Breakfast’s Benefits

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Skipping breakfast means missing out on important health gains. Here’s how to ensure your body gets the morning nutrition it needs.

You’ve probably heard it many times: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Yet according to the American Dietetic Association, more than half of male teenagers and more than two thirds of female teens do not regularly eat breakfast.

Skipping a morning meal means missing out on more than you might think. Several studies have shown that eating breakfast can help control weight, boost brainpower, and benefit overall health. Here are reasons you should make breakfast a part of your everyday routine:

It Fuels Your Brain

Eating breakfast doesn’t just fill your stomach, it fuels your brain too. While you sleep, your brain drains its main energy source, called glucose, from the food you ate the night before. A morning meal replenishes that energy supply. If you skip breakfast, you are left feeling tired and irritable.

“Usually you haven’t eaten for quite a considerable amount of time, and your brain needs glucose, or blood sugar, to function,” says Marilyn Tanner-Blasiar, a pediatric dietitian from St. Louis, Missouri. “If you don’t eat breakfast and give yourself at least some type of food in the morning, you’re not going to be thinking as well as you would.”

In fact, several studies have shown that students who eat breakfast perform better on tests, have better grades, and are better behaved than those who don’t eat breakfast.

It Maintains Weight

People often skip breakfast in an effort to curb their daily calorie intake. What they don’t realize is that they’re usually doing more harm than good.

A recent study by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health’s Eating Among Teens (EAT) project looked at the link between breakfast frequency and weight change in more than 2,200 adolescents. According to the study, teens who ate breakfast daily typically gained less weight than those who skipped the morning meal.

One reason for the weight gain among breakfast skippers is that they tend to eat more often between meals. Furthermore, once they get really hungry, they’re more likely to make impulsive, unhealthy food choices.

“Based on a lot of studies, it seems like people are craving and reaching for the high-salt, high-fat, high-calorie foods, because it’s our body’s way of saying, ‘We better store up these calories because she might fast for another 12 to 16 hours,’” says Sarah Krieger, a pediatric dietitian in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The breakfast eaters in the study also consumed a healthier overall diet and were more physically active than those who skipped breakfast.

It Provides Needed Nutrition

According to the American Dietetic Association, children and teens who eat a healthy breakfast are more likely to meet their overall nutrient requirements. “Breakfast foods tend to be very high in nutrients,” Tanner-Blasiar says. For example, many cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamin D, iron, and folic acid. “Those vitamins and minerals are important and pivotal at that point in their lives, especially to meet their peak growth ability,” Tanner-Blasiar says.

Eating breakfast also lays the foundation for lifelong health benefits. Studies have shown that kids who skip breakfast consume less calcium than those who don’t. Osteoporosis—a disease that results in easy-to-break bones in old age—starts in childhood. Eating calcium-rich foods, such as milk, can help prevent the disease. “We don’t think about it until we’re 65 and have poor bone health that we should have been drinking our milk when we were 10 to 16,” Tanner-Blasiar says.

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