Is breakfast really essential?

Growing up I was always told to eat a big, healthy breakfast because it’s the most important meal of the day. As I got older, I began to eat breakfast less and less. Now, like many other college students, I prefer to sleep through breakfast altogether. My roommate on the other hand is an early riser and loves to eat a big breakfast. Since I am extremely skinny, he always tells me that skipping breakfast is hurting my already poor diet. I started to wonder if what he said was true: is missing breakfast really bad for you? According to Allison Aubrey of NPR, it isn’t.

In her article, Aubrey says that extensive research dating back to the 1960’s has shown that breakfast can lead to improved health. However, this is being disputed today. Researchers in Canada studied about 12 thousand participants and monitored their eating habits in relation to their BMI (body mass index) and their weight. They found that the participants’ eating habits had no relationship with either other factor. I am a bit skeptical with this study because the researchers did not manipulate the x variable (breakfast) at all. If they had randomly chose half the participants to eat breakfast and half to skip it, then we could possibly see some causation. Instead, what they did was have the participants self-report their eating habits, which can lead to bias (people can be embarrassed about how much they eat) error (people can easily forget to write it down), or at best show us a correlation, but no causation.

David Ludwig, nutrition professor at Harvard School of Public Health, says it’s not about when we eat, it’s what we eat. He says that if you choose to eat a breakfast full of processed carbs, it’ll probably be worse for you than if you don’t eat at all. However, if you eat a breakfast full of protein, like eggs, you’ll be feeling satisfying longer. Drew Ramsey is a psychiatrist at Columbia University and he studies the link between food and mood. Ramsey also agrees that protein in the morning can help people control their appetite better. In his study, Ramsey took 57 adolescents and randomly placed them into 3 categories: low protein breakfast, high protein breakfast, and no breakfast at all. The results showed that high protein breakfasts caused people to reduce their daily intake, hunger, and they did not gain any fat.

Looking at both studies, I am more inclined to side with the fact that eating a healthy breakfast is most beneficial. Having said that, my original question was whether or not it was bad to skip breakfast altogether. While one study said you should eat a healthy breakfast and the other says it doesn’t matter, they both say that it’s not bad to miss breakfast either; it just depends on what you eat when you decide to do so. Now, I may start to eat a healthy breakfast more often, but I won’t feel guilty when I skip it entirely.



5 thoughts on “Is breakfast really essential?

  1. sbm5465

    I found this article interesting because I actually don’t eat breakfast frequently. If I do, it is a small, quick granola bar or banana on the go. The one time I went to a dining hall with my friends for breakfast after my 8am class one day, I actually ended up feeling nauseous. This is in direct agreeance with what David Ludwig had to say. The day I ate in the Dining hall, I had french toast sticks and dry frosted flakes cereal, which is pretty much all carbs. I didn’t have fruit or meat. This is probably what left me feeling so lousy. It’s an interesting perspective that we should eat healthier or not at all at breakfast, because I feel like breakfast being the most important meal of the day is an idea that is so frequently pushed upon us.

  2. Wencong Wang

    Thanks for share this Zachary! Since I am freshmen of high school, I barely eat breakfast. Because I am too lazy to eat breakfast, and I want to staying in bed after waking up. When I come to college, it has been four months, I remember that I only eat about 4 times breakfast. Until now, it has been about 4 years I did not eat breakfast, and there are nothing bad for my stomach. I can eat a lot during regular time of meal. My digestive system is perfectly worked. I totally agree with the research you find out that do not eat breakfast won’t hurt your health. Here is a youtube video shows how to cook healthy food for breakfast and lunch. Hope it can help you to built healthy body!

  3. Daniel J Lehecka

    Since arriving here at Penn State, I’ve eaten breakfast a whopping 2 times, both of which were just because my friends were going. I don’t really feel that it has effected my performance in the classroom or anywhere else, and it’s just one more distraction in my day. Instead I just have a bottle of water when I wake up and I find that perfectly adequate. However, I do know that a lot of people find themselves unable to continue their day if they don’t start with food. To your point about nutrition, I read another blog talking about bagels vs donuts and how there is a misconception that bagels are a lot more healthy for you. Just found it funny that these two posts tied so well together, so I’ll link to that post below in case you want to read it.

  4. Thomas Garvin

    I really enjoyed your article and thought it was interesting by attacking a popular point of view in that breakfast is essential. I personally, disagree with the study mentioned in your blog in that I feel breakfast is absolutely necessary in the morning. Coming off 8+ hours of sleep where no food is consumed whatsoever, your body has to be craving some sort of nutrition. Maybe a meal isn’t necessary, but some sort of nutrition is? Heres an article refuting the notion that you should not have breakfast:

  5. Sarah Tarczewski

    Although I agree that what you eat is most important, I find breakfast to be an integral part of the day. Not only does breakfast include the vast majority of my favorite foods, but I feel like it makes me more alert and energized… at least until lunch. This link: deals with the types of food you could eat in the morning if you ever decided to convert to breakfast. The foods listed should give you a nice kick start to your day!

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