Breakfast beats obesity and disease

2010-07-28 10:04

It’s an old cliché that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

But it is true. The evidence is there.

Breakfast helps beat obesity and associated diseases so it’s surprising that it is the most often skipped meal of the day.

Registered dietician, Anne Till, says that if more people knew how much eating a daily nutritious breakfast could benefit their health, they would not skip it.

Eating breakfast quite simply sets you up for success for the rest of the day.

It provides your body with the fibre, calories, vitamins and minerals it needs to fuel it through the morning and even the rest of the day.

When you skip the first meal of the day, you subject your body to prolonged fasting, which has consequences.

For starters, you won’t have much energy for the morning ahead of you, leaving you tired, grumpy and unable to concentrate properly.

Secondly, you’ll be hungry, whether you’re conscious of it or not.

This will make you more likely to grab for unhealthy foods or overeat later in the day, putting your body on a rollercoaster ride of prolonged fasting and bouts of unhealthy overeating.

Overeating even at a single eating occasion can place your body under metabolic stress, which if repeated on a regular basis can contribute to chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Eating controlled amounts of nutrient dense foods starting with breakfast is highly desirable, and eating breakfast everyday assists in maintaining a healthy body weight, says Till.

“Research shows that people who consume breakfast tend to have lower body weights than people who skip breakfast. If your breakfast includes a high fibre breakfast cereal, wholegrain starch such as multigrain bread, or fruit and some form of protein such as milk, yoghurt or egg, you are more likely to maintain your desired healthy weight and a normal Body Mass Index (BMI).

“Further studies show that previously overweight individuals who have successfully lost weight are more likely to sustain that weight loss if they incorporate breakfast as a dietary practice,” says Till.

Aside from depriving your body of the energy it needs to get through the morning, when you skip breakfast you also lose out on a valuable opportunity to up your intake of desirable, health-promoting nutrients that support your body’s metabolic functions as well as immune function and reduce your risk of getting sick.

Till says: “People who eat a healthy breakfast are less inclined to overeat later in the day and more inclined to make healthier food choices the rest of the day. When you follow a nutritious, balanced diet, you improve your body’s ability to fight infection and disease.

“Many people underestimate the power of good, nutrient-rich foods in maintaining health and warding off illness.”

Obviously what you eat for breakfast, the portion sizes and how the food is prepared are important. A healthy balanced breakfast should consist of:

» Good quality protein foods such as eggs, milk, yoghurt or lean meat and/or

» Calcium-rich foods, such as milk, yoghurt, cheese, soy milk or soy yoghurt, which can double as a source of protein, and

» Complex carbohydrates high in fibre such as whole grains and fresh fruits, which provide valuable fibre, glucose and important vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

Till says: “If you don’t have time to eat a meal before you leave home or you are one of those who can’t face food early in the morning, you should consider taking a healthy, packed breakfast to work to eat later on.

“There is no prescribed time to eat breakfast, but it is useful to know that most people who eat breakfast, do so within one or two hours after waking. If you don’t eat before mid-morning (around nine or ten o’clock), you are probably skipping breakfast.

“Another easy option is to make use of a food supplement or meal replacement drink. While eating food is always the best option, making use of a good quality supplement if you are in a rush, not too hungry or simply want the convenience of sipping your breakfast at your desk is useful.

“There are a variety of supplements on the market... but the one you choose to use, should offer all the components of a balanced meal and include carbohydrate, protein and the right types of fat in the correct proportions, as well as important vitamins and minerals” advises Till.

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