Is Breakfast the Most Important Meal?

Is Breakfast the Most Important Meal?

Is Breakfast actually the most important meal
of the day? And is there any evidence to back that up? So, I’m here with Vanessa from Braincraft,
and she wanted to talk about breakfast? I love breakfast. But recently I heard that this idea “it’s
the most important meal of the day” is actually a myth. And it made me kind of sad. So, I wanted to ask you, where does this idea
come from? And could it still be true? Okay, That’s a really good question! So let’s dive into it. We’ve all heard this old saying about breakfast
being at the top of the meal time hierarchy. But it seems a bit counterintuitive now since
breakfasts can range from a cold bowl of cereal, to a full on omelette overload, to a hastily
gulped cup of black coffee on your way dashing out the door. So is this truism actually true? Well to understand this question, first we
have to ask: Why do we think that eating 3 meals a day
(breakfast, lunch and dinner) is the norm? So there have been a variety of cultural norms
around how many meals a person eats in the day, and what times those meals are eaten. For example, Native American groups encountered
by early European colonists ate meals according to food supply, availability, and season rather
than being constricted to specific times of day. And the Romans had words for all three meal
times but likely only ate one heavy or large meal a day around supper, not breakfast. But we start to see that breakfast becomes
more of a widespread practice across social classes in Western Europe around the 17th
century and the Industrial revolution, as people start to adjust to a timed work day
that was regulated by different kinds of labor. So we start to see a shift in the 3 meals
a day being espoused as the standard eating practice (one meal early in the morning to
get an energy boost, one in the middle of the working day, and another late at night). But even though the idea of “three hots
and a cot” wasn’t always the standard, it’s spread through our understanding of
how we eat every day. So that leads us into our next question: What exactly constitutes a breakfast? And when did breakfast get its own special
types of food? Well there have been a variety of breakfast
fads through the years. In the 1980s and 1990s, cold cereal sales
in the U.S. hit a peak. But the full English Breakfast, a hot meal
consisting of sausages, eggs, bacon, beans, black pudding, hash browns, fried tomatoes
and mushrooms has some varied origin stories. Some say this intense breakfast favorite goes
back to people having to use up all of their meat on Collop Monday, in preparation for
not eating meat during Lent although the meal wasn’t always relegated to the morning. And before that many folks were resigned to
eating bread, or other cheap ingredients for their morning meal. Up until the 1500s, breakfasts were often used
in Europe to sustain the ill and the old. And hunting parties and the upper crusts in
Europe in the 18th century often had decadent multi-course breakfast meals. So at different points in time, certain foods
were considered ideal for the morning. But it tends to be very culturally specific. For example, I grew up in a Jamaican family
that helped me form my personal favorite breakfast food: ackee and saltfish. And fried fish. And herring. And mackerel. Basically any kind of fish, which many folks
in the U.S. relegate to evening meals, but it’s also a very popular breakfast staple
in Jamaica, although I didn’t realize this was much of a cultural difference until I
was in high school. But then of course there’s everyone’s
favorite monkey wrench/portmanteau: brunch, when basically anything goes. So the fact that breakfast isn’t really
a fixed or special set of foods also makes pinning down it’s importance (or lack thereof)
a bit tricky, because asking a question with the idea of breakfast already baked into it
already assumes that there’s a fixed definition of the word. But this leads us to the meat of our question: When did this idea about breakfast being the
most important daily meal originate? Well the definition is in its name: break
fast, the meal that you use to end your unconscious overnight fast after you wake up. And despite there being a wide array of takes
on this breakfast meal across cultures, it’s association with being an all mighty mealtime
goes back to 1917. That’s when Lenna F. Cooper wrote, “[I]n
many ways, the breakfast is the most important meal of the day, because it is the meal that
gets the day started,” in Good Health Magazine. But caveat: Good Health was also edited by
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a physician from Michigan who was also the co-inventor of corn
flakes with his brother Will Keith Kellogg. So this doesn’t discount the idea that breakfast
could be an important meal, it just puts an interesting twist on how we got the phrase. Moving our timeline to the 1920s, PR expert
and Sigmund Freud nephew, Edward Bernays, was contracted by the Beech Nut Company in
order to sell more of their packaged bacon. Bernays had the company’s internal doctor
send out 5000 surveys asking other physicians if they believed a heavier breakfast was better
for good health than a light one and 4500 of them replied that they agreed with his
statement. He then had his “findings” about heavy
breakfasts (like bacon and eggs) published in newspapers, which gave the whole campaign
the appearance of scientific legitimacy. This clever bit of marketing brought bacon
and eggs back into fashion and added more heft to the idea that a hefty breakfast was
