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Breakfast isn't the pillar it was once, and maybe should be again

June 14, 2016 Updated: June 14, 2016 at 4:15 am
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Healthy breakfast with fried egg, toasts and salad on white wooden table. Top view with copy space

The name says a lot: Break-the-fast.

And despite what you might have heard or read about its effectiveness for those on a weight-loss track, most diet and nutrition experts maintain that skipping the first meal of the day is a good way to compromise both short- and long-term health goals.

"The breakfast debate is just something that occasionally crops up and people start to think (the recommendation) is all the breakfast food manufacturers making up stuff so we buy it," said Sharon Jacob, a clinical dietitian with St. Francis Medical Center in Colorado Springs. "I'd say we know eating breakfast definitely makes a difference."

Breakfast gooses blood sugar levels that bottom out while we sleep, decreases the odds of later binge-eating and simply "gets the body going again," Jacob said. Research has shown it can lower the risk of diabetes and some other chronic diseases and improve memory and concentration. Previous studies of successful dieters also have found that 70 percent are breakfast-eaters, Jacob said.

"Another factor we know scientifically is that eating breakfast also seems to lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which naturally rise at night while you're sleeping," she said.

If you've backed off breakfast due to a growing distrust of sales pitches (or because you're a millennial), you're not alone. Sales of ready-to-eat cereals have been on a steady decline for years.

There's also conflicting information from the scientific community. A 2014 study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition comparing the outcomes of dieters who ate breakfast and those who abstained found that, "contrary to widely espoused views," eating breakfast had "no discernible effect on weight loss" for the roughly 300 dieters participating in the trial study.

There's no denying that breakfast isn't the dietary pillar it once was in America.

"It comes up all the time that people say, 'I don't eat breakfast. I know I should, but I'm not hungry.' Or, 'I just don't like breakfast food,'" said Martha Rosenau, a registered dietitian in private practice in the Springs.

She knows the meal's importance but concedes there's no "one-way-fits-all."

Too many directives from health authorities can be confusing and overwhelming.

"People already feel like they've been told a million times by all different sources that there's only one way that's going to work," she said. "It seems as if food shaming has become an industry in and of itself. People think, 'Oh, I'm supposed to choose a perfectionist eating message, and it's best to only eat a raw food diet.' That's kind of where things have gotten to."

No matter your breakfast palate, there's a way to make it work in a healthy regimen, Rosenau said.

Eggs? In moderation and not uber-salted.

"If you have the time, sautee some veggies to go alongside it," she said.

Cereal? If it has low sugar and a high fiber-to-carbohydrate ratio.

"It's really about healthy food choices and people feeling OK with the choices they're already trying to make," she said.

It's also about being more aware of the choices we make when augmenting our foods. A serving of the breakfast of champions is a recipe for defeat when garnished with spoonfuls of sugar or repeatedly topped off until the milk's gone.

"Choose something with high fiber and whole grains per serving," Rosenau said. If such fare is too bland, she suggests mixing it 50/50 with a cereal you find more yummy - and stop eating when the flakes run out the first time.

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