As school children, we were always taught that eating breakfast daily is a must. I remember my parents were insistent that I grab a bite before going off to school every morning. However, most of what we know about breakfast boils down to the century-old assumption about it being the most important meal of the day. We were constantly reminded that skipping breakfast could result in health problems, weight gain and under performance. However, a new wave of studies suggest that skipping breakfast and practising intermittent fasting may even provide some health benefits.
Discovering Intermittent Fasting
According to Healthline, intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. However, it doesn’t limit the types of food you can eat, but rather when you can consume food. This means that intermittent fasting is an eating pattern instead of a conventional diet.
The most popular version of intermittent fasting is the 16/8 method. It requires one to fast 16 hours following an eight-hour eating window every 24 hours. The method taught was to skip breakfast daily and eat only lunch and dinner. But one can also adjust it to suit his or her daily schedule and habits. Some would prefer to eat breakfast and lunch but skip dinner. Most people find this way of fasting to be the simplest and most sustainable. There are also more extreme methods of 24-hour fasting and alternate-day fasting. Both methods are when one would fast a total of 24 hours or only choose to fast on alternate days.
The Origins Of The Breakfast Myth
I was curious to know if skipping breakfast really is detrimental to our health. What I discovered about the origins of the breakfast myth was beyond anything I expected. The story all began with the invention of cornflakes.
In 1894, Will Keith Kellogg, along with his brother John Harvey Kellogg, invented cornflakes by toasting flakes of corn. John Harvey Kellogg further included it as part of a strict vegetarian diet for his patients at Battle Creek Sanitarium. He believed that vegetarian meals and whole grains were beneficial for the body, mind and soul.
W. K. Kellogg went on to launch the Kellogg Company in 1906 and mass-marketed the newly-invented cornflakes to the public. Advertisements at the time portrayed cornflakes as the healthiest breakfast food. The company even funded a research article disclosing that eating cereal for breakfast is associated with being thinner. The Quaker Oats Centre for Excellence also financed a research on the consumption of oatmeal. Most of the studies that supported breakfast-eating were funded by the food industry. This undoubtedly created a clear bias on the research results.
In the end, the breakfast myth all started because Kellogg wanted to market cornflakes as a household breakfast staple.
My Intermittent Fasting Experience
After learning that there’s nothing wrong with skipping breakfast, I went ahead and gave intermittent fasting a try. I adopted the 16/8 fasting method and started skipping breakfast. Of course, this habit of mine has subjected me to lectures from people who still believe the breakfast myth. When asked about my practice of skipping breakfast, I would gladly share my knowledge on fasting and its benefits.
At the beginning of my intermittent fasting journey, I took it one step at a time. Initially, I had trouble trying to not overeat during lunch due to hunger of skipping breakfast. But I soon learnt to control my eating portions and the pangs of hunger eventually faded. It’s mind over matter, you see, to control how much you are craving. Interestingly, I find myself more likely to overeat during meals when I’m dehydrated.
To avoid over-consumption of food, I would drink plenty of water to keep myself well hydrated when I fast. Some other beverages I would consume during the fasting period include sugar-free coffee and tea. This is because they don’t contain any calories and thus won’t break your fast. I generally find that loose tea leaves make really enjoyable beverages even when drank plainly. When I break my fast, I try to start my meals with whole food such as fresh produce and multigrains. During my eight-hour eating window, I usually consume two meals.
Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
Research showed that intermittent fasting demonstrates major benefits against insulin resistance diabetes and lead to reduced blood sugar levels. Results concluded that fasting blood sugar has been reduced by 3-6%, while fasting insulin has been reduced by 20-31%. This indicates that it may be highly protective for people who are at risk of developing Type-2 diabetes.
Moreover, the practice of intermittent fasting can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in our bodies. Oxidative stress occurs when unstable free radicals react with other important protein molecules (such as DNA) and damage them. Increasing the body’s resistance to oxidative stress and inflammation helps to fight against aging and development of chronic diseases.
By fasting intermittently, the cells in our bodies also induce autophagy which is a cellular waste removal process. Through autophagy, our body is able to clear out and metabolise dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells over time. Increased autophagy may protect us against several diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
To Fast Or Not To Fast, It Is A Matter Of Personal Choice
Ultimately, the decision to skip or to eat breakfast is up to individual preferences. I do enjoy having the occasional brunch with my friends on the weekends. But most of the time, I’m comfortable skipping breakfast and fasting until lunchtime. After all, practising intermittent fasting offers so many health benefits to our body. I believe it’s a habit I’ll keep for the long-term.
This article is part of Espoletta’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives.
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