not only important but medically recommended. But, now that we know where breakfast came
from and where the idea that it’s “the most important meal of the day” was generated
that brings us to the second part of this puzzle. Is breakfast actually more nutritionally valuable
than any other meal? So I can’t say that when I dove into Vanessa’s
question I was expecting such a hotly debated topic. But while some studies have shown that people
who eat breakfast have lower instances of unwanted weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes,
others have argued that these studies demonstrate a research bias already in favor of breakfast
and show association, not causation. And there’s actually some pretty important
things to learn from this and a lot of it has to do with how we understand folk wisdom
vs. scientific accuracy. So let’s bring Vanessa back to help us see
if we can break this down: First we have to ask, what is Breakfast Anyway? In the anti-breakfast crowd there’s a sentiment
that there’s no substantial proof that breakfast, as a meal, is the key to good health. And that’s because there’s too wide of
a spectrum to say what breakfast really means. For example: If you work an overnight shift
and sleep during the day before going to work, then your breakfast meal after you wake up
may not occur until the later afternoon. And there’s a wide variation in when people
get up and when they are actually hungry, as well as the types of foods they choose
to eat. So it may not be valid to say that just because
it’s the first meal you’ve eaten in a day that it’s substantially more important
to your health and success for the rest of your waking hours. Next we need to exam our sources for potential
bias. Other breakfast critics note that some of
these studies are sponsored by food companies, who may not be out to “get ya” exactly,
but who do have an interest in getting you to buy their products. So that’s why we’ve seen correlating spikes
in the popularity of certain breakfast foods (like cold cereal and protein rich foods like
eggs and sausages) after sponsored studies have come out. And since lots of previous studies are already
built upon the idea of “breakfast being the most important meal” there’s a bias
in the question asking, which may be replicated across studies as more and more new findings
cite the findings of yesteryear. And hugely important, Correlation Does Not
Equal causation. The pro-”breakfast is the most important
meal of the day” argument is basically that even though we can’t always draw a direct
causation between breakfast and improved health outcomes (like weight loss, heart health,
lower risk of diabetes, and so on) people who eat breakfast can often have better health
than those who don’t. The problem is there are a lot of variables
in here which may be skewing the pro-breakfast bunch’s point. Because these health benefits are not usually
a one to one connection with eating food right when you wake up. Rather the outcomes are also drawn from the
fact that if you are a person eats early, you’re less likely to binge eat or to eat
things you don’t need or want late at night. And often people (both adults and school age
children) who eat breakfast are found to have better focus at work and school. But this could also be associated with better
nutrition overall, and less closely aligned with breakfast as a meal. And there are even studies suggesting that
the “3 square meals a day” model might not be best for our prolonged health. Some studies suggest you should eat a number
of small meals throughout the day, rather than sitting down to a huge breakfast, lunch
or dinner. The truth is that rather than asking “Is
breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” we’d be better off asking: what’s
the optimal nutritional and eating pattern to achieve your goals? Whether it’s weight loss, focus and energy,
or healthy weight gain. So how does it all add up? Well this is probably the most ambiguous wrap
up of an Origin of Everything episode to date! Because it turns out that some of the issue
is in the ambiguity of the meal itself, which is tied to 1) what’s in it 2) what time
of day it was eaten and 3) when it was eaten in relation to when you woke up. So while we may have reason to chow down on
some healthy eats early in the day, the jury’s still out on whether or not breakfast is the
direct cause of better health. So, what do you think? Is breakfast a big thumbs up or a thumbs down? Drop those comments below, or at the very
least send me your favorite frittata recipes. I’m definitely not asking for a friend. I’m your friend. Thanks for the question Vanessa and be sure to check out Braincraft and we’ll see you all next week! Bye! Hey guys! Hope you survived past tax day relatively
unscathed and stress free. But now that we’re all cooling our jets
for a couple of weeks while Uncle Sam processes the paperwork, I wanted to shout out some
of your great collective thinking on our episode on federal income taxes. This shout out goes to Steven Schutt on YouTube,
who originally raised the question around a point of clarity in our original video in
regards to federal spending. I jumped on that thread with our other awesome
viewers: Paul Kennedy, Joshua Cooley, and Frennis Daemon to point out that the spending
I was referring to in the video was discretionary spending and not mandatory spending (such
as entitlement programs). We edited and updated our video to reflect
this distinction. So thanks to you guys for your great work
and for engaging so thoughtfully down in the comments. That’s it for now and keep brainstorming,
and we’ll see you next week!

