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Should you eat breakfast?


It seems that every day there is a new story in the news telling us how to eat, what to eat and when to eat; so it’s no wonder we are all confused about what we should be doing. Keto, low-carb, high-carb, fasting, Slimming World – the sheer volume of information and diet plans out there are enough to make you choke and through in the kitchen towel before 2020 even begins.

Approximately 26 million people will embark on a new diet or method of healthy eating at the beginning of every year, and sadly according to iNews nine out of ten (87 per cent of us) will break our new healthy eating habits as soon as 12th January. This figure could in part be because we are over complicating things. Maybe it’s as simple as just eating when we want and what we want and stopping when we are full?

The classic meal formula for a healthy lifestyle is said to be three meals a day and two snacks…but what happens if you can’t eat when you wake up, or just don’t like breakfast? Does this mean we are therefore destined for a life time of eating takeaways over the sink while lying to ourselves that we’ll “start again on Monday”?

The NHS published 8 tips for healthy eating, and one advises us to “not skip breakfast”. They add: “Some people skip breakfast because they think it’ll help them lose weight. But a healthy breakfast high in fibre and low in fat, sugar and salt can form part of a balanced diet, and can help you get the nutrients you need for good health.

“A wholegrain lower sugar cereal with semi-skimmed milk and fruit sliced over the top is a tasty and healthier breakfast.”

Approximately only two thirds of adults in the UK eat breakfast regularly, which could be a concern if you’re worried about your waistline. The BBC reported that there appears to be several studies linking between obesity and skipping breakfast. “Alexandra Johnstone, professor of appetite research at the University of Aberdeen, argues that it may simply be because breakfast-skippers have been found to be less knowledgeable about nutrition and health.

However, “a 2016 review of 10 studies looking into the relationship between breakfast and weight management concluded there is ‘limited evidence’ supporting or refuting the argument that breakfast influences weight or food intake, and more evidence is required before breakfast recommendations can be used to help prevent obesity.”

They add that “breakfast has been found to affect more than just weight. Skipping breakfast has been associated with a 27% increased risk of heart disease, a 21% higher risk of type 2 diabetes in men, and a 20% higher risk of type 2 diabetes in women.

“One reason may be breakfast’s nutritional value – partly because cereal is fortified with vitamins. In one study on the breakfast habits of 1,600 young people in the UK, researchers found that the fibre and micronutrient intake, including of folate, vitamin C iron and calcium, was better in those who had breakfast regularly.”

Breakfast is also associated with helping our brain functioning, including concentration and learning a language. “A review of 54 studies found that eating breakfast can improve memory, though the effects on other brain functions were inconclusive.” WebMD adds that “hunger hinders concentration”, so if you have a big exam coming up breakfast is a good idea.

There are lots of myths surrounding the benefits of eating breakfast is one that eating breakfast boosts your metabolism. The Healthline says: “Some people claim that eating breakfast ‘kick-starts’ the metabolism, but this is a myth. These people are referring to the thermic effect of food, which is the increase in calories burned that occurs after you eat.

“However, what matters for metabolism is the total amount of food consumed throughout the day. It makes no difference at which times, or how often, you eat. Studies show that there is no difference in calories burned over 24 hours between people who eat or skip breakfast.”

It appears that the science is a little wobbly when it comes to a definitive answer to the question “should we eat breakfast?”. Eating breakfast is a personal preference and if you are concerned about losing weight or gaining weight, the most important thing to look at is a calorie deficit (for loss) or surplus (for gain) rather than which meal to skip. Whether you like breakfast or not, try to focus more on eating high quality foods and ensuring you get the essential minerals and vitamins from these.

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