Most important meal of the day

He likes it! Hey, Mikey! Also, 7 other things worth your time.

Bill is traveling today, so your Understandably morning newsletter is brought to you by Kate Sullivan and the letter B (you’ll see why in a minute)…

Most of us fall into one of three groups in the morning:

  • All I need is coffee to survive;

  • I’ll grab something on the way, I guess;

  • Bacon, eggs, two pancakes...or an artfully arranged smoothie bowl.

The latter category sticks to the idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day—interestingly enough, a concept that didn’t really exist until the 1920s, when a PR flak for Beech-Nut Foods, Edward Bernays, engineered a survey getting doctors to say that a bacon-and-eggs breakfast was the best way to start off.

Before that, folks just ate what they could, when they could—preferably loading up on calories early as a way to fuel themselves for a day that most likely included a lot of manual labor.

After Bernays, though, the idea of breakfast being paramount took hold (and yes, Beech-Nut sold a whole lot of bacon as a result).

Today, you see plenty of reminders to eat your Wheaties, drink that OJ, and maybe down an overpriced smoothie or egg-white omelet if you’re concerned about calories or health.

Recently, however, skepticism has abounded. Some studies have suggested that breakfast doesn’t really matter, and it’s back to the old ways of eating, where as long as you get the appropriate amount of calories and nutrients at some point during the day, you’ll be just fine.

And the general, sensible consensus is that eating real food—things your grandmother would recognize if she read the ingredients on the label—will keep you the healthiest.

But a study earlier this year in the journal Proceedings of the Nutrition Society suggests that your bowl of processed breakfast cereal may, in fact, be more important than we thought. 

Researchers from the Ohio State University studied the breakfast habits of 30,000 American adults. They found that people who skipped breakfast wound up lacking a host of vital nutrients, missing out on calcium, iron, zinc, and a range of vitamins. 

In other words: they didn’t just make up the nutrients later in the day. However, folks who skipped breakfast did seem to snack more—and they were eating sugary, fatty stuff instead of, you know, apples.

So, looking closer, it seems as though that common wisdom about eating breakfast is right, even if it has its roots in a 100-year-old PR campaign.

And all those missing nutrients? They’re packed into fortified cereals.

That’s right, a bowl of highly processed, vitamin-infused raisin bran can make the difference between being nutrient-deficient and having what your body needs to maintain itself.

Some of those essential nutrients missing in the study subjects were specifically those crammed into processed breakfast products: folate, vitamin D, niacin, and so on. Of course, you could get them through fresh foods eaten throughout the day, like mushrooms, fortified milk, or broccoli.

But for people who can’t or won’t do that, for whatever reason, the easy way to get your RDA is through foods engineered to include these nutrients.

Oddly enough, because of all the attention paid to kids’ nutrition, and to remaking cereal formulas using more natural ingredients in the last year or two, even a bowl of Froot Loops may therefore be arguably better for your long-term health than grabbing a banana on your way to work.

Because breakfast, to quote Christopher Taylor, PhD, one of the study’s authors, is a “unique meal opportunity.”

And although the study was funded by the National Dairy Association Mideast, a bowl of cereal and some milk is probably still a better choice than Edward Bernays’s two rashers of fatty bacon.

So what do you eat for breakfast? Are you a coffee-only person, a smoothie fan, or is every day pancake day?

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7 other things worth your time

  • The brutal heat wave scorching the Pacific Northwest continues, with temperatures exceeding 100F and expected to go to 115F or higher throughout the region. Utility companies are warning of rolling blackouts and bridges are being hosed down with cool water to prevent them from buckling. (AP)

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