Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

Published 8 May 2021 • By Candice Salomé

Who hasn't heard on countless occasions that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? The idea that this first meal ensures that we have plenty of energy for the entire day has become well ingrained in our minds.  

But is breakfast really the most important meal? What makes a 'good' breakfast? What does science say about it? When did the concept of breakfast originate?

We explain it all in our article!

Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?

When does the concept of breakfast originate?

The concept of breakfast as we know it today was born with a change in eating habits at the turn of the 20th century when Western countries were in the midst of the industrial revolution.

Before this period, people also ate in the morning to break the nightly fast (hence the word 'breakfast'), but it was not ritualised. Indeed, the foods now associated with breakfast were not common. At that time, the leftovers from the previous day were eaten on waking. 

At the same time, more and more people were moving from the countryside and fields to the city to take up sedentary jobs (in factories and offices) and workers began to complain of indigestion. Their morning meal was inadequate.

From then on, Dr. John H. Kellogg, an American doctor and inventor who would later found what would become the Kellogg's company, invested in research on "the best possible way of life". He provided wealthy people with treatments ranging from hydrotherapy to light therapy according to the health principles of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He prescribed bland, low-fat, meat-free diets for his patients. In 1898, for example, Dr. Kellogg created cornflakes, a cornmeal-based flake, which he claimed was a way to combat indigestion.

Kellogg's original Toasted Corn Flakes

His brother, Will Keith Kellogg, saw great commercial potential and decided to market the cereal to the general public in 1907. Thus the breakfast was born - supported by the theses of nutritionists like John H. Kellogg - and cereals began to invade the market.

What makes a 'good' breakfast?

Many people do not take the time to eat breakfast in the morning. However, it is important to take the time to sit down at the table and allow yourself at least 20 minutes to eat as you would for lunch or dinner.

This is because this first meal will provide the body with the energy it needs to have a good morning.

A balanced breakfast is made up of seasonal foods and can be composed of products from different food categories. You can vary your breakfast pleasures from one day to the next. It can consist of a sugar-free drink (coffee, tea, rooibos, maté, etc.), a protein-rich food (cottage cheese, cheese, soya yoghurt, eggs, etc.), a seasonal fruit (kiwi, apricots, bananas, oranges, dried fruit, etc.) and a source of carbohydrates (rusks, toast, baguette, cereal flakes, etc.) on which it is possible to spread a little butter, jam or margarine (rich in omega-3s).

If you prefer to start your day with a bowl of cereal, you should pay close attention to the nutritional content of the cereal, as they often contain a lot of sugar and therefore have a high glycaemic index.

What are the benefits of breakfast?

editor_meta_bo_img_c95e845ddeb833d087cc31adedccc3fa.png It provides the energy needed for the first part of the day:

After a fast of 8 to 12 hours while you sleep, the body needs to replenish its energy to face the first part of the day and thus have the strength to last until lunchtime.

editor_meta_bo_img_e5a2e7d5c976568ea26eda01816622b9.png It promotes memory and concentration:

During the night, the level of glucose in the blood tends to fall and some of our organs, such as the brain (which is fuelled by glucose), then function less well when we wake up. A good breakfast allows us to be more productive in the morning.

editor_meta_bo_img_2e7021cea63ad19af340c851c5442b70.png The risk of nutritional deficiencies is lower:

Breakfast gives the body all the essential nutrients it needs to function properly. People who skip this meal are more likely to suffer from deficiencies in the long term.

editor_meta_bo_img_56ebf46e8d1db3ae90be1595533e124f.png It prevents snacking:

People who do not eat breakfast tend to feel hungry mid-morning. Since they are often not at home, they tend to nibble and snack on less balanced foods such as biscuits or pastries, which are high in sugar and fat.

What does science say about breakfast?

As we saw earlier, the belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is well established in Western society. However, there is little scientific evidence to support this.

Overall, people who eat breakfast tend to be thinner and healthier. However, these individuals often also eat a more balanced diet and get more exercise.

Two studies published in 2014 in a leading journal, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, have reopened the debate on the true value of breakfast.

These studies call into question the fact that eating breakfast would prevent people from becoming overweight. The scientists stress the importance of many factors that were not sufficiently taken into account in previous studies, such as physical activity or socio-economic background, of which breakfast is a marker.

Indeed, since the 1950s, products from the food industry (such as cereals which are often high in sugar) have become part of our diet.

Thus, according to Professor Bernard Guy-Grand, in the French Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics (Cahiers de nutrition et de diététique): "We are obviously not opposed to breakfast, which has its advantages for most consumers of all ages, but there is no reason to make it an absolute obligation for all in the hope of fighting obesity...". 

In his view, the only thing that is certain is that breakfast gives us the boost of energy we need to get the day off to a good start.

Was this article helpful to you? Are you a "breakfast person"?
Share your thoughts and questions with the community in the comments below!
Take care!

avatar Candice Salomé

Author: Candice Salomé, Health Writer

Candice is a content creator at Carenity and specialises in writing health articles. She has a particular interest in the fields of women's health, well-being and sport. 

Candice holds a master's degree in... >> Learn more


robjmckinney • Ambassador
on 08/05/2021

Not a fan of breakfast at any part of my life. But I am now forced due to my many forms of medicine to eat before I take my morning range of tablets. So now I am having a breakfast to which I prefer a light simple format. But another 'but' has been rearing its ugly head is choking on food requiring lots of lubrication contained in the breakfast. Funny enough a full English has the best all round qualities for me but not exactly slimming. Most breakfast cereals contain massive amounts of sugar like all those healthy so called options. So breakfast is an annoying essential for me but not by choice, stay safe!

on 08/05/2021

As a child I was not allowed to leave the house until I’d had breakfast which did pose something of a problem as I hate milk so would not eat cereals in the tradiation way, neither would I eat porridge as I don’t like the texture so my compromise was to eat Weetabix spread with butter and jam or a bacon sandwich.

today my breakfast is very different - yoghurt with grapes and satsuma and sometimes toast. I also occasionally have a cooked breakfast of bacon, eggs and mushrooms. But I do always eat breakfast. I think it’s the most important meal of the day

on 08/05/2021

Like many due to medication, I eat breakfast usually cereal with milk and yoghurt, coffee. lots of coffee

on 08/05/2021

For me, breakfast is certainly most important meal of the day. I have a bowl of freshly chopped fruits such as banana, strawberries, Raspberries, Blue berries easy peel orange Prunes Apricots Greek style Natural yogurt topped with nuts and seeds. A very healthy and satisfying breakfast. I do not have any elevenses or any thing else other that a cup of tea, until lunch. So yes, I do consider breakfast to be the most important meal of the day. Stay healthy every one.

on 08/05/2021

Never eaten breakfast since I left school. I do eat cereals sometimes for my tea or as a  snack. Love jordans tropical museli.

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