Intermittent fasting: should you skip breakfast?

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Source: Net Doctor

You will have heard the old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

But with intermittent fasting diets gaining popularity, is it really crucial to eat first thing in the morning or is skipping breakfast the secret to weight loss? Kajsa Ernestam, in-house dietitian at the global health app Lifesum, separates fact from fiction when it comes to skipping breakfast.

Is it OK to skip breakfast?

In general, there are no benefits to skipping breakfast, or any meal throughout the day. If you are eating according to the 5:2 diet and the 16:8 diet, make sure you have a balanced food intake when you eat, and it is also good to consult with a dietitian or your GP if you wish to change your diet.

By keeping your food intake balanced and eating throughout the day, you are giving your body the fuel you need to keep you going until evening, and as a result, you will have enough energy.

How many meals a day should we eat?

By eating consistently, you keep up your blood sugar levels. The intestinal systems also need to rest sometimes, so I advise you eat to your three main meals and have two to three snacks per day.

If you prefer to get up earlier and exercise in the morning and don’t have time to eat beforehand, it’s very individual if you feel that you can exercise on an empty stomach or not. It might be good to eat something small before your workout (depending on the type of activity and intensity) to add some energy before your workout and to avoid breaking down the body mass/ muscles.

The health risks of skipping breakfast

There are a few ways in which forgoing breakfast can negatively impact your health:

Blood sugar levels

After sleeping all night, you need breakfast in order to bring up your blood sugar levels and your energy, whether you have diabetes or not. Eating in the morning is important because you have been fasting all night while sleeping, meaning that the energy layers in the liver are used.

In order to give the body new energy and not to take from your own body storage, it is vital to add energy in form of breakfast.

Diabetes risk

To eat a rich fibre-rich breakfast, containing healthy fat and a lean protein source, helps to avoid blood sugar lows and peaks after the meal, related to insulin secretion.

A high fibre intake can also be preventive for diseases such as type 2 diabetes. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) looked at the role of fibre and recommendations (2015) for adults over 16 should have 30g per day.

Reduced cognitive function

Numerous studies conducted with children, teenagers and adults found that eating a healthy and filling breakfast helps to improve short-term memory and cognitive function.

Choosing to skip breakfast in the morning will make it more difficult to recall information and will prevent you from concentrating, which is counter-productive if you are working or studying.

Breakfast and weight management

Many people believe that skipping breakfast will help them cut a few calories and thus lose weight. However, missing breakfast can actually have the opposite effect.

Ideally, in order to keep your metabolism working smoothly, you should eat nutritional food every four hours, which is why it is so important to eat after ‘fasting’ all night.

There are several studies that is in favour for eating breakfast for a healthy body function. In 2017, a review in the journal Circulation found a link between skipping breakfast and being overweight.

However, there are also studies that shows that eating or not eating breakfast has little effect on obesity and overweight.

But it is important to remember that it is not always about your weight. It’s also about vitamins, minerals, and muscle mass, to make your body function and feel good.

The best foods to eat for breakfast

Eggs

Eggs are a fantastic source of protein and are filled with many nutrients that will help to keep the body healthy, enabling it to fight off illness.

Oats

Eating oats for breakfast is a healthy way to start the day as it contains soluble fibre in much higher quantities than other grains, which helps reduce the absorption of cholesterol. My favourite is fibre-enriched oatmeal, because it gives you even more fibre than normal standard oatmeal.

Natural yoghurt

This is filled with healthy bacteria for the gut, as well as vitamins and calcium. I opt for natural dairy products without added sugar, and organic versions if available. I often also sprinkle some unsalted nuts like almonds or walnuts on top. If you are lactose intolerant, there are brands that offers lactose-free milk, and diary-free milk alternatives such as coconut and nut milks.

Lean meat

We often make the mistake to not eat enough protein at breakfast. Though it’s important to watch out for those high-fat breakfast foods like greasy sausages and rashers upon rashers of bacon, having meat for breakfast is not such a health crime. Lean meats like ham, chicken and turkey could provide you with good levels of protein.

Vegetables

Try to incorporate greens and vegetables into your breakfast routine. Eating a diet rich in vegetables gives a lot of vitamin, minerals, and antioxidants is as important for a healthy wellbeing. You also get a lot of fibres from vegetables, helping you to stay fuller for longer.

Rye bread

Bread, of course, is a staple of any breakfast. If you want to make sure you choose a bread with as little sugar added as possible, go for the bread that has no more than five grams of sugar – you can find this information where it says “of which sugars” in the nutrition label. Also make sure the fibre amount is high.

A good choice is to opt for whole-wheat bread as they contain more fibre which digests slower and will keep you fuller for longer than refined white bread. When it comes to toppings, avocado contains the healthy mono-unsaturated fat, meaning that it can help lower your cholesterol levels.

 

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