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Is Breakfast The Most Important Meal of the Day?

Today the majority of people in the Western world believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, whether they eat it or not. As we have learned from history, popular beliefs have been proven wrong many times. Let's look at the breakfast idea a little closer.

A typical breakfast

The first question is, how did we even start believing that breakfast is the day's most important meal? If you look at human history, people did not eat anything first thing in the morning. Even today, if you look at healthy cultures around the world, people don't eat breakfast, or if they do, it's coffee or tea with something very light. In Greece, as kids, we did eat something light in the morning for breakfast, but most adults never had breakfast. If you look at cultures in Africa and South America, untouched by the West, you will find that none of them eat breakfast. So how did the Western world come to believe that breakfast is the day's most important meal? The answer is Marketing! As sad as it is, we live in a world today where with the proper marketing, you can get people to believe almost anything. Is it possible that special interests are driving this idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? It wouldn't be the first time special interest groups tried to convince us to believe something untrue.

You hear about studies on breakfast all the time, stating how important breakfast is to your weight and health. If breakfast is vital to the human body, why are most people not hungry in the morning? Is their body trying to sabotage itself? You can find a study to prove almost whatever you want. So let's take a closer look at these breakfast studies.

Dr. David Allison of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama and his colleagues took a closer look at breakfast studies. After they analyzed 92 breakfast studies, published between 1994 and 2011, they learned that there is very little substantial evidence to support the notion that breakfast makes any difference in losing weight. Most of the studies were observational. Simply put, the author suggested an association between breakfast and weight change based on their observations, but there may have been other behaviors common among breakfast eaters that they did not consider. Often, the biases of the researcher influence the conclusions of the research.

According to Dr. David Allison and colleagues, the bottom line is that no hard evidence links eating breakfast with weight loss.

If you need more than this to convince you that breakfast might not be the most important meal of the day, let's look at breakfast from another point of view: digestion!

If you look at healthy cultures around the world, including the one where I was raised in Greece, the main meal was always eaten at a time when we could rest afterward. In the cities in Greece, people ate a big lunch but had a 3-hour lunch break, and we usually took a nap right after eating. In the villages where my mother came from, they did not have a break in the afternoon because they worked in the fields, so they had their main meal at dinner, where they would rest after the meal. If you look at other cultures, the main meal is also eaten at a time when people can rest afterward. Look at animals like lions, tigers, or even our domestic dogs and cats. What do they do after eating? They sleep or at least rest. Think about it: how do you feel after eating a big meal? Don't you feel like taking a nap, too? That is because when you eat a big meal (not necessarily overeating), a big part of your energy goes toward digestion. Digestion, by the way, requires lots of energy, so your body naturally wants to rest so digestion can occur properly. If you eat and don't rest afterward, you compromise digestion. That is why resting after the main meal is a very good idea for proper digestion, which animals know how to do instinctively and all the healthy cultures around the world also seem to know.

However, eating like a king in the morning and then going to work creates a problem for your digestion. If you have a stressful job, it makes it even worse because stress is not suitable for digestion either. In my expert opinion, breakfast is the worst time to eat for the vast majority of adults. If all of the above information is not enough to convince you that breakfast is not the most important meal of the day, here is a quote from Marion Nestle, Former chair of the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health and Professor of Sociology at New York University taken from one of the articles she wrote: "Many—if not most—studies were demonstrating that breakfast eaters are healthier and manage weight better than non-breakfast eaters were sponsored by Kellogg or other breakfast cereal companies whose businesses depend on people believing that breakfast means ready-to-eat cereal."

I don't eat breakfast, but I do make exceptions. I believe in the 80/20 rule. If you eat ideally 80 percent of the time, your body will forgive you for the 20 percent when you don't.

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