By Antonio Vinuela Sanchez
Prof. Hired Doctor, University of Castilla-La Mancha
Full Professor, University of Castilla-La Mancha
Breakfast, lunch and dinner, to which we should add another mid-morning intake and a snack. They are the three (or rarely five) daily meals in the human diet. But are they all equally important?
The debate here usually centers on breakfast. Because there are those who skip it, but also those who consider it the most important meal of the day. Who has the reason? Can breakfast be a determining factor in physical and mental development throughout the day?
After the fast
As soon as we open our eyes, we find ourselves in a physiological state called fasting. Our last meal was dinner and during the night it is normal that we have not eaten any food for a period of at least 6/8 hours.
While we rested, the last intake has been processed and the nutrients have been distributed throughout the body, filling the deposits (liver and muscles). In the bloodstream there is still some glucose available (little) in case our organs need energy. If there are any nutrients left after all this, they will be stored in the adipose tissue in the form of fat.
Consequently, glucose is at basal levels when we get up and also while we take care of our morning personal hygiene, or when we prepare the bag, briefcase or backpack for the day. That translates into physical weakness and a certain lethargy. That’s why eating breakfast (which means “breaking the fast”) is not an optional morning “extra” that we can do without: whether we do it or not is going to define our day, our energy, concentration and productivity. And during study time, also academic performance
There are numerous data collected in the literature on the benefits of eating breakfast. To begin with, there is evidence that a hearty breakfast helps prevent obesity and reduces metabolic diseases, especially if the content of the first meal of the day is healthy.
If we exercise, eating a good breakfast beforehand makes us burn more carbohydrates, in addition to the fact that in the next meal we digest and metabolize nutrients better. On the contrary, skipping breakfast promotes atherosclerosis (the pathological thickening of the arteries). And it has also been shown that by having breakfast we are more resistant to “snacking” the rest of the day and, in general, we eat healthier.
All this makes sense if we take into account that humans follow a circadian rhythm, which translates into a better use of nutritional resources during the day. We have optimized our metabolism to function better while the sun is shining. Thanks to this rhythm we have internalized the hours of greatest hunger; when we have to have breakfast, lunch or dinner; when to rest; or how and when to mobilize free fats.
Undersupplied neurons and a bad mood
One of the main benefits of breakfast is the supply of glucose to the brain, an organ that only consumes this nutrient. The absence of glucose affects our nervous system and can even damage neurons, sometimes irreversibly. Are we willing to pay this fee for skipping breakfast?
The lack of glucose also causes a bad mood, affects the ability to concentrate, to solve problems effectively, generates anxiety and stress, which in turn worsens concentration.
Things change radically after breakfast and nutrient intake. To begin with, because the neural pathways that are responsible for activating all essential systems such as memory and concentration processes and less irritability are launched. Ideally, it should be a healthy and satiating breakfast that provides nutrients, especially foods rich in complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and proteins (cheese or any other dairy product, for example).
Opting for a breakfast with products with a very high glycemic index is not a good option. It will cause high rates of glucose in the blood very quickly, which means that insulin will also rush to order it to be removed from the blood. This will be followed by a rapid hypoglycemia or drop in blood glucose, which will whet the appetite again, making us need to eat again by mid-morning.
The time it has taken us to read this article is the same time we need to prepare a healthy breakfast. All specialists still recommend five meals a day, starting with breakfast. Are you sure to skip it today?
With information from The Conversation