100 Comments

  1. I kind of like the idea of several smaller meals during the day, but there are strong cultural and practical difficulties in doing this.
    And I'm loving Danielle's enthusiasm in the videos.

  2. Read the nutritional analysis of breakfast cereals. They're terrible! The only reason there's any nutrition at all is from the milk. But they're LOADED with sugar!

  3. I think the mostly likely correlation between breakfast and health is the mentality of the people. Breakfast people tend to be your so formers that strive to do what is best for them as they believe it to be. They're your go to bed at 9:00 get up at six type. Then for breakfast, they eat oatmeal or other "healthy" foods. (Healthy in quotes because that changes weekly.)

    Non-breakfast eaters tend to be sleep less being out late smoking and drinking and waking up late and swinging down a cup of Joe with a cigarette. And when they're up late, they're prone to be eating bar food, potato chips and other less healthy food while trolling for chicks.

    It has nothing to do with when you eat but lifestyle as a whole. I guarantee you if you smoke a lot, drink a lot, sleep little and eat potato chips and bratwurst for breakfast that there'd be no health benefit.

    It has nothing to do with when you eat but what you eat and other factors.

  4. Feeding yourself does not necessarily mean you have to eat 3 whole heavy meals a day.
    I don't like eating breakfast so I eat nuts and berries, yogurts, glucerna or ham and cheese instead of a big sandwich. Don't feel forced to eat a heavy breakfast cause of this whole "breakfast is the most important" thing. It took me like 20 years to reach this conclusion.

  5. Man, I fuckin love breakfast. But I gotta be up for an hour or two before I can comfortably eat it, and I have to carefully plan my weekday mornings so I’ve have ten to twenty minutes to digest my food before I commute (bc a full stomach plus a reasonably sized breakfast equals an uncomfortable situation). I’m always hungry, and breakfast helps my body wake up. It’s pretty good 🙂

  6. I'm definitely pro breakfast because I tend to be hungry within an hour of waking up, and skipping breakfast has caused me to be light headed before lunch. What I eat varies. Usually leftovers, or if there aren't any, an egg and slice of toast, with avocado if I have it, or cereal if I'm in the mood for sugar.

    While I hate skipping breakfast, I know there are people who prefer it, and tbh I think it all depends on your metabolism, daily activities, and sleep habits. Breakfast might be the most important meal of the day for me, personally, but not everyone else.

  7. I've eaten breakfasts ranging from British style Full Breakfast to what I've heard called as "Spanish Breakfast" – a glass of water and two cigarettes. All were good to me. Well, maybe not the cigarettes so much but hey, I was young and stupid at the time.

  8. I was expecting some biochemistry in the subject.
    I got to know new things with this video and that there should be a serious study on optimal eating patterns according to the desired outcome.
    Even so, following the 3 meals per day and paying special attention to breakfast myself, and after my formal studying my career, I still believe breakfast is important.

  9. If someone wants to do a great intellectual activity that takes advantage of the brain 's ability in the morning, he should definitely focus on breakfast.
    Because the brain uses only glucose-type carbohydrates as fuel. In addition, the brain alone consumes the most calories (about 20 to 25% of the day's consumption) as a monolith of all human organs. In glucose form. Therefore, intellectual activity without breakfast, such as academic work or office work, is a suicide only in terms of neuroscience.
    It is good to eat breakfast. However, too much intake can cause excessive oxygen consumption and fatigue, and it will be important to give at least 30 minutes to 1 hour and steadily consume a certain amount.
    In order to do that, busy modern people need a snack that can boost once before lunch in addition to a short meal in the morning.
    The second morning, however, is good for non-carbohydrate-based proteins with low oxygen consumption.
    donut? Do you feel suicidal impulse?

