The true healthy breakfast is far from what the media tries to sell us. And no, skipping it won't give you a heart attack.
During the past week a study of Spanish origin came to the fore, which was echoed by all the major Spanish and even international media: " skipping breakfast is as bad as smoking ", " skipping breakfast doubles the risk of heart attack ", and other headlines with similar characteristics referring to the true healthy breakfast.
Let's start with the obvious fact that without an eye-catching headline, nobody reads your article, and I think that in this case all or almost all of these outlets were sensationalized. Now, on the other hand, in all of them the study is explained correctly in its content (that is why you always have to read beyond the headline, although nowadays few do).
Today we will review not only this study, but some others, unraveling what a healthy breakfast really looks like, why it is not true that it is the most important meal of the day, and what is true in that it is "bad" to skip breakfast.
What a real healthy breakfast looks like
Although even today food marketing continues to sell us that the standard healthy breakfast consists of a glass of milk (or coffee) with toast or cereal, and sometimes (depending on advertising), an orange juice, the reality is that things are not that simple. Some of these foods add up to a good breakfast, but with some variations that we should take into account.
For example, the breakfast cereals sold to us on an industrial level are usually rich in added sugars. Although they try to sell us that they are enriched with other nutrients, they are still not the best option, since the ideal would be to find a food rich in these nutrients without having to be added artificially in order to sell more. For its part, we know that it is better to consume fruit and not juices, since juices are rich in free sugars and lead to discarding the rest of the fruit, thus depriving us of all the other nutrients and fiber in these foods.
A truly healthy breakfast is exactly like any other meal: it should include carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein. As we can see, in the aforementioned breakfast-advertisement, carbohydrates predominate almost entirely (white bread toasts, cereals that are usually rich in sugar, juices ...).
What to bring a healthy breakfast
The reality is that a good healthy breakfast should be made up of other ingredients:
· Whole grains: oatmeal or spelled flakes, or toast of rye bread or spelled bread, among other examples.
· Proteins: Serrano ham, smoked salmon, turkey breast, whipped fresh cheese or unsweetened yogurt, or even nuts such as almonds.
· Healthy fats: a drizzle of olive oil on toast, or dried fruit like walnuts, and even a side on toast like fresh avocado or guacamole are good options.
Finally, to all these ingredients we can associate others rich in nutrients such as seeds. Flax, sesame or cinnamon are good options, since they will give us an extra fiber and healthy fats (polyunsaturated fats in this case).
No, breakfast is not the most important meal of the day
As we have already mentioned, although having a healthy breakfast with the right ingredients can improve our quality of life, that does not mean that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. As we have mentioned, breakfast is one more meal, one of the five meals that are usually recommended (although, really, the important thing is the number of calories consumed per day and not the times it is eaten; although it is true that snacking between meals increases the risk of exceeding the daily caloric level)
In fact, those who claimed that skipping breakfast could lead to weight gain (because it boosts metabolism, theoretically) tended to use biased studies, as stated in a review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013. According to this work, the majority of Research linking skipping breakfast to weight gain analyzed this explicitly, forcing results, and without taking bias and other factors into account.
On the other hand, another widely held argument is that children who skip breakfast are often prone to being overweight. The reality is that the problem is not the breakfast itself, but the fact that children eat too much outside the home, and for the most part unhealthy foods rich in refined carbohydrates.
Finally, there is the new study by the Carlos III National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) recently published in The Journal of American College of Cardiology, where it is stated that eating little breakfast (less than 100 calories or less than 5% of daily calories) or nothing doubles the risk of having arteriosclerosis, which implies an increased risk of suffering a heart attack and other cardiovascular events.
The conclusions of the latest studies
The reality is that this study has not directly stated that skipping breakfast causes that effect, but that there is a relationship between the two events.
The work suggests that skipping breakfast can serve as a marker for other bad eating habits and an unhealthy lifestyle, not that breakfast is what causes everything else, as this habit is likely related to a global lifestyle. unhealthy in general.
To reach this conclusion, the Spanish researchers analyzed 4,052 participants, dividing them into three groups: those who eat little or no breakfast (less than 100 calories or less than 5% of daily calories), those who eat a good breakfast (more than 20% of calories daily) and those who ate a low-energy breakfast (between 5% and 20% of daily calories). According to their findings, 2.9% of these participants skipped breakfast and 69.4% ate a low-energy breakfast, while 27.7% were consumers of an adequate breakfast.
According to their results, those individuals who used to skip breakfast or ate few calories at breakfast were those who had the highest risk of atherosclerosis. However, it should be noted that these same individuals also possessed other cardiovascular risk markers, such as greater waist circumference, higher body mass index, higher blood pressure, more blood lipids or higher blood glucose levels. In other words, skipping breakfast would not be the problem, it would just be a sign that the overall lifestyle is bad in general.
In addition, researchers have stated that an inverse causality with overweight and obesity cannot be ruled out: that skipping breakfast is an attempt to lose weight by those who are overweight, and not that this habit is the cause of weight as such.
As we can see, as with any other meal, a healthy breakfast is important to carry out a good lifestyle on a global level. The same rules that we discussed at the beginning should apply to any type of meal, and not just breakfast. Also, while eating a healthy breakfast with the right calorie level has been shown to help you lose that (and not the other way around), skipping it in isolation does not imply a cardiovascular risk in itself, but is usually a sign that a thousand other things go wrong.
In addition, finally, it should be noted that the number of daily meals is not the problem. It is not absolutely necessary to eat five meals a day, but three for example is enough; what matters is knowing how to distribute their caloric potential. If for convenience it is better for us to do only three and we know how to distribute the calories well among the three, go ahead; If we prefer to distribute them among five, it is also a good option. The important thing is to know how to distribute the macronutrients (hydrates, proteins and fats) and the micronutrients, without being restrictive, and without going overboard (or falling short, unless we want to lose weight) with the total calories of the day.
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