Almost all of us do it, we break our overnight fast almost as soon as we throw back the duvet. Breakfast has long been considered the most important meal of the day. But why? Why breakfast? Important?
Do we really know why we almost always start our day like this?
Breakfast, as the word implies, means literally to break our fast.
Obviously we’ve been asleep and fasting for 8 hours or so, but when did it become our habit to break our fast almost before the sun is up?
Presumably we could just as easily break our fast much later in the day. In fact many groups of people do this all the time.
Farmers very often busy themselves with feeding the animals before finally returning to the house for food.
Have we always eaten breakfast in some form?
No, we haven’t always eaten breakfast. It was actually frowned upon by the Romans.
They believed that it was healthier to eat just one meal a day, normally around lunchtime.
Frankly, with the rising popularity of intermittent fasting, the Romans were definitely on to a thing or two, and very early fans of reducing your eating window.
This idea of eating your first meal at lunch time persisted for a long time.
We were well into the middle ages before the word breakfast came into general use.
It wasn’t until the 17th century, that the idea of scarfing down a plate of food as soon as the cock crowed really caught on.
Coffee, tea and eggs started making an appearance after the restoration.
By the mid 17th century, it had become popular enough among the rich that they started adding breakfast rooms to their homes.
By the Industrial revolution, the put upon workers needed an early meal so that they could work for horrendously long hours without a break.
This habit continued even as workers rights improved, and by the 19th century everyone was eating something before heading out to work for the day.
In the 20th century, a man named John Kellogg invented cornflakes, and soon even the government was preaching about how important breakfast was.
In 1944 the makers of Grape Nuts, a breakfast cereal, were dreaming up catchy phrases to help sell their product.
They came up with : “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” without a shred of evidence.
Luckily for them, people couldn’t turn to the internet and check this out for themselves. It is now quoted so often that it’s passed into our collective consciousness as an undeniable truth .
Which brings us to today.
The message about eating breakfast is very wide spread, and the message about it being important is well-known.
Many of us act as if we’d actually die if we missed this mega healthy meal.
But is it really healthy? Is it even important?
Obviously breakfast differs around the world with some being relatively healthy even if not necessary.
Western countries, however, have some shockingly bad eating habits when it comes to choosing food for the first meal of the day.
It’s difficult to know where to start, there is just so much badness on the plates of the average citizen within an hour of opening their eyes.
Pancakes? Packed with carbs and zero nutritional value. Adding some honey doesn’t make them a health food either.
You’ve just added some extra carbs in the form of sugar.
Orange juice? Who still thinks that’s healthy? It’s nature’s candy in a glass.
Oranges are fine, and contain lots of healthy micro nutrients, although if you’re watching your carbs they aren’t such a great idea even in this form.
How about toast? More carbs.
Cereal?! This item is so bad it deserves a paragraph or two all to itself.
Remember the makers of Grape Nuts? They played their part in this lets-eat-cereal at dawn thing. I’m not even sure if you can call it a meal.
Let’s take a closer look at breakfast cereals.
Did you know that two of the most popular items sold in grocery stores are Milk and Cereal?
This is more than a national habit, it’s an obsession.
Fun and Interesting Facts About Cereals tells us that the cereal industry in the United States uses over 400 million kilograms of sugar per year.
That’s a lot of health wreaking sugar, which is the main cause of inflammation in your body.
Inflammation is responsible for a very long list of diseases, all of which you probably don’t want.
Yet 50% of Americans eat cereal for breakfast every day. That pans out at 50kg of cereal per person every year.
Over 2.7 billion packages of cereal are sold annually.
Only the UK, Ireland and Australia beat the Americans at cereal eating.
Cereals are packed with refined grains, preservatives and artificial sweeteners or sugar.
Are there any healthy breakfast foods?
There are a lot of healthy foods to choose from. If you must eat breakfast you are spoiled by choice.
Any whole food that is nutritionally dense would do the trick. Much the same as the sort of food that you should eat for all your meals.
Eggs, bacon, avocado, coffee are all great choices and will keep you full for a long time, without any slump caused by a sugar rush.
The Germans are fond of cheese at breakfast, and this would be a healthy choice too.
There’s no need to ditch your healthy eating with breakfast foods.
So this brings us back to the main focus of this article. Do we need to eat breakfast?
Can’t we just extend our overnight fast and get all the benefits of intermittent fasting ?
Why breakfast? Important or not?
There really isn’t any need to break your fast first thing in the morning. Why breakfast at all in that case?
Normally it’s a mixture of reasons.
It’s a habit and we all think it’s good for us.
Many of us think we won’t be able to work/study/visit the gym or live if we miss out on this meal.
Important? Only in that any meal, if the right foods are chosen, is important.
It’s not any more important that a meal at 10am, or noon or during the evening.
We are designed over millennia to manage just fine, thank you very much, for many hours (and days) without a single mouthful of food.
It’s the reason we don’t all die of hunger in our sleep.
If we’ve had an evening meal at 8pm, we are more than capable of going through to lunchtime the next day.
We are able to extend this for several weeks if we had to. A fast of 8pm – lunch is about 16 hours. A walk in the park for our bodies.
So breakfast isn’t important. If you wake up absolutely starving every morning you may want to think about what sort of food you are eating the night before.
A very carb heavy meal late in the evening will have spiked your blood sugar, and one of the signs of this is hunger as soon as you wake up.
If you are eating a diet that is nutritious and not carb heavy, and avoiding sugar, you should not be diving into the fridge as soon as you’ve opened your eyes.
So, breakfast isn’t important, it’s optional.
If you like to eat early, go ahead but there’s nothing special about this early meal.
Actually, there is growing evidence that skipping breakfast may have health benefits.
How is missing breakfast good for you?
There is nothing bad about eating within a few hours of waking.
However, if you are a fan of intermittent fasting, missing breakfast is a way of achieving this that often fits in well with your lifestyle and work.
Eating is a social event, and you may not want to be missing out on your evening meal with your friends and family.
Normally, breakfast is a quick meal, and very often eaten alone before rushing off to work.
This makes it very easy to miss.
Add the fact that you have already had an overnight fast, and you are well on your way to reducing your eating window with little effort.
The 16/8 pattern of intermittent fasting it very popular. You eat all your food within an 8-hour period, and have no food for the remaining 16 hours.
If you eat your evening meal at 8pm, miss breakfast and eat lunch at noon you have reached your 16 hour fast.
You probably won’t even notice you’re fasting once you’ve been doing this for a while.
There is overwhelming evidence that intermittent fasting has numerous health benefits.
It reduces inflammation, stabilizes blood sugar and reduces your risk of developing many diseases.
It is also a very effective way of losing or maintaining your weight.
Just make sure that you are eating the same sort of healthy whole foods that you would choose for the rest of the day.
Eggs, meats, avocados, berries and healthy fats are all great foods. There are a lot of “breakfast” foods that would be healthy at any time.
Breakfast is no more important than any other meal you eat.
Drop, or at least limit, the amount of unhealthy carbs that you eat.
This advice would be true for all your food, and there is no reason why breakfast should be exempt from healthy eating.
Pancakes, sugar, grains and fruit juice are all poor choices for breakfast and should be avoided.
If you are intermittent fasting, skipping breakfast is a way of making your fast fairly easy.
There are numerous gains to be had from intermittent fasting which make it well worth missing this meal.
So, take it or leave it. It’s not the most important meal of your day.
Just consider healthy whole foods if you are still a fan of a plate of something to eat before you start your day.
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