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Is it OK to Skip Breakfast? The Myth of Breakfast as the Most Important Meal of the Day

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

We hear all the time that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The reasons given are diverse and many: People who eat breakfast weigh less. Breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism. Your body is starving overnight. Eating breakfast improves concentration. Kids who eat breakfast do better at school. Breakfast is good for your physical health. Breakfast is good for your mental health. All of these statements have at least a kernel of truth, but is breakfast all it is made to seem? Is it OK to skip breakfast?

child eating cereal

Claims About the Benefits of Breakfast

Breakfast for a Healthier Weight

The research of breakfast and weight outcomes is mixed, but understanding the data can help sort out what we know. Most of the studies on breakfast intake and weight status are observational. That is, they look at what people are already doing and what their weight is. These studies tend to show that people who eat breakfast are more likely to have a weight in the normal weight category.

But when researchers looked at experimental studies where they assigned some people to eat breakfast and others to not eat breakfast, the outcomes were different. Breakfast eaters did not lose more weight than the breakfast skippers. The reason for this is that breakfast eaters tend to have overall healthier eating habits than those who don't eat breakfast.

Breakfast to Boost Your Metabolism

There is a very tiny bit of truth to the link between eating breakfast and jumpstarting your metabolism. It requires energy, that is, metabolic output, to digest food. Diet induced thermogenesis is the term used to describe the energy requirement of digestions. But this is not unique to breakfast. Digestion at any time of the day requires energy. Eating breakfast does not jumpstart your metabolism, but your metabolism is involved in digesting breakfast just as it is involved with digesting any other meal.

Breakfast to Stop the Overnight Starving State

This claim draws us in with its dramatic use of the word "starving." It is true that most people do not eat overnight while they are sleeping. Still, nothing terrible is imminent as soon as you wake up that will be solved by eating breakfast. Our bodies are able to handle an overnight fast. Overnight is not enough to get into a genuine starving state. Real starvation takes between days and weeks to occur. It will not happen if you skip breakfast or eat breakfast late.

Breakfast for Improved Concentration

Will breakfast help you concentrate? There is some data that eating breakfast compared with fasting will improve attention, executive function, and memory on the morning breakfast is eaten. Of note, most of the research on this topic was done with school-aged children. This link might be explained by blood sugar levels in people who are fasting that are on the lower side, and when blood sugar levels are a bit better, cognitive function is improved.

Breakfast to Help Kids Do Better at School

This claim is clearly related to concentration, and this one also seems to be true. Children who eat breakfast tend to do better at school. Additionally, eating breakfast on the morning of standardized tests also is correlated with doing better on these tests. Although this link can partially be explained by the link between breakfast and better concentration, I think there is more to this picture. Socioeconomic status is related to eating breakfast and also to kids' academic results. It is possible that children who are provided breakfast also have other resources that help them do better at school.

Breakfast for Overall Health

In a general sense, breakfast can be good for your health. Some breakfast foods contain vitamins and minerals that we need. Dairy, a part of many breakfast foods, contains calcium, and breakfast cereals are often fortified with vitamins and minerals. While this is true, it is not the time of day eaten that is key, it is the foods eaten.

Breakfast for Mental Wellbeing

Research has seen a link between skipping breakfast and increased stress, depression, and psychological distress. This connection might be due to the maintenance of normal blood sugar from eating breakfast, and lower blood sugars and resulting irritability from skipping breakfast. It is not clear if the correlation is due to eating breakfast or other variables of those who eat breakfast, such as socioeconomic status and lifestyle.

Maybe Breakfast is Not All That Important

If you were wondering if it is OK to skip breakfast, here is my opinion. I think that breakfast is probably not the make it or break it for someone's health like we grew up thinking. I still think that eating breakfast is a good idea for many people. To eat breakfast or skip breakfast should be an individualized discussion and decision.

Is It OK to Skip Breakfast? Factors that can Influence Your Breakfast Decision

  • Your occupation. Some people have very active jobs, and without breakfast, they will not have energy to do their work. Similarly for students, who tend to do better after eating breakfast.

  • How you feel in the morning. Some people feel a bit nauseous in the morning. It might be reasonable for them to have a later breakfast when they are feeling better.

  • Your Exercise Schedule. Many people exercise in the morning. Some people get cramps if they exercise after eating, and others have no energy to exercise unless they have eaten.

  • Your Preferences. Eating breakfast can be an enjoyable and relaxing way to start the day, and that alone can be a good reason to have breakfast.

  • Your Routine. Having a set schedule is important to many people. Putting breakfast on the agenda can help people start their day off right.

So is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Is it OK to skip breakfast? I think that eating is important in general. We need to get enough energy and nutrients throughout the day to support our health and activities. The ultimate importance traditionally given to breakfast over other eating occasions is probably overstated. If we get enough energy and nutrients during the day in a way that keeps us feeling well and satisfied, it could be OK to skip breakfast.

In general, I think it is a good idea to always think critically about things we have always believed to be true. The idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is another belief we take for granted. It is helpful to understand how and when it can be true, and it is also helpful to understand when it is OK to skip breakfast.

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4 commentaires

19 mai



19 mai



19 mai



05 nov. 2023

Great article! I have always been a big believer in breakfast but have also been curious about the background and need for it, especially when talking about it with others who usually skip breakfast. This article gave me a lot of good information and perspective - thank you! I'm not sure if this is part of the same discussion, but I would also be interested in your thoughts on intermittent fasting.


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