By Jessica Decostole
Get healthier by lunchtime—here's how.
More than 30 percent of us start our days on an empty stomach. "People think they don't have time for breakfast, or that skipping it will help shed extra pounds," says Tanya Zuckerbrot, R.D., author of The F-Factor Diet (the "F" stands for "fiber"). "But both are completely untrue." In fact, people who do eat a morning meal are nearly 50 percent less likely to be obese than those who don't, according to a Harvard University study. Here, more ways breakfast can boost your health, plus how to fit it into your busy life.
Breakfast bonus #1: It gives you the nutrients you need.
Skipping breakfast makes it a lot harder to get the recommended daily dose of most vitamins and nutrients. Morning meals such as whole-grain cereal with milk and low-fat yogurt with granola provide calcium and fiber (nutrients many Americans are deficient in). "Breakfast is the healthiest meal most people eat," says Elizabeth Somer, R.D., author of 10 Habits That Mess Up a Woman's Diet. "And breakfast eaters tend to have a healthier diet overall."
Breakfast bonus #2: It can help you lose weight.
When your body goes without food, it burns calories slowly to conserve energy. Eating after an overnight fast jump-starts your metabolism, which means more efficient calorie burning all day, says Zuckerbrot. But what you eat is key. Simple carbohydrates (like a doughnut or most cereal bars) make your glucose (blood sugar) spike and then drop, leaving you starving by 11 a.m. and craving sugary foods, says Somer. A smarter start: complex carbs like oatmeal or whole-grain toast. High in fiber and low in sugar, they digest slowly, providing steady energy to keep you full and minimize cravings.
Breakfast bonus #3: It'll boost your brainpower.
Students who ate breakfast scored an average of 22 percent higher on word-recall tests than those who didn't, according to a University of Wales-Swansea study. When you wake up, much of your energy—in the form of glucose and glycogen (stored glucose)—has been used up since yesterday. Glucose is the only fuel used by your brain, says Somer, so without it, you'll feel fatigued and mentally fuzzy.