Breakfast: Waking Up to a Healthy Start

Waking up is hard to do. It's especially difficult for those "non- morning" people who'd probably like to avoid that time of day and everything that comes with it - even breakfast.

But as sure as the sun's gonna shine, breakfast always will be an important meal of the day - one that should be consumed by people of any age.

Although all three traditional meals play a significant role in supplying the daily recommended levels of essential nutrients, nutritionists often cite breakfast as the day's most important meal and the foundation of healthy eating habits.

Despite these recommendations, millions of Americans routinely skip breakfast. According to a 1987 report in Cereal Foods World, one out of four women between the ages of 25 and 34 regularly skips breakfast. Other studies show that eating habits developed during childhood have the potential to last a lifetime. Thus children who tend to omit breakfast most likely will continue this dietary habit well into adulthood.

But a review of breakfast-related research over the last 30 years may make even the tried-and-true breakfast skipper into a breakfast convert.

Studies have shown that eating breakfast is associated with improved strength and endurance in the late morning, along with a better attitude toward school or work.

Breakfast helps to replenish blood glucose levels, which is important since the brain itself has no reserves of glucose, its main energy source, and constantly must be replenished.

Studies show that sustained mental work requires large turnover of brain glucose and its metabolic components.

"When you consider it's been eight or nine hours since you've had a meal, it's obvious that refueling at breakfast will make you feel and perform better during the day," said Diane Odland, nutritionist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Information Service.

Researchers at the University of Health Sciences/Chicago Medical School agree. They examined whether eating breakfast has any advantageous effects on late-morning mood, satiety or cognitive performance.

Forty normal-weight adults participated in the breakfast study, all of whom normally ate breakfast. Subjects fasted overnight and came to the laboratory in the early morning to perform baseline tests that measured reasoning, inference and problem-solving.

While one-third of subjects continued fasting, others ate one of two breakfasts that each contained 450-500 calories. In the high-fiber "balanced" breakfast, 59 percent of calories were supplied by carbohydrates and roughly 20 percent of calories were supplied by protein and fat each. In the low-fiber "unbalanced" breakfast, 61 percent of calories came from carbohydrates, 35 percent were supplied by fat and 4 percent were supplied by protein.

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