  10. I was a pro-breakfast but I recently became skeptical about it. And no, I raised my eyebrows to breakfast well before seeing this video. I am currently experimenting by having a full course meal at 7 pm everyday and having no other meals throughout my day. Not even a bite or a sip, literally. Hunger doesn't seem to bother me as long as I am focused on my tasks. Off course, I am keeping myself hydrated and making sure that I do not have micro-nutrient deficiency. Surprisingly, I do not feel more tired or less focused than my previous days when I used to have three square meals. I am looking forward to see if this can lead to a weight loss since my working hours and working environment do not allow me to have enough physical exercise.

  11. Just a note from a dietitian and performance coach. Any method of eating is going to depend on the person's biology and activity levels. If you are even moderately active then i recommend eating something within an hour of waking up. Also, it depends on quality of food over quantity always. It's hard to study real health effects of just eating breakfast because of the general inactivity of the world and lack of quality foods.

  12. I eat one meal a day (maybe 2 or 3) and I feel ok and I'm healthy, and a good weight. Usually its lunch other times its breakfast. I feel fine and are never really hungry (unless I haven't eaten)

  13. "Breakfast is the most important meal…" The phrase might have some economic origins too. People produce 'breakfast foods' and propose that they are good to start off the day with. The mass is convinced to buy these breakfast items and in return they reap no 'healthy' benefits. Kellogg's made their cardboard of a cereal for people to eat in the mornings, I am not sure if the intention was to give people an important meal or it was created to secure the bag.

  14. You guys should talk about the fact that breakfast in the US looks almost NOTHING like it does anywhere else in the developed world.

  15. Kellog was a religious kook with some really weird ideas about sexual abstinence and bland food, so his reliability as a scientific source is at best suspect.

  16. Just eat whole foods, plant based; vegan food is scientifically proven to prolong life, reduce morbidity, save rain forest, drastically reduce water consumption, C02 and methane emissions, save innocent lives and free up grains to feed staving human beings. Oh yeah, and athletes perform better. Go vegan. Stay vegan. Be vegan. Change the world and live longer 😀

  17. Some people just can't eat a large, heavy breakfast. It's too much on their stomachs. I can only handle tea and toast, the typical Continental breakfast.

  18. Over the last few years i have been looking for the besy balance for a diet. What i have found is people are all differnent and have to adjust. Small meals all day can yrash you metabolism and you only need one well balanced meal a day with healthy drinks. You are probably throwing away enough money in food to eat better.

  19. From my understanding, or at least after watching a documentary about Tudor Monastery farms, a Europe breakfast wasn't really a thing there. It was seen as gluttonous to have three meals, so the first meal of the day being closer to 11 after they worked a good couple of hours.

    As the video ends, I think it depends on the individual to decide whether or not they do better with a breakfast or not.

  20. I think these kinds of academic research questions are inherently biased. Humans didn’t evolve to eat breakfast or lunch or dinner. Humans evolved to eat whatever, whenever.

    It’s my intuition that there is no optimal nutritional food intake schedule because humans didn’t evolve to optimize within a schedule. There’s also too much variability in lifestyle and measurable outcomes to make any of this meaningful.
    What does optimal nutrition even look like? What are the health benefits of consuming “optimally”. Nutrition sciences generally don’t discuss that question. Rather nutrition sciences focus on the effects of poor nutrition and define good nutrition as the absence of bad nutrition. But once you talk optimization, the science can’t define what optimal looks like.

    (Not science I’m general, just nutrition sciences)

  21. there are people who eat body build and eat all their calories in one meal or over a certain number of hours of the day. it's more about eating your calories and eat your fair share micro/macronutrients to stay healthy. However, for someone who doesn't workout or active, it's better to stick to eating their calories early as far from their bed to stay slim.

  22. as someone who never ate breakfast in school and then started in university, Im fully pro breakfast! preferably with Lemon Water, 2 eggs and a tomato and cucumber salat 😀

  23. Some friends get nausea if they eat in the morning, i get headaches and faint if I don't. There is no one size fits all when it comes to health, i suppose.

