories per pound; dried cereal, a whopping 1,700 calories per pound. Top your oatmeal with some delicious fruit, say, strawberries and bananas, and you’re starting each day with a tasty, hearty winner for your heart and your waistline.
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005; 81: 388.
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 1986; 5: 551.
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 1989; 8: 576.
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999; 53: 716.