What You Always Believed About Breakfast Might Actually Be Wrong

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I’d label myself as a breakfast lover—bring on the eggs, bacon, granola, toast, you name it. Although not everyone shares my sentiments, most of us grew up being told by our parents that it was critical to eat breakfast every morning in order to be healthy. Now, a piece in The New York Times, knocks down that notion. But should we stop eating it altogether? Here, the experts weigh in.

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According to the author of the piece and professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, Aaron E. Carroll, our age-old beliefs about breakfast are based on “misinterpreted research and biased studies” and nothing more. Carroll writes: 

Many of the studies are funded by the food industry, which has a clear bias. Kellogg funded a highly cited article that found that cereal for breakfast is associated with being thinner. The Quaker Oats Center of Excellence (part of PepsiCo) financed a trial that showed that eating oatmeal or frosted cornflakes reduces weight and cholesterol (if you eat it in a highly controlled setting each weekday for four weeks). Many studies focus on children and argue that kids who eat breakfast are also thinner, but this research suffers from the same flaws that the research in adults does.

Carroll’s logic is that if most of the major studies about breakfast being a necessity for health reasons are funded by the food industry, can we believe them? He implies that of course those companies want us to think those things so that we’ll buy more of their products.

Then, however, you get the other side of the story: that of nutritionists and dieticians who firmly believe eating breakfast is the healthier route. 

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Celebrity nutritionist Paula Simpson says that perhaps some of Carroll’s article is true, but there are many other credible peer review studies that show the body works best when a high-quality nutritious breakfast is consumed. “Protein and fiber, for example, are often lacking in commercial-based cereals, hence the statements in this article are most likely referring to this. However, I wouldn’t go as far to not recommend breakfast. There is a large body of data showing the negative health effects of skipping this meal. One of the strongest correlations being weight gain—many studies have concluded that those who skip breakfast have a higher prevalence of obesity. ” 

Celebrity nutritionist Nilli Grutman adds, “You can’t really avoid breakfast—at some point in the day you will have to have your first meal (I recommend eating about one to three hours after waking up). The real question is what should a person’s first meal be. The answer to this truly depends on the individuals unique body chemistry.” 

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Whether you prefer a carb breakfast or a protein-packed one, Grutman says it should follow these three parameters: “It should be loaded in vitamins and minerals, which will actually help fuel the metabolism; it should be easy to digest—the gastro intestinal tract is still waking up from its slumber and cannot be put to work immediately; and it should be simple (only a few ingredients) because the less stuff there is to digest, the easier the body will be able to incorporate the nutrients without simultaneously energetically draining the body.”

An interesting thing Grutman notes? “Most of my patients who do not eat breakfast are typically the most overweight. This is typically because they have a poorly developed food routine and erratic food schedules.
Having a healthy first meal triggers a domino effect throughout the rest of the day. In my opinion, it helps people make wiser, less–emotion driven food choices.”

As Carroll writes, “Breakfast has no mystical powers.” But to the nutritionists’ point, a light breakfast is important. The bottom line: If you enjoy eating breakfast and you feel like it has made a positive impact on your health or daily routine, there’s no need to change things now. If you’re on the other side of things and the thought of eating in the morning turns you off, then don’t! Clearly the experts see both sides.

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