What are the health benefits of eating breakfast?

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Keri Glassman, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Breakfast has many healthy benefits, besides the fact that it breaks the overnight fast and it's yummy! Watch me explain why it's key to eat a breakfast that contains protein and fiber, and to eat consistently. 
One of the many benefits of eating breakfast is that it may actually help prevent type 2 diabetes. Do you routinely bypass eating breakfast only to have lunch be your first meal of the day? If so, you may rethink your lack of a morning meal and rise and dine to ward off diabetes and other health concerns. In a study published in the August 2013 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers followed over 46,000 women, who were initially free of diabetes, for six years. At the end of the study, women who consumed breakfast irregularly were found to be at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to women who consumed breakfast daily. Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 1 in 3 adults could develop diabetes by 2050, this could be a wake-up call for the estimated 30 million Americans who skip breakfast on a regular basis.
Many studies over the past 20 years have shown that eating a healthy breakfast can:
  • Improve memory and concentration
  • Boost your creativity and problem solving
  • Lift your mood
  • Raise test scores and work performance
  • Build overall health
  • Help you reach and keep a healthy weight
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Studies consistently show that people who eat meals at regular intervals, and particularly those who eat breakfast, stay younger longer. Indeed, non-breakfast-eaters have a mortality rate that is 1.3 to 1.5 times per year higher than those who eat breakfast regularly.

Breakfast is the first part of a day-long eating plan. Eating breakfast helps our bodies metabolize food more efficiently and cuts down on the urge to snack between meals. Unhealthy snacking for more than three days a week can increase your RealAge (physiologic age). Eating regularly helps break up long periods of fasting, meaning that our body doesn't have to gear up to digest a big meal after doing nothing for hours, which is not an efficient process. In addition, some researchers have hypothesized that we burn more fat during our waking hours, since we are more active. This means that we might burn off our breakfast calories more effectively than we would an overly large late-night dinner. However, this is still speculation.

A perhaps surprising health effect of eating breakfast is that it also makes your cardiovascular and immune systems younger. We don't know exactly why, but several theories exist. First, many cereals contain lots of soluble fiber, which prevents lipid buildup and thus helps prevent arterial aging. Fiber also helps decrease the risk of cancer. The average American eats 12 grams of fiber a day, but increasing your fiber intake to 25 grams a day can reduce arterial aging and make your RealAge as much as two years younger. Fiber is one of the "Fifteen Food Choices" that have definitely been shown to make a difference in how long and how well you live. Second, cereals are usually "fortified" with extra vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. During breakfast, we get many of the essential nutrients that we may not get during the rest of the day. This is even more important if you don't eat lots of fruits and vegetables during the day, or if you don't take vitamin and mineral supplements regularly. Other typical breakfast foods (fortified fruit juices, yogurt, and whole fruit) contain essential nutrients such as vitamins C and D and calcium and magnesium.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.