You’ve probably heard it a billion times. “Don’t skip breakfast!” But most Americans, adults and children, are not heeding this advice. There are a bunch of reasons why you should eat breakfast within one hour of waking. And it’s even better if the meal is Zone balanced – the correct amount of lean protein, low-glycemic carbohydrates and a dash of monounsaturated fat.
After sleeping a full night, your blood sugar level is low, and you are in a catabolic state. This means that body has been using up stored energy in the liver as well as beginning to cannibalize your muscle for energy. If you skip breakfast, your blood sugar stays low and cannibalization of your muscle will continue. This is a stress situation, and the body releases more cortisol as a response. This creates insulin resistance that increases insulin levels further, driving down blood sugar even more. No wonder by mid-morning you are incredibly hungry.
The whole basis of the anti inflammatory diet is to keep your insulin in a zone, not too high and not too low. This will stabilize blood sugar and prevent continuing muscle degradation for energy. Eating a Zone breakfast can help keep your insulin stabilized, provide the necessary protein to start rebuilding muscle mass and increase the levels of glycogen in the liver. This is called anabolism. It is this continued balance of catabolism and anabolism that we call metabolism. As long as the two phases of metabolism are balanced, so are your weight and your mood. This is why breakfast is so critically important for your alertness, productivity, increased cognition and memory, satiety, and weight control because it starts your day out on a high note as opposed to digging a deeper hormonal hole that you try to crawl out during the rest of the day. A balanced Zone breakfast is also the easiest way to keep your sugar cravings under control during the day. In other words, you will not need the constant trips to the vending machine or your secret stash of candy to artificially maintain blood sugar levels.
Still not convinced? Then give your kids breakfast. Research shows a link between regular breakfast consumption and improvement in academic performance and psychosocial functioning as well as cognition among children. Eating a breakfast every day will be the best way to protect any child against becoming overweight. Make that a Zone breakfast balanced in protein, low glycemic-load carbohyrates, and monounsaturated fat, and you have the ideal pediatric weight-loss program as obese children are less hungry at their next meal as demonstrated at Harvard Medical School more than a decade ago.2 This finding at Harvard was also confirmed by a research study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association on breakfast consumption among children that found the prevalence of obesity to be higher in those who regularly skipped breakfast.3 Evidence also suggests that breakfast consumption may improve cognitive function related to memory, test grades, and school attendance.4 Want the smartest and leanness kid in the school? It’s easy — feed them a Zone breakfast every day. While you are at it, make each of their meals a Zone meal and give them plenty of EPA and DHA at the same time.
- Affenito S. “Breakfast: A Missed Opportunity.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 107:565-69 (2007).
- Ludwig DS et al, “High glycemic index foods, overeating, and obesity.” Pediatrics 103: e26 (1999).
- Deshmukh-Taskar P et al. “The relationship of breakfast skipping and type of breakfast consumption with nutrient intake and weight status in children and adolescents: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2006.” Journal of American Dietetic Association 110:869-78 (2010).
- Rampersaud G et al. “Breakfast habits, nutritional status, body weight, and academic performance in children and adolescents.” Journal of American Dietetic Association 105: 843-60 (2005).