top of page

Breakfast - The most important meal of the day

Dr. Vivek Baliga B. is a consultant physician and cardiologist, and director of Baliga Diagnostics in Bangalore. He is a keen advocate of patient education and loves to blog about all things health related. Learn more about him at


They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and whoever this ‘they’ is are right!

Eat breakfast like a king, and you are looking at a long and healthy life. Studies have shown that missing breakfast can increase the chances of gaining weight and developing heart disease.

In this article, we shall look why you should never miss your breakfast, and what choices are the best.

The bene­fits of eating breakfast

There are several reasons why you should never miss your breakfast, and here are some of the top reasons why.

1. Breakfast can reduce your chance of developing heart disease

A scientifi­c study that was performed over a period of 16 years in male patients showed that individuals who missed their breakfast had a higher chance of developing coronary heart disease when compared to those who had a healthy start to the day. In fact, eating breakfast reduced the risk by nearly 27%! Similar studies have been published in women cohorts as well.

So, if you are in a rush to get to work every morning and end up missing your breakfast, remember that spending a few minutes chomping down on a bowl of fruits or a healthy cereal can be a lifesaver.

2. Improves performance and enhances focus

The nutrient boost you get from a good breakfast can keep you focused on the job, allowing you to perform better and more ef­ficiently. Missing breakfast can be associated with a slump in effi­cacy.

After all, ‘a hungry man is an angry man’, and not eating for long hours after your last meal (which is the night before) will undoubtedly make you cranky.

Clinical studies that have assessed nutrition in children have clearly stated that the overnight fast and the missing of breakfast in combination can affect their cognitive function, particularly reducing their capability of retrieving information from memory quickly. Short term and long-term recall memory were also affected, in addition to the ability to perform arithmetic. Missing breakfast also reduces school attendance rates.

Not so good when studying in a competitive environment, is it?!

3. Maintains healthy body weight

If you miss breakfast, you will put on weight. The concept is simple and dates to our ancestors and normal physiology.

Instead of boring you with scientifi­c detail here, we shall try to simplify it. The human body derives energy from the food that is eaten. This food is rich in nutrients that supply the muscles and vital organs with the nourishment it needs.

However, what happens if you do not eat your food on time or miss your breakfast? Well, you have effectively starved yourself for a period of 12 to 15 hours! The body thinks you are ‘starving’ and converts whatever energy or nutrients that are in the body to fat tissue. Fat generates a greater amount of energy compared to simple carbohydrates.

This fat is broken down gradually to supply energy to the body slowly and over a long period of time. In fact, the human body can survive for 3 weeks without food, so in anticipation of that the body starts to generate fat.

Increased body fat means increased weight gain, which over time leads to obesity.

Missing breakfast can increase the tendency to snack mid-morning, and this often includes unhealthy foods. This too can lead to an increase in body weight.

It may be quite surprising to hear that studies have shown that obese women tend to have a smaller breakfast that women who are slim and lean!

In a study looking at consumption of breakfast by school children in Delhi, Arora et al found that those who ate a regular, healthy breakfast had lesser weight gain and a lower chance of becoming obese. It is therefore important that parents stress to their child how important a meal breakfast is.

4. A regular breakfast lowers blood cholesterol levels

Yet again, a regular breakfast comes out a winner here.

Starting your day the healthy way can reduce blood cholesterol levels, research has shown. However, most of these studies have looked at the consumption of cereals rather than traditional Indian breakfasts, which makes it difficult to interpret in the Indian context. As a rule, breakfasts that are high in ­fiber content can reduce cholesterol levels. For example, a breakfast rich in psyllium ­fiber can reduce the levels of LDL, which is the bad cholesterol in the blood (Roberts, 1993). But a word of caution. If you decide that cereals are the breakfast for your family, then choose carefully. Many cereals available on the market have added sugars and additional ingredients, many of which are not very healthy. Choose oats or whole grain cereals that have no added sugar. Want some sweetness? Add a tablespoon of honey or slice up some fresh fruit into it!

What is a healthy breakfast?

There is a big difference between eating a ‘breakfast’ and eating a ‘healthy breakfast’.

Features of a healthy breakfast

1. High in ­fiber

2. High in protein

3. Moderate in carbohydrates

4. Low in fats

5. Low in sugar

In India, a simple breakfast can be anything ranging from idlis, vadas, dosas, baturas, pooris, chappatis, rice and rava products, to name a few.

But how do you separate the best from the rest? It is very simple. Any breakfast foods that are fried are unhealthy, period.

Steamed foods such as rice idli or rava idli are very healthy. Baked dishes without any oil such as chapattis and rotis are healthy as well. Stuffed wheat parathas made with very little oil and vegetables can be a great start to your day. Upma prepared the healthy way can be an excellent breakfast.

Despite its popularity, dosas can be quite unhealthy, especially because of the oil that is added to make them. Each dosa is around 400 to 500 calories, which can take you an hour on the treadmill to burn! If you can make dosas at home with the tiniest amount of oil, then most certainly enjoy them in moderation.

It is said that the healthiest part of a donut is the hole, and the same holds good for the vada.

Always have a piece of fruit for your breakfast. Papaya, bananas, apples, grapefruit, oranges etc. are all a good choice.

Finally, make sure your breakfast is high in ­ber. Fiber can reduce the chances of developing heart disease by a signifi­cant margin, even if you already follow a low-fat high protein diet.

Cereal bars are not the way to start your day. They are packed with sugar and additives that make it an unhealthy breakfast solution.

Adding protein to your breakfast has been found to have additional benefi­ts to health. It can keep the stomach fuller for longer, can reduce snacking and can also reduce weight gain signi­ficantly.

If you are a non-vegetarian, or do not mind eating eggs, then eating the egg whites can be a great source of protein.

If you normally maintain a healthy lifestyle and exercise regularly, then one whole egg a day is recommended.

Make sure you exercise!

Remember, eating a good and healthy breakfast is all well and good, but make sure you get regular exercise as well. Just a simple walk for 45 minutes a day at a medium brisk pace can help keep the heart healthy.

Breakfast is without a doubt the most important meal of the day, and scientific evidence presented here con­firms it. It is not just you who must follow it – make sure your family does too!

This article originally appeared in the TeacherTribe Magazine October 2020 edition.


bottom of page