Breakfast is the first meal of the day after several hours of fasting (usually eight).
Among the three main meals of the day, it is certainly the one that adults and children should not do without. However, in some countries in the world, including Italy, breakfast is not always very common and this good habit is not observed very much.
After so many hours of fasting, the body needs immediate energy to resume its normal activities.
Breakfast should bring between 20% and 25% of the total energy spent during the day: for an average person who consumes 2,000 calories, breakfast should be worth at least 400 calories.
The following nutrients should never be missing at breakfast: carbohydrates (simple and complex) proteins (vegetable and animal) and fats, the three macronutrients that supply energy, each of which must contribute in the right proportions to obtain a balanced diet.
The traditional continental breakfast (Italian or Mediterranean) includes coffee, tea or milk from which we obtain proteins with high biological value, minerals like calcium, vitamins and fats. Bread supplies us with complex carbohydrates (slow burning) that give us energy until about lunch time, and the same applies to fats, if we spread fresh butter on the bread. Jam or marmalade, or better yet fresh fruit (smoothies or juices) supply us with simple sugars (fast release fructose) to immediately release the energy that our brain and muscles need, plus a substantial quantity of minerals, vitamins and fiber. Obviously, one can eat different foods if they have the same nutrients: eggs or meat (lean cuts), yogurt and cheese for proteins, rice and other cereals for carbohydrates and fruit because no other food can substitute it.
Breakfast should take at least 20 minutes so as to allow people to stay at the table and create a pleasant social atmosphere.
Twenty minutes is the time it takes for the body to start to feel full, chew food well, and to begin a good first digestion. If one is a parent, breakfast with the children can also be a perfect educational moment: children will imitate the parents and will make breakfast a healthy lifelong routine. Some may think that 20 or 30 minutes to eat breakfast could be spent sleeping, which might be true.
However, for our health it is better to go to sleep earlier and begin the day with a slower start that will make our day more efficient from all points of views. Forget the "grab a coffee and go" breakfast. Cappuccino and croissant on-the-go (pastry with too much fat and sugar) should be avoided as well. An energy bar to munch on the bus or on the subway is even worse.
A correct and balanced breakfast will put us in a better mood and allow us to live better and longer.
Numerous studies demonstrate that not eating breakfast regularly with the intake of all essential nutrients for good health increases the risk of becoming overweight and obese which in turn makes it easier to develop diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
Having a complete and balanced breakfast every morning contributes to reducing the daily intake of fats and calories and increasing the intake of fibers, vitamins and mineral salts, all elements that are needed for good health and beauty. Not having breakfast increases the ri sks of low-quality nutrition and consequently increases the risk of developing diseases, including serious ones, more easily.
Other studies have shown that adolescents and children (in the developmental years) who eat a rich balanced breakfast every day with cereal, milk and its derivatives, and fruit have more cognitive skills at school, as well as an intellectual and sporting performance superior to that of their peers who skip breakfast.
Without the energy boost gained from eating breakfast, children, adolescents, adults and seniors are less reactive (tired), have slower reflexes, are distracted and have an inferior performance when they study and work. In addition, some studies have shown positive effects as regards improved memory and efficiency in general among those who consume healthy foods equal to 20% kcal of the recommended daily intake early in the morning.
The contents of this article are in accordance with the parameters set out by the European Food Safety Authority - EFSA.