Is Breakfast Necessary? (For my awesome friend and one-time dance partner, Dr. Juan)
For me, this comes under the same category as the following:
Is exercising in the morning or afternoon better?
3 meals a day or 6 mini-meals?
Is eating before bed bad for you?
It reminds me of being a parent for the first time. I read waaaay too much and was so confused by the many and much-varied advice. I gave up the research in the end and just went with what felt right. Only then, did things seem to work out, sort of; I’m not gonna lie, it’s a journey. Swaddling v letting it all hang out, feeding on demand v strict schedule, waking the baby to feed v not, sleeping on the front v sleeping on the back, crying it out v co-sleeping. I could go on. Point is, whatever you think is right, you can find evidence to back you up.
This is more a question of exploring what actually is right for YOU.
I recently lamented one fine morning on how much I LOVE breakfast these days. It really is the most important meal of the day for me now. I have an enormous breakfast that amounts to around 500-600 kcals and is nutrient-dense. I have found that this works so incredibly well for me. I rarely think about food again until at least 4 or 5 hours later. My blood sugar level stays pretty even. I find I have a good amount of energy for my day.
And, it wasn’t always like that. As a child I was not bothered about breakfast, a bowl of cereal or a cursory slice of toast and I just ate it without thinking. As I became a teenager, the extra time in bed was way more important and I gave up on breakfast. It seems to be a common teenage theme. In my 20’s I had a quick bowl of cereal at my desk. In my 30’s I discovered porridge and brunches on the weekend. Now, in my 40’s (early 40’s), I’ve built on my 30’s with a bit more variety and more thought about what my day is going to be like. Am I exercising this morning? Am I going to work? Am I meeting a friend for an early lunch? (Ppf, I wish)! It makes sense to me to “fuel my performance”. But enough about me….
What about those people who just don’t fancy breakfast? A shot of espresso and they’re good to go! Well, if you’re healthy, your weight is in check and life is good then I’d say that’s working out just fine. There’s also some evidence to suggest that intermittent fasting, involving a window of 10-14hours of not eating from dinner to when you eat the next day, can be beneficial. But like I said, there’s “evidence” for everything! I’m not willing to commit that it’s great for everyone because we are all different. Gluten not a problem for some, a shocker for others. Dairy, a wondrous source of calcium and B-vitamins for some, gut-wrenching pain for others; red wine keeping some heart-healthy and ticking on at 90+ years, for others killer headache and skin issues.
Yes, it’s true in some surveys in America it was the case that healthier people more often than not ate breakfast. This, however, does not mean breakfast is the key because of the many other variables involved. Breakfast often includes more fiber, so maybe it’s the fiber doing the work here not necessarily the timing of the meal. Maybe people skip breakfast because they work a night shift. Shifting sleep patterns is generally recognised as not being good for your health, so maybe it’s the sleep that’s the issue and not the lack of breakfast. This holds true for me also. The healthiest time in my life is now, in my 40’s. It is also the time in my life when I am most committed to breakfast, but then it is also a time where I drink less, stress less, and sleep better.
Ultimately, to answer the question, NO breakfast is not necessary. It is not a magic bullet to solve health issues. However, eating a balanced diet rich in a variety of whole foods with plenty of fiber and nutrients…well, that IS necessary for health. And if eating breakfast sets YOU up for that, then breakfast is your friend.
As an added bonus for all you breakfast lovers out there, here is a recipe for a smoothie that kick’s arse in the health stakes. (Side note, you can have it at any time of day).
*A good handful of frozen berries
*Half an avocado
*1 raw egg (Leave it out if you’re worried or not keen; some people can’t let the Edwina Curry thing go.)
*2 tablespoons of mixed seeds
*A big handful of spinach (stay with me) or kale or a broccoli stalk or half a courgette
*Kefir or Greek Yoghurt or Milk or Milk alternative to make the consistency you like
*3 tablespoons of oats
*If you want to get really serious add 1/8 tsp each of ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon
Whiz it up and gulp it down.
The green stuff you will notice has no bearing on the taste but has plenty to say in the colour of your smoothie and the nutrient value. It is really important that you understand that this is not an accompaniment to a meal this IS a meal in itself. This will definitely cover you for most of the morning!