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Breakfast is the key


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There is nothing new about the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day…or is there? A new study has shown just how important what you have for breakfast can be, but for much of human history breakfast has not enjoyed much kudos — or even existed.

Breakfast as we know it is a recent historical phenomenon. The Romans did not really eat it, usually consuming only one meal a day around noon. In the Middle Ages monastic life largely shaped when people ate. Nothing could be eaten before morning mass and meat could only be eaten for half the days of the year. It’s thought the word breakfast entered the English language during this time and literally meant “break the night’s fast”.

It was around the 17th century that all social classes started eating breakfast. After the restoration of Charles II, coffee, tea and dishes like scrambled eggs started to appear on the tables of the wealthy. By the late 1740s, breakfast rooms also started appearing in the homes of the rich. The Industrial Revolution formalised work hours in the mid-19th century and labourers needed an early meal to sustain them at work.

Then everything changed at the start of the 20th century, due to an oversight by an American. John Harvey Kellogg had lazily left some boiled corn that he intended for breakfast out and uncovered overnight so that it went stale. Obviously a man who did not like wasting food, Kellogg passed the corn through some rollers and baked it, creating the world’s first cornflake. The rest is breakfast history and for a hundred years or so people have been waking to “cereal” and a lighter breakfast. This new study has shown though that a heavier, protein-filled breakfast may lead to healthier food choices throughout the day.

In the study, overweight or obese females aged 18-20 either skipped breakfast, had a high-protein breakfast of eggs and lean beef, or ate a breakfast of ready-to-eat cereal. Every breakfast contained 1470 kilojoules and was matched for fat, fibre and sugar. The difference was protein, with the high-protein breakfast containing 35 grams of protein.

The subjects completed food diaries and gave blood samples through the day and had scans of brain activity.

The findings showed that the high-protein breakfast increased feelings of fullness and satiety, as well as reducing the activity in parts of the brain involved in food cravings. The effect was not short term either, but lasted all day. Those who ate the high-protein breakfast showed less snacking in the evening on high-fat or high-sugar foods.

So starting your day with high-protein (low-fat) foods helps prevent overeating and poor-quality food snacking. It gives you an insight into how to maintain your weight and keep off the kilos. It also might explain why those breakfast-skipping Romans favoured the concealing folds of a toga.



 

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.