While breakfast is one of the easiest meals to skip, missing it has powerful repercussions on your circadian clock. Breakfast and a dose of morning sunlight set your circadian rhythms in motion for the day.
For breakfast, I like to gather some seasonal greens from my garden and blend them with flax and chia seeds into a room temperature green drink.
While I would prefer to steam them, we are still getting kids off to school these days, so for me, breakfast has to be substantial, but relatively quick.
The green drink is always followed by either a bowl of oatmeal or a mixture of nuts, seeds, and berries. I have this alongside a cup of chicory-based herbal tea or Bengal Spice tea blended with a teaspoon of coconut oil.
A whopping 31 million Americans still haven’t gotten the memo to eat breakfast. NPD’s Morning MealScape 2011 study found that 28 percent of men ages 18 to 34 are guilty of skipping breakfast. Teenagers are almost as bad, with 14 percent opting out. (1)
Not convinced breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Let’s look at some of the science and of course, the ancient wisdom.
10 Compelling Reasons to Not Skip Breakfast
1. The Ancient Wisdom
Ayurveda, a system of medicine dating back 5000 years, maintained that breakfast and lunch are the two most important meals of the day, with supper being the least important.
2. Breakfast Maintains Ideal Weight
A review of 19 studies involving over 93,000 participants found that skipping breakfast was associated with being overweight and obese. This was globally observed regardless of cultural diversity among countries. The review concluded that consuming breakfast in all populations may be beneficial for healthy weight. (2)
3. Breakfast Enhances Cognitive Function
Studies suggest those who eat breakfast enjoy better cognitive function, mood, and satiety than those who skip it. (4)
In a study on teenagers, those who ate breakfast self-reported higher energy levels and less fatigue. Overall, the findings suggested that breakfast consumption enhances cognitive function in teenagers. (5)
In a review of 38 studies, breakfast eaters saw a robust boost in memory as well as better attention, motor, and executive function. The review concluded, however, that the time of supper the night before played a major role on the cognitive outcome. (4) Once again, we see that the earlier the supper, the better!
4. Breakfast Helps Burn Carbs Better During Exercise
In one study, breakfast consumed two hours before an hour-long cycling session increased the rate at which the body burned carbohydrates during exercise. It also quickened the rate that the body digested and burned food consumed post-exercise. Interestingly, the carbs burned during exercise were not only from the breakfast meal, they were also burned from fat storage sites in the body. (6)
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5. Breakfast Reduces the Risk of Adult Onset Diabetes
In a study on 4631 adult men and women that spanned almost nine years, it was concluded that skipping breakfast may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, independent of lifestyles and baseline levels of body mass index (BMI). (8)
6. Breakfast Reduces the Build-Up of Arterial Plaque
In a study of some 4000 bank workers, researchers looked at breakfast-eating habits and arterial health. They found that those who ate breakfast were less likely to build up arterial plaque than those who skipped breakfast on a regular basis. (7) Breakfast had to be about one-fifth of the daily calories, at least 500 kcal if the daily intake was 2,500 kcal.
7. Breakfast Reduces the Risk of High Blood Pressure
In the 2014 Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (KNHANES), those who ate breakfast at least 5 times a week compared to non-breakfast eaters were evaluated. The study was adjusted for age, sex, regular exercise, current smoking, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, body mass index, waist circumference, and red blood cell counts. The results showed a significantly lower risk for high blood pressure in those that ate breakfast. (9)
8. Breakfast Reduces the Risk of Metabolic Syndrome
Those who ate breakfast were found to have a lower risk of metabolic syndrome compared to those didn’t eat breakfast. Metabolic syndrome features high triglyceride, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, excess belly fat, and high blood pressure—not a syndrome you want to mess with!
9. Breakfast Extends Life
A study of 34,128 men and 49,282 women aged 40-79 evaluated breakfast habits in Japan. The study aimed to determine if skipping breakfast would have an effect on mortality from all causes, cancer, or cardiovascular diseases. Skipping breakfast was associated with increased risk of mortality (death) from circulatory diseases and all causes of mortality among men and women. Skipping breakfast did not increase the risk of dying from cancer. (11)
10. My Take!
While these studies make a compelling case for not skipping breakfast, other factors such as what you eat for breakfast, when you eat it, and even how you eat it may explain some of the conflicting studies that did not show such clear finding regarding the benefits of eating breakfast. According to the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda, how you eat, what you eat, and when you eat it ALL matters!
Based on the science, we do see that a morning meal will combat the tendency for the liver to increase blood sugar levels in the morning as part of the body’s wake-up call. Eating a morning meal will increase insulin levels and quickly lower blood sugar and deliver the glucose to the cells that we need for energy.
Not eating breakfast on a regular basis can allow the sugar to linger in the bloodstream where it can glycate (clump together) with proteins that cause harm to the arteries, joints, brain, and more.
This may explain why there is so much evidence that eating a breakfast is a critical piece of the diabetes, weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and cognitive decline prevention strategy.