Eat This for Breakfast
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
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.
Breakfast bonus #4: It can help protect you from disease.
Healthy women who skipped breakfast for two weeks developed higher levels of
"bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol than women who ate a
bowl of fiber-rich whole-grain cereal with milk, according to a recent study.
Fiber binds with cholesterol and speeds its excretion—before it reaches your
arteries, says Zuckerbrot. Because of this, high fiber intake has been linked
to an almost 50 percent reduction in heart disease over 10 years, according to
the Harvard Nurses' Health Study. Research also suggests that fiber helps
shuttle excess estrogen out of the body—good news, since elevated levels can up
breast cancer risk.