Breakfast Is Best
There is one thing I can never leave the house without. Without it, I feel empty. If I somehow forget it, my family stops me at the door and makes me go get it, knowing it is more important than being on time. If I don’t have it, my peers can tell through my sullen expression. My teachers can tell through my lack of participation. My friends can tell through my bland conversation. This important, essential necessity is…breakfast.
According to a study done by the NDP group, a leading marketing research company, about 10 percent of Americans do not eat breakfast. So what is it about breakfast that keeps the other 90 percent hooked? What is so special about breakfast that they are willing to give up precious moments of their busy day to make time for it? Well, it might have something to do with the long term benefits, short term benefits, or variety of options that come with the meal.
Breakfast may be a quick, five minute meal before you rush out the door, but research has found this meal’s benefits last far into the future. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in America. Low-density lipoproteins, aka “bad cholesterol,” and decreased insulin sensitivity are both major causes of heart disease. One of the many benefits of eating breakfast is that it can decrease these risk factors.
As reported by CBS, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that women who eat breakfast have significantly lower “bad cholesterol” levels than women who skip it. They also showed improved insulin sensitivity, suggesting a decreased chance of diabetes. The benefits don’t stop there; the women who ate breakfast consumed 100 less calories per day than those who skipped the meal. Based on the study, researchers believe this “miracle meal” may not only reduce chances of heart disease, but also diabetes and long term weight gain.
Since breakfast is often a small meal, many see skipping it as an easy way to cut calories and lose weight; however, studies show otherwise. According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, skipping breakfast is associated with an increased chance of obesity, a sign of unhealthiness. Their study found subjects who regularly skipped breakfast, which meant 75 percent of the time, had more than four times the risk of obesity than those who ate breakfast regularly, or 95 percent of the time. Those who skipped breakfast at home also had a greater chance of eating out for breakfast or dinner, which increased the chance of unhealthy eating since homemade food is often the healthiest option.
Everyone is busy, and sometimes finding even five minutes to eat before starting our day, between taking the kids to school and dropping the car at the mechanic’s, can seem impossible. However, breakfast is well worth your time. Luckily, you do not have to wait years to see its benefits. The first meal of the day has a plethora of short term benefits that can be experienced within hours. According to an article by NPR, children who eat breakfast perform better in class.
After an entire night without food, the brain and body are depleted of glucose. Terrill Bravender, a professor of pediatrics at Duke University, explains that without glucose, a brain is not able to function as effectively. People have a more difficult time understanding and retaining new information. Visual and spatial concepts, which are often used in math, also become increasingly difficult.
J. Michael Murphy, senior psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, says children who eat breakfast do better in school, having increased short term memory and verbal fluency.
In an interview with U.S. News & World Report, Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky says breakfast foods such as oatmeal, bananas, pineapple, and avocados, which are rich in vitamin B, can improve concentration and thought clarity. While eating breakfast is important, not all breakfasts are created equal. Bravender explains food that is low on the glycemic index, which measures how quickly carbohydrates are absorbed and converted into energy, are preferable and help make sure one has enough energy throughout the day. For example, the carbohydrates in sweetened oatmeal are slowly absorbed by the body, meaning there is a gradual increase in blood sugar and one’s energy lasts longer. Processed foods, whose carbohydrates are usually absorbed quickly by the body, provide a dramatic increase in blood sugar followed by a steep drop. This drop is not healthy and, in children, has been observed to affect hormones related to memory and concentration.
Holly Taylor, a psychologist at Tufts University who helped find the relation between the glycemic index and memory, suggests eating foods with more protein and fiber. These foods are usually lower on the glycemic index. Though it may seem challenging to find the perfect breakfast, there are many tasty and healthy everyday foods that most of us already consume.
Senior clinical nutritionist at MGH Nutrition Services in Boston, Massachusetts, Stacey Nelson recommends whole grain in the form of toast, cereal, or even waffles along with low-fat milk or yogurt for a healthy breakfast. Nelson adds that, although processed foods have some nutrition, it’s not enough to last very long. Bravender lists whole wheat bread, peanut butter, milk, fresh fruit, cereal/oatmeal with nuts and fruits, and one or two eggs as healthy breakfast options. Bravender reminds that foods like sugared cereals and breakfast pastries, which are concentrated sweets, do more harm than good.
Eating breakfast is a great start, but eating a breakfast that ranks low on the glycemic index and keeps one energized is even better! It may seem like just a bowl of cereal and a fruit, but a decent breakfast is far more than that. It is a way to prepare for the rest of the day and ensure you have enough energy to make it through. It’s a way to help your kids do well in school. It’s a way to improve your health. Breakfast may only be five minutes long, but those are some of the most important minutes of your day.
Taskeen Khan is an award winning writer with bylines in Huffington Post, Islamic Horizons and The Glen Bard. She attends high school.