You may be familiar with the old saying “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” Breakfast is especially important because the body has to “break” the “fast” it experienced during the night. The brain’s basic fuel is glucose, and so regularly supplying it with a new source of energy is essential. In 1995, the Pediatrics Department at the University of California at Davis hosted a group of psychologists, neuroscientists, nutritionists, and physiologists to review the scientific research on breakfast. The researchers concluded that the “eating of breakfast is important in learning, memory, and physical well-being in both children and adults.” The classic, much quoted Alameda County Study found that those who ate breakfast almost every day or did not often eat between meals reported better physical health and tended to live longer than those who skipped breakfast or ate between meals.

A good breakfast is essential for maximum efficiency of the body and mind, especially during the later morning hours. Breakfast eaters demonstrate more efficient problem solving, increased verbal fluency, an improved attention span, better attitudes, and higher scholastic scores. A recent study directed by Harvard psychologist Michael Murphy examined 4,000 elementary school children, half of whom ate breakfast and half of whom did
not. Across the board, those who ate breakfast exhibited better scores on a battery of attention tests, which included a short-term memory test where they repeated a series of digits, and a verbal fluency test where they were asked to name all of the animals they could think of in 60 seconds.

What kind of breakfast is the best? The answer is foods with a low glycemic load. The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly the carbohydrates in food are absorbed into our bodies and converted to fuel. When it comes to sustained brain power, Terrill Bravender, professor of pediatrics at Duke University, explains that food that is low on the scale—such as whole grains—are preferable. Even though a bowl of oatmeal and a bowl of sugary cereal may have the same number of carbohydrates, they have very different glycemic loads. Beans, as noted earlier, have an even lower glycemic load and may work even better at supplying a steady, stable supply of good brain food. Check out this list from Harvard University showing the glycemic index for 60+ foods.

The evidence is more than abundant. Our diet is very important to our health. By choosing to make positive changes we can each enjoy the health benefits that come from a good, balanced diet.