While there are always studies being released that contradict existing nutritional advice, one piece of wisdom remains constant: Having a meal after waking up might be the single most important food decision of your day. While certain diets may advocate for fasting sessions or other reasons to skip breakfast, there’s significant evidence that eating a sensible plate in the a.m. has benefits that last well beyond your morning routine. If you’ve ever wondered why, read on.
1. YOU’RE LITERALLY BREAKING A FAST.
The period between your last pre-bed meal and hitting the alarm is usually the longest stretch of time your body goes without fuel. Eating within two hours of waking up can impact how levels of glucose (blood sugar), and the insulin that brings glucose to cells to be used for energy, are regulated for the remainder of the day. Skip breakfast, and it isn’t just your body running on empty: It’s your brain, too. Plus, the longer you put it off, the hungrier you’ll be when you actually sit down to eat. Stuffing yourself with unhealthy treats in an attempt to satiate your hunger will cause your glucose to ebb and flow, creating unsteady energy levels and the potential for more overeating.
2. IT CAN REDUCE YOUR RISK OF HEART DISEASE.
People who skip breakfast tend to overeat the rest of the time—and overeating is an obvious culprit in unwanted weight gain, which can lead to high cholesterol and blood pressure issues. Studies have shown that breakfast eaters have lower incidences of heart disease than “skippers.”
3. IT KEEPS YOU TUNED IN.
Your brain loves the energy it extracts from meals, making a sensible a.m. bowl of oatmeal just as important for focus and concentration as it is for physical exertion. In one study, subjects fed oats had a markedly better ability to memorize and absorb information than those who didn’t eat at all.
4. YOU CAN GET IN YOUR FIBER.
Because whole grains and fruit make regular appearances at the breakfast table, you’re more likely to meet—or at least put a dent in—your recommended fiber intake by eating breakfast. In addition to fueling your digestive system, fiber can also help reduce cholesterol.
5. PROTEIN IN THE MORNING CURBS DESIRES LATER.
Research shows that a breakfast high in protein—such as an omelet or Greek yogurt—is more likely to keep you fuller longer, preventing you from overeating or making poor food choices later on. In one study, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) demonstrated reduced activity in the portion of the brain making food demands for several hours following that first, protein-heavy meal.
6. IT PUTS YOU AT REDUCED RISK FOR DIABETES.
People who skip breakfast tend to over-compensate later on in the day, leading to larger, less nutritious meals that can wreak havoc on insulin levels. In one study, subjects who didn’t eat in the morning had a 21 percent higher risk of developing diabetes than those who made the time for a bite.
7. YOU’LL LOSE WEIGHT BY EATING MORE.
If you restrict your largest meal to breakfast, you’re on your way to shedding pounds. In one study, two groups ate roughly the same number of calories per day but distributed them differently. The group who consumed more calories in the morning lost an average of 17.8 pounds over three months, while those who ate less upon waking and more later in the day—a big dinner—lost just 7.3 pounds on average.