The importance of breakfast

The importance of breakfast

By Kumud Gandhi

Have you ever considered where the word ‘breakfast’ comes from? It literally means breaking the overnight fast to replenish energy levels that have drained over night so that you start the day fully charged.

So those people who skip breakfast and especially children are essentially starting the day on an empty charge, which means the body then draws fuel and charge from energy reserves.

Unfortunately the stress hormones that are activated in this process leave us feeling irritable, tired and unable to take in information quickly and efficiently. Let’s put this into the context of a young child going to school or an adult going into an important meeting. If you want to be at your most receptive or feeling sharp then make sure you eat breakfast; this will not only replenish brain energy but also kick start your metabolism which in turn will help you to burn calories.

Throughout the brain, biochemical messengers called neurotransmitters help the brain make the right connections and food influences how these neurotransmitters work. The more balanced the breakfast, the more balanced the brain function. There are two types of proteins that affect neurotransmitters: those that make you alert and those that make you calm; a balance of the two will nourish the brain to be primed to learn and emotions

prepared to behave; particularly in the case of children. Thus by eating complex carbohydrates as well as proteins, helps to move the amino acids from these proteins into the brain. The two are therefore natural partners for enhancing learning, attention span and balanced behaviour.

So why is breakfast important?

The research surrounding breakfast is quite conclusive & comprehensive:

  • People that eat breakfast are likely to achieve higher grades, pay closer attention, participate more in class discussions, and manage more complex academic problems than those children that skip breakfast
  • If you skip breakfast you are more likely to be inattentive, sluggish, and make lower grades.
  • You are more likely to show erratic eating patterns throughout the day, eat less nutritious foods, and give into junk-food cravings.
  • If you skip breakfast you will likely crave a mid- morning sugar fix because your struggling to make it through the morning on an empty energy bank.
  • What you have for breakfast is just as likely to affect your ability to learn. Children who eat a breakfast containing both complex carbohydrates and proteins in equivalent amounts of calories tend to show better learning and performance than children who eat primarily a high protein or a high carbohydrate breakfast. A breakfast high in carbohydrates with little protein is more likely to sedate children rather than stimulate their brain to learn.
  • Children eating high calcium foods for breakfast (e.g., dairy products) showed enhanced behavior and learning.
  • The hectic and rushed behaviour commonly known as ‘Morning stress’ increases the levels of stress hormones in the bloodstream. This can affect behavior and learning in two ways. First, stress hormones themselves can bother the brain. Secondly, stress hormones such as cortisol increase carbohydrate craving throughout the day. The food choices that result may affect behavior and learning in children who are sensitive to the ups and downs of blood sugar levels. Try to send your child off to school with a calm attitude, as well as a good breakfast.
  • Breakfast sets the pattern for nutritious eating throughout the rest of the day. When children miss breakfast to save time or to cut calories, they set themselves up for erratic binging and possibly overeating the rest of the day.

So, have you had your poached eggs on brown toast yet?

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