  24. I think it depends on what you have for breakfast. A full English is not good for you every day but then again nor is toast and jam or cereal every day.

  25. Yes for breakfast! I literally cannot function without a meal in the morning. It’s my nutritional routine without which I just feel unwell. 🙂

  26. When I wake up I don’t automatically eat; however I do think of breakfast food when I get hungry which is around noon. I love eating breakfast foods.

  27. A better way to lose weight – eat lunch at breakfast and dinner at lunch. Eat the heavy stuff early and light stuff closer to bedtime.

  28. It’s hard for me to go without breakfast, or some kind of food as soon as I get up because I’m usually starving when I wake, but I believe people should just eat when they’re hungry. I know some people who have no appetite in the morning or feel sick if they eat too early and I don’t think breakfast is right or necessary in those cases.

  29. All the anime characters who hurriedly run off to school/work with a single piece of bread hanging from their mouths are way ahead of all of us

  30. In Brazil we eat bread with butter (and sometimes cheese, ham or bologni) with milk and coffee. But there are regional versions, with yams or tapioca (a dish made with cassava flour). It's always very light and many people doesn't even eat the bread, just drink coffee. To eat a complete meal at morning is considered very strange, because the most important meal of the day is lunch. Dinner usually is lighter too, completely opposite to United State, I believe.

  31. I know im keep being late to these but im wondering: am I (and my mom) the only one(s) who just can't eat/feel sick if you do eat when you first wake up (to up to an hour of waking)?

  32. I enjoy breakfast but I'd like to start changing my mindset to eat more vegetables and get away from the sugary fruity pastry filled breakfasts.

  33. You assume everyone woke up at the same time. The BBC did a series on each meal and aristocrats had breakfast – at luncheon hours, since they weren't manual labourers. Same with dinner/supper confusion and high tea/low tea. Nikola Tesla tested this and was quoted saying two meals is best, in the "Youth and Strength at 78" interview. Lunch can be skipped because it makes you heavy with digestion, the others are important.

  34. The only way to find if the meal is important is to see how you feel with or without it. I can’t survive w no breakfast but some people don’t feel like eating up till lunch. The not binge eating or overeating might be connected to the quality and nutritional value of food consumed rather than time of consumption. To me eating one or two tops healthy meals a day w healthy snacks and lots of water works best 🤷🏼‍♂️

  35. This was a great video. Been skipping breakfast for a while now, unclear if it is better to skip breakfast or dinner.
    some studies suggest the latter. But the body likes the former. Intermittent fasting for the win! Peace

  36. I've been taught that eating breakfast was given importance when they realized the science of how our bodies burn calories, and utilize nutrients throughout the day. And we know that diabetics and people with other ailments, are supposed to eat 3 meals, and 3 snacks each day, but using smaller portions with each. It's been proven that eating this way, will contribute to weight loss success. (Faster loss, better results keeping it off)

    Whatever the historical trends have been, it is just a reality that breakfast is at least a very important meal of the day.

    🤣😂🤣

  37. Thank you was informative.
    Can we eat when our bodies tell us ? Meaning we drink water when we are thirsty, then we should eat when we feel hungry. Simplicity is the best.

  38. My breakfast is around 6pm i do omad intermittent fasting, wish that point had been explored as it has huge health benefits over 3 meals n snacking etc, actual proper ones 🙂

  39. Listen to a doctor or dietician. The cultural norm is not the issue here. Things like blood sugar regulation etc are the questions you should ask.

  40. I feel better for having something to eat within an hour of waking up. Wholegrain oat porridge is the most sustaining breakfast for me. My son doesn't eat until lunch time because food in the morning makes him feel queasy. I think its probably a matter of your biochemistry.

  41. In Australia (as your friend there might know) Toast lightly buttered and even lighter smeared with Vegemite (loaded with B vitamins) and a slice of tasty cheese (what my fellow Americans call mild cheddar) seems to be one of the more common breakfasts. I have to admit that my first taste of Vegemite had me wiping my tongue with the dish sponge, but what did I know I measured a "little" with an American eye LOL! Eleven years later, I gave it another try, but only when my husband prepares it and it's not bad. It's kind of like if dark beer was salted and a semi solid. <3 Tom's wife

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