While skipping a meal might seem like a good way to keep your food intake under control, research actually shows it can hurt your efforts at weight control.
And breakfast is the one meal you should always eat if you’re trying to keep a reasonable waistline. Here’s the scoop…
Researchers at the University of Bath in England say the importance of breakfast may be based on what you do after eating, not necessarily on what or how you eat.
In a study that focused on the effects breakfast has on physical activity for people who are very overweight, they found that the meal could benefit health by making folks more active in the morning.
While the research did not find that eating breakfast resulted in lost weight during the six-week experiment, it did show that the overweight participants in the study who ate breakfast did more exercise and ate less food during the rest of the day.
Compared to the people who skipped breakfast, they also improved their insulin sensitivity – which means their blood sugar was under better control and their risk for diabetes dropped.1
In other research performed at Bath, the scientists found that when people whose weight was normal regularly ate breakfast, their blood sugar also remained more stable during the day, instead of rising and falling drastically. And when these folks exercised, they burned more calories than they did than when they skipped breakfast.2
Breakfast as a Tool for Weight Control
A study at Cornell strongly supports the benefits of breakfast for keeping your weight down. The researchers analyzed the breakfast habits of 147 people who kept their weight under control without having to struggle with their waistlines. They found that among these slender folks, only four percent skipped breakfast, while the other 96 percent usually ate this meal.
“One important take away from this study is that a very high rate of slim people actually eat breakfast instead of skipping, which is consistent with previous research on the importance of breakfast,” says researcher Anna-Leena Vuorinen. “But what stands out is that they not only ate breakfast, but that they ate healthful foods like fruits and vegetables. Also, egg consumption was higher than we expected.”
What’s the Best Breakfast?
In picking out the best foods to eat for breakfast, studies show that you should focus on foods high in protein, like eggs and meat.
A study at the University of Missouri-Columbia shows that eating a breakfast high in protein increases the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain – this in turn produces more meal satisfaction and can help you resist food cravings and the temptation to overeat during the rest of the day.3
“Our research showed that people experience a dramatic decline in cravings for sweet foods when they eat breakfast,” says researcher Heather Leidy, who teaches nutrition and exercise physiology. “However, breakfasts that are high in protein also reduced cravings for savory – or high-fat – foods. On the other hand, if breakfast is skipped, these cravings continue to rise throughout the day.”
Dopamine, says Leidy, can boost “reward feelings” in the brain, and the resulting sensation makes it easier to moderate your food intake later in the morning and in the afternoon.
“Dopamine levels are blunted in individuals who are overweight or obese, which means that it takes much more stimulation – or food – to elicit feelings of reward; we saw similar responses within breakfast-skippers,” Leidy notes.
Eating breakfast, particularly a breakfast high in protein, the researchers point out, can counteract the common urge to overeat that is spurred on by our constant exposure to food advertising.
In the quest to eat protein at breakfast, your protein intake doesn’t have to be extreme. Researcher Jill Kanaley, who has performed studies on how high-protein breakfasts help control blood sugar,4 recommends 25 to 30 grams of protein, about the amount you get when you eat an egg (6 grams) and 3 ounces of meat (22 grams).
So don’t shy away from a high protein meal in the morning. A high protein breakfast can keep you feeling more collected for the rest of the way. And you may find your weight easier to keep down, too.