Which ones have you fallen for?

By Laurie Herr
January 27, 2020

It's time we gave breakfast another look.

According to recent research, many of the things we've always believed about the first meal of the day simply aren't true — or at least aren't as cut and dried as experts once thought. And while we hate to say Mom was wrong ... well, let's just say no one's perfect.

Here are 5 common breakfast myths, busted. See which ones you may have fallen for, and how your own morning meal habits stack up.

Credit: Carlo A/Getty Images

Myth #1: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Fact: You've heard it all your life, right? Not necessarily so, experts now say. It's true that people who eat breakfast tend to be healthier than the 20-some percent of us who don't. In fact, observational studies show breakfast eaters are more likely to have less heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol than breakfast skippers. But it's not clear if breakfast is the secret sauce that makes the difference, or if breakfast eaters simply have more good habits — like exercising, not smoking, drinking less alcohol, and eating a better diet overall — that add up to better health. And on the flip side, some recent studies suggest that skipping breakfast now and then may have health benefits, too.

In the end, there's not much proof that breakfast is any more important than other meals. What is important, experts say: choosing healthy foods, eating mindfully, and planning smart meals when you do eat.

Myth #2: Traditional breakfast foods are bad for you.

Fact: Sure, you want to go easy on the bacon and sausage. Ditto on the waffles, pancakes, and sugary pastries. But many other typical breakfast foods have gotten an unfair bad rap over the years. Eggs — long blamed for sending cholesterol levels through the roof — are actually loaded with protein, vitamins, and other nutrients vital for eye, brain, and yes, heart health. Your morning cup of Joe? Once thought to cause cancer and heart disease, black coffee is now known to help protect against high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and liver cancer. That whole-wheat toast topped with butter? Delivers fiber — something most of us don't get nearly enough of — and healthy fat. Even many boxed cereals can boast: Whole-grain varieties provide fiber, while fortified cereals pack iron, calcium, and essential vitamins.

Related: Browse our best Breakfast and Brunch Recipes.

Myth #3: Orange juice is a healthy breakfast staple.

Fact: "Breakfast without orange juice is like a day without sunshine," an old ad jingle went. For years, OJ was touted as the perfect breakfast beverage. Now, doctors say you're better off eating an orange instead. That's because fruit juice is loaded with sugar — one eight-ounce glass of orange juice has 23 grams of sugar (nearly 6 teaspoons!) — more than twice that of a medium orange. Plus, you get all the fiber when you eat the whole fruit. Even 100 percent OJ is loaded with natural sugars, not added sugars. Of course, it is high in vitamin C and other important nutrients. So it's not all bad — you just don't want to overdo it.

By the way, that crack-down on juice goes for kids, too. In 2017, the American Academy of Pediatrics tightened their guidelines, saying fruit juice should be off limits for children under one year, and older kids should have just a little.

Myth #4: Eating breakfast keeps you from overeating later in the day.

Fact: Fuel up first thing in the morning or you'll wolf down everything in sight at lunch or dinner, the theory goes. But a Cornell University study found the opposite. In the study, researchers had volunteers — half regular breakfast eaters and the other half regular skippers — either eat breakfast or go without on three different days. They then looked at how the two groups ate the rest of those days. While the breakfast skippers did get hungrier, they didn't overcompensate at lunch or later in the day. In fact, they ended up eating around 400 fewer calories a day than the breakfast eaters, suggesting that skipping breakfast now and then may be a smart way for otherwise healthy adults to lose weight.

Which leads us to ....

Myth #5: Eating breakfast helps you lose weight.

Fact: 'Fraid not. While eating breakfast has long been linked to losing weight and keeping it off, there's little evidence that a morning meal actually makes the pounds drop. For example, a study based on data from 50,000 healthy, active people suggests that eating a big breakfast, along with nixing snacks and avoiding late-night dinners, may help prevent long-term weight gain. Makes sense, but it doesn't prove that a regular breakfast directly causes weight loss, or for that matter, what kind of breakfast is best.

Then there are other, more stringent studies. In a four-month randomized controlled trial (the gold standard of research), scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that eating breakfast had no effect on weight loss. Participants lost the same amount of weight whether they ate first thing in the morning or not.

Bottom line: Listen to your body. A good breakfast has many health benefits, but everyone is different. If you're hungry first thing in the morning, eat up, and preferably get some protein. On the other hand, if you know you feel better some days without breakfast, then head on out the door and enjoy your day. Life's short.

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