Breakfast The most important meal of the day
Breakfast is often described as the most important meal of the day, providing as it does sustenance and energy (i.e., calories) for whatever activities lay ahead. As nutritionist Adelle Davis famously put it back in the 1960s: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.”. According to the latest evidence, we should all be aiming to consume around 15–25% of our daily energy intake at breakfast (i.e., 300–500 calories for women and 375–625 for men;). And yet the evidence from large-scale surveys suggests that somewhere in the region of 18–25% of adults and as many as 36% of adolescents in North America skip this putatively ‘most important’ meal.
A large and growing body of scientific evidence now supports the claim that breakfast is an essential meal. The first thing to take note of here is how the failure to eat something at the start of the day can have surprisingly serious health consequences for those concerned. For instance, Cahill et al. (2013) documented a 27% increase in coronary heart disease amongst those North American men who regularly failed to eat a meal at the start of the day.
Though, on the negative side, eating high-fat breakfasts too often has recently been demonstrated to increase the risk of atherosclerosis.
Of course, what we consume first thing in the morning is as much about mental alertness as it is about providing fuel for the body. Many people drink coffee because they believe, erroneously, as it turns out, that it improves their alertness. Intriguingly, the evidence from an analysis of three large-cohort studies (N> 200,000 North American men and women) conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health demonstrated that consuming a couple of cups of caffeinated coffee a day halved the suicide rate. The suggestion being that the moderate consumption of caffeine has a mild anti-depressant effect. So, taken together, the epidemiological research suggests that what we eat and what we drink first thing in the morning can both exert a pretty dramatic effect on both our health and mental wellbeing.
The general advice from the health experts is to eat a substantial well-balanced breakfast, one that delivers its energy slowly for the morning. Indeed, the failure to eat (a well-balanced) breakfast has been documented to have a harmful impact on cognitive performance, with the academic performance of school-aged children being the focus of much of the research in this area. The argument is that improving cognitive performance may be especially important amongst those of school age.
Certainly, nutritionists often recommend various foods for breakfast, specifically to help improve people ׳s mood. Though, on this point, it is perhaps worth noting that eating a large breakfast is associated with a lower mood later in the morning. Furthermore, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it turns out that the exact composition of one ׳s breakfast meal likely also plays an essential role in determining one ׳s ensuing mood.
Breakfast should be considered the most important meal of the day. The decision about if and what to eat and drink at the start of the day has been shown to have some profound effects on our health, wellbeing, and cognitive performance. There are undoubtedly significant cultural differences in the kinds of foods that people in different parts of the world want or think it appropriate to eat at different times of the day.