Few people have bypassed the cautionary don’t-skip-the-most-important-meal-of-the-day-lecture. We’ve unwittingly gobbled up this rhetoric with our cereal and bagels without questioning much about when, how, why and by whom the enterprise of breakfast started in the first place. A little research reveals that in the 1940’s, nutritionists were hired by General Foods Corporation to make radio announcements advocating the importance of eating a hearty meal in the morning. And to this day, according to many doctors and dieticians, breakfast eaters have lower LDL cholesterol, a more balanced blood pressure, increased cognitive function and weigh less than breakfast skippers.
A morning meal, some researchers conclude, is essential for keeping our body clock running on time, and for kick starting our metabolism. In order to respond well to food intake, the body needs an initial trigger involving carbs responding to insulin. Breakfast is critical for this to happen, the argument goes. A full tummy is claimed to be the answer to getting energized, scoring better on the exam, losing weight, preventing disease and making better meal choices the rest of the day. Perfectly in line with the slogan delivered in pamphlets to grocery shoppers of the 1940’s: “Eat a Good Breakfast – Do a Better Job!”
It doesn’t take much investigation to uncover the sobering reality that the breakfast ‘affair’ as we know it is a venture that was established hand in hand with the launch of a range of breakfast cereal products by a company known formerly as General Foods and today as Kraft. Let’s think about that for a minute. The realization that we’ve been taking dietary advice from companies with a financial stake in what’s on our plate should be enough to warrant a deeper look into these decade-old breakfast catch lines.
Paul Freedman, editor of “Food: The History of Taste” claims there is no biological reason to eat 3 fixed meals per day. And I find it interesting that Romans considered one meal per day to be the ultimate way of eating. In “The Invention of the American Meal”, Abigail Carroll points out that Native Americans were accustomed to grazing on food throughout the day and didn’t have specific meal times. My point is, eating a fixed meal in the morning hasn’t always been a ‘thing’. And come to think of it, it’s not like it’s stated in the rule book of “how to be a human” that one should eat 3 times per day. Yes, it’s something we’ve become accustomed to to, but does that mean it’s optimal? And does it mean that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Suggesting to skip breakfast altogether is perhaps a bit audacious, but just hear me out.
When we sleep we are naturally not eating, so assuming we’ve had a full night’s rest we are in a fasted state when morning comes – heck, our first meal is even referred to as ‘break fast’. When we fast, our organs get to work on cleansing and repairing the body. This causes a cell rejuvenation process called autophagy – in which damaged proteins and other waste is burned. Upon waking, we are still in a fasted state, and get this: by restricting our caloric intake in the morning we can extend the fasting window, and thereby increase the benefits of autophagy – which in the long run prevents disease such as cancer and IBS. So, from a biological point of view, we’re designed to cleanse in the morning. And what supports cleansing? Drinking lots of fluids such as green juice, celery juice, coconut water or citrus juice.