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The benefits of eating a healthy breakfast

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You’ve probably heard the saying, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” a million times. You may have heard other claims about breakfast in the media, from health experts and others. So is all this hype about breakfast true? Let’s review the facts.

Breakfast gives you energy to start the day. Breakfast helps regulate blood sugar levels by literally breaking the fast and providing your body with the fuel it needs to function properly throughout the day.

Breakfast improves diet quality. Research shows that people who skip breakfast are less likely to meet the recommended intakes for important nutrients like folic acid and calcium. Studies have demonstrated that if you start your day off with fruit, you are more likely to reach the daily recommended servings for it.

Breakfast improves behavior and increases the ability to learn and focus. Breakfast provides improved concentration in the classroom or boardroom. Studies show that students who eat breakfast perform better on math, matching, memory and creativity tests. Children who eat breakfast have fewer behavioral problems, report being in a better mood and tend to miss school less. Research shows this effect is particularly evident among teenage boys.

Breakfast and weight loss. There is a substantial amount of research that shows that breakfast helps with weight control, making it easier to maintain weight loss and decrease the risk of becoming overweight. Research shows that adolescents who eat breakfast regularly tend to weigh less. Adults who have lost and kept off the weight tend to be breakfast eaters. According to the National Weight Control Registry, the largest investigation of long-term weight loss maintenance, one of the common denominators among individuals who have successfully lost and maintained weight were breakfast eaters. How this happens is not entirely understood. It was popularly believed that when individuals skipped breakfast, they would overeat at later meals.

However, a recent study conducted by nutrition researchers at Cornell University showed that skipping breakfast does not necessarily translate into weight gain. The authors of the study found there was “no caloric compensation in a normal group of eaters.” Senior author David Levitsky said, “If you skip breakfast, you may be hungrier, but you won’t eat enough calories to make up for the lost breakfast.” This means that a person’s total daily caloric intake will decrease, which can eventually lead to weight loss. The study titled Effect of Skipping Breakfast on Subsequent Energy Intake, was published in the July edition in the Journal of Physiology and Behavior.

So what does this mean? It is still important for a person’s overall health to start their day with a healthy breakfast. Eating breakfast that includes fruit, whole grains and lean proteins is a good start. For people interested in losing weight, it is important to watch food portions, including breakfast portions, to reduce the amount of calories they consume in a day.

Remember, breakfast sets the tone for the rest of the day. A healthy breakfast can motivate you to keep eating healthy throughout the day.

Here are some quick links:
The Benefits of Breakfast
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About Julia Salomón MS, RD, CD

Julia is the corporate dietitian at Affinity Health System and also a nutrition educator. She works at various sites throughout the organization working with Affinity’s employee wellness program. She earned her Master’s degree in nutrition science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1996 and became a dietitian shortly thereafter. Julia has worked on several nutrition projects abroad as well as domestically. Before joining Affinity Health System in June of 2011, she worked as a college dietitian and later in the school nutrition field. She has earned certificates of training in adult and childhood weight management. Julia has a special interest in nutrition, public health and wellness.

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