Make time for breakfast, it’s worth it, health experts say. Picture: Pexels
While breakfast is the most important meal of the day - as it gives you the energy, helps aid metabolism and assists our bodies to burn calories better - for a lot of people, the festive season can bring a lot of disruptions, including missing out on breakfast as many tend to oversleep.

So, before you fall into the trap of skipping this important meal, have you wondered what happens to your body when you skip a regular meal?

Megan Lee from Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, says that, if you’re a regular breakfast eater, skipping the meal may cause a slight dip in blood sugar, enough to trigger general irritability. Similarly, a poor-quality breakfast based on refined starch can provide initial energy followed by a slump and lower mood.

Nearly 1 in 5 South African children skip breakfast before going to school. “Children who regularly enjoy a good quality breakfast seem to be more content, experience less anxiety and depression, and even make fewer trips to the school nurse,” she says.

WebMD, a health portal, says that kids who don’t eat in the morning have a harder time focusing, and they become more tired at school. They may also be cranky or restless. And it isn’t just their moods that can suffer. Most children don’t get all the vitamins and minerals they need from just lunch and dinner.

“Kids who skip breakfast are more likely to eat junk food during the day and be overweight. One study showed teenagers who ate breakfast every day had a lower body mass index (BMI) - a measure of body fat based on height and weight - compared with teens who don’t eat or irregularly eat breakfast.”

When asked what is the best time to eat breakfast, Lee explains that there’s no specific time of day to have breakfast. “Breakfast can be defined as a meal consumed within two hours of waking and typically no later than 10am.

“The most important aspect of breakfast would be its quality, rather than its timing.”

She adds that people who skip breakfast tend to have a high likelihood of being overweight or obese and tend to have “bad” LDL -cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes - all increasing the risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke.

Valentin Fuster, co-author of the research and director of Mount Sinai Heart in New York, said people who skipped breakfast not only ate in an odd fashion, but generally had a poor lifestyle.

In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, which was reported in The Guardian, researchers looked at the health and diets of 4 052 middle-aged bank workers, both men and women, with no previous history of cardiovascular disease. At the beginning of the study, participants completed a detailed questionnaire of what they had eaten, and when they had eaten, over the previous 15 days.

Body mass index, cholesterol levels, and other measures were collected, together with participants’ smoking status, educational attainment and level of physical activity. Imaging techniques were used to track the extent of sub-clinical stages of atherosclerosis (plaque build-up inside arteries) in six arteries, including those around the heart, thighs, and neck.

The results revealed that, compared to those tucking into more than 20% of their daily calories at breakfast, those who consumed next to nothing for breakfast had a greater extent of atherosclerosis.

While almost 57% of those eating a high-energy breakfast had sub-clinical atherosclerosis, the figure was almost 75% among those who skipped the meal.

Why is breakfast the most important meal of the day?

Lee says breakfast provides numerous benefits; the most significant of which may be that it helps to improve mental performance and helps a person to consume the required daily vitamins and minerals.

There are many benefits of breakfast as it assists with the absorption of nutrients such as dietary fibre, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C and B vitamins.