12% of Americans do not eat breakfast, and more than 50% skip it at least once a week! Those who skip breakfast usually say it’s because they do not have enough time, would rather hit the snooze button, are hoping to save calories, or simply do not have anything to eat at home. However, there is a growing population who cite health benefits as their reason for skipping their morning meal.
Remember when your mom told you that breakfast was the most important meal of the day? Was she wrong, or does that motherly advice actually ring true?
The answer is YES and NO!
Breakfast IS the most important meal of the day, BUT it doesn’t necessarily have to be eaten first thing in the morning. Think for a moment about the word Break-fast. Break fast. It means the meal at which you break your fast. So, technically, you could break your fast at any time of the day, and that meal would be your breakfast.
Fasting has gained popularity in recent years, and rightly so. It is a powerful healing tool that has been used in naturopathic medicine for over a century.
Fasting can sound scary and feel overwhelming, but it is actually quite simple. It is free and requires no special training or equipment. Fasting, simply put, is just not eating for a period of time. It’s that simple. There are many ways to fast, and it can be done in all sorts of time frames, but we’ll just discuss the basics.
Intermittent fasting is the most popular type of fasting and what those breakfast skippers are likely doing. Intermittent fasting, as opposed to long-term fasting, is when you fast and then you eat and then you fast again.
We all do this on a small scale every day. We eat, we stop, we eat, we stop. I am yet to meet anyone who eats continuously 24 hours a day. In other words, we all fast when we sleep and between meals. Intermittent fasting just focuses on extending the time between feedings. It’s also known as time-restricted eating. In other words, you restrict the time period in which you eat each day to a specific number of hours. This might simply mean that you stop eating after dinner and do not eat until again until the next morning. If you stop eating at 8pm and do not eat again until 8am, then you have completed a 12-hour fast. Some people stretch the fasting window to 16 or 18 hours, and there are other more extreme versions with shorter eating windows or eating every other day.
Fasting is a completely natural human state. In fact, we are built to fast. This is why the human body can store fat for energy. Our fat stores are there for times of famine, to sustain us with stored energy. Without this capability, we would not have survived this long.
Our ancestors did not choose to fast intermittently, instead they ate when foods were available, which consequently, was only intermittently. Food had to be gathered or hunted for each meal. In many ways, intermittent fasting reconnects us with the way our ancestors ate before there was food readily available in the fridge, at the grocery store, or with restaurants on every corner. Intermittent fasting is not just about weight loss, although the restriction of calories may make that seem like the goal. Fasting forces your body to burn fat for fuel instead of glucose, or sugar. It basically makes your metabolism work more efficiently. There’s even evidence to suggest that you can train your body to burn fat with intermittent fasting.
Here are some of the benefits of intermittent fasting:
- Lower inflammation
- Blood sugar balance
- Decreased sugar and food cravings
- Improved brain and cognitive function
- Increased energy
- Boost in athletic performance
- Increased longevity
Fasting is thought to help with obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, mitochondrial dysfunction, gut health, arthritis and joint inflammation, polycystic ovary disease (PCOS), brain fog, breaking weight loss plateaus and more. The list could really go on, but researchers believe that the benefits of fasting comes down to a cellular process called autophagy. Autophagy is when the body disassembles bad proteins, breaks them down and recycles them for energy. This leads to the regeneration of new, healthier cells and tissues.
It’s important to note that fasting is not appropriate for everyone, and it’s important to work with a trusted practitioner if you have questions or specific concerns. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should never fast longer than 12 hours, and those who have a history of eating disorders should seek professional guidance.
Those suffering from adrenal dysfunction and low thyroid might also want to seek guidance around fasting. If you do choose to fast, it’s important to tune into your body and pay attention to any symptoms that may pop up.
So let’s talk about breakfast.
While the specific time of day that you eat your breakfast (or break your fast) doesn’t matter, the quality and type of food that you eat is vital. Your breakfast should contain plenty of high-quality protein, some healthy fats and lots of fiber. Remember that breakfast doesn’t have to be breakfast foods. In fact, you’ll want to skip many of the common “breakfast” foods as they are really just dessert in disguise.
You can ditch the toast and waffles, and have some organic, pasture-raised eggs, a few cups of veggies (roasted broccoli, mushrooms, and wilted spinach are loaded with fiber and antioxidants) and some avocado makes a delicious breakfast. Soups, salads, and traditional lunch and dinner foods can also make for great breakfast foods. Be creative, but also keep it simple and loaded with nutrients to support your body as it focuses on digestion for the day.
Here is one of my favorite, make-ahead breakfasts for women on the go.
Breakfast Egg “Muffins”
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 cup cooked chopped Spinach or Kale excess water removed
1/3 cup crumbled cooked Bacon (if desired)
1/3 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese (optional- great without cheese as well))
Diced Tomatoes and chopped parsley (optional garnish)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat 6 cups of a muffin tin with cooking spray or line with paper liners.
Crack the eggs into a large bowl. whisk to blend the eggs until smooth, this will take less than a minute.
Add the spinach, bacon and cheese to the egg mixture and stir to combine. You can totally improvise with your own ingredients – we sometimes use onions, mushrooms, bell pepper, diced tomatoes or other veggies left over from dinner the night before.
Divide the egg mixture evenly among the muffin cups.
Bake for 15-18 minutes or until eggs are set.
Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to eat. Top with diced tomatoes and parsley if desired.