I don’t think there is a Mum in the country that hasn’t, at some point, encouraged their children to eat their breakfast by describing it as the “most important meal of the day”. But what do Mums know?
Everything, of course.
While some of their claims may be slightly more difficult to prove (do you really get square eyes from sitting too close to the TV?), when it comes to the importance of breakfast, they can point to plenty of scientific studies to back them up.
The relationship between breakfast and our brains is established at an early age. A collection of studies in 2013 examined the effects of breakfast on the cognitive performance of children, and the results were pretty conclusive. Despite numerous different methods being used across 36 studies, one thing seemed clear:
“The increase in on-task behaviour following breakfast may indicate that children who eat breakfast are more able to concentrate, pay attention and are more alert at school.”
There are plenty of other studies that back this up – this one shows the link between breakfast (with exercise) and cognitive performance in adults, this one from China shows how eating breakfast can help reduce depressive symptoms, and this one from Spain concluded that “skipping breakfast was associated with higher odds of psychosocial behavioural problems” in adolescents.
This is all pretty conclusive – breakfast has a positive impact on your brain, and the healthier your brain is, the more productive you are going to be. More and more people are starting to realise the benefits of breakfast, and it’s one of the reasons that this company offers free breakfast to all of its employees.
But why do our brains and productivity get a boost from breakfast? Let’s take a look at the science behind it.
It all comes down to energy. When we ‘fast’ – which in this instance means any prolonged period without eating, like when we are asleep – our liver will start to break down glycogen that it has been storing up. This is then released into our bloodstream as glucose in order to keep our blood sugar levels stable.
However, after about 12 hours of not eating, we’ve used up most of the glycogen, and so our bodies will turn to fatty acids for energy. The problem is, without carbohydrates, the broken down fatty acids can actually have the opposite effect, and we feel even more tired.
That is why breakfast is so crucial. We can restore our glycogen levels, and as a result give our energy a big boost. Which is a welcome relief to our brains, as they need energy to function. You know those feelings of sluggishness and brain fog – that’s what happens when we don’t get enough energy to our brains.
Unfortunately, we still need to be a bit careful about what we have for breakfast, even though our bodies are craving any kind of energy. We need to avoid eating processed foods in the morning, particularly those with a high sugar content. Foods like pastries, sugary cereals, white bread and sweetened yoghurt.
The reason for this is that these foods cause a huge spike in our blood sugar levels, which then crashes quite soon afterwards. This can leave us feeling tired and finding it really difficult to concentrate. Which, in turn, can lead to a vicious circle – we crave more sugary snacks to keep us going, and the process begins again.
So it’s not quite enough to say that any breakfast will give our brains a boost, we need to pick the right kind of breakfast.
There are certain foods that we can turn to that will give us the best possible platform for the day – according to Medical News Today some of the best breakfast foods to give your brain a boost are:
Obviously it would be difficult to include all of these into one dish, but you can combine some of them to create delicious breakfasts. You could have a bowl of porridge, loaded with berries, nuts and seeds. Or there is always a smoothie – perfect for an on-the-go breakfast that will kick-start your brain into action! Check out Oat-of-this-World (see what we did there…) for the perfect combination of protein, berries, and antioxidants that will give you the nutrition you need but out of the door in record time too.
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