A recent review published is the British Medical Journal is helping to dispel the myth that ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’. The study suggests that the addition of breakfast might not be a good strategy for weight loss, regardless of established breakfast habit. Caution is needed when recommending breakfast for weight loss in adults, as it could have the opposite effect.
The saying about breakfast being the most important meal was a useful tool to sell breakfast cereals, and that is all. We now have a whole “breakfast food” industry which largely consists of highly refined packaged cereals and breads. Breakfast food is really an invention of the packaged food industry, when you travel around the world especially in places like Asia, you will note that there is no such thing as breakfast food, they just have food and tend to eat the same kinds of foods at all meals.
Our ‘one size fits all’ approach to nutrition simply doesn’t work. The word breakfast is just referring to breaking the fast (our overnight fast). Some people do well having an early breakfast and others do not. Encouraging everyone to have breakfast to help with their health or to help them lose weight is misguided. All meals matter and the meal you use to break your fast certainly matters. When you break the fast, it is best to avoid highly refined packaged foods and focus on real fresh food. The timing of this first meal though needs to be tailored to the individual.
When you eat well-balanced meal with a palm sized serving of protein, plenty of fibrous greens and other colourful vegies along with some healthy fats (eg avocado, olive oil, real butter, nuts or seeds), you will stay satisfied for many hours, not having a sudden blood glucose drop, you will be more likely to naturally and comfortably have 2-3 meals per day without feeling the need for snacks and craving sugar.
The evidence supporting the health benefits of intermittent fasting is very strong, a popular version of this is the 16:8, where you eat normally each day but restrict the time that you eat to within and 8 hour period, fasting for the other 16 hours except for water and herbal teas. Some people do slightly different versions 15:9 or 14:10, it is best to start with a shorter fast if you haven’t tried this before. Intermittent Fasting can have excellent measurable results; it commonly has the effect of normalising blood glucose and insulin levels, reducing inflammation and assisting healthy weight management. Note. If you are on medication for blood sugar control, especially insulin, you will need to be supervised by a health professional to make these changes as you may reduce your need for medication.
Constant grazing is not what our ancestors did; it is a modern invention for which we have created a “snack food industry”. Unfortunately our bodies haven’t really changed but our environment has. Our modern environment encourages us to snack all day. This way of eating, especially if it is highly refined foods will increase inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a driver of weight gain and chronic disease (including diabetes and heart disease).
My recommendation is to find what works for you. Some people really benefit from having an early breakfast, others do well waiting until late morning or lunch time before they break their fast. In nutrition, it always comes back to one question “is it working for you”? If your choice around when you break your fast is keeping you happy and healthy, no need to change, however if you are not well, I would recommend that you try a different approach.
The best food to break your fast with is real food. For example, leftovers of last night’s dinner, full fat natural yoghurt with some nuts and seeds and berries, eggs and vegies, haloumi and fruit.
After some more nutritional health advice? Read more here… – 8 Easy Steps to Better Gut Health with Dr Joanna McMillan