Why have breakfast? You asked Google – here’s the answer | Phil Daoust

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Every day millions of internet users ask Google lifes most difficult questions, big and small. Our writers answer some of the commonest queries

Lenna Cooper has a lot to answer for. Ninety-nine years ago, in the American magazine Good Health, the nutritionist declared that breakfast was in many ways the most important meal of the day, because it is the meal that gets the day started.

It should not be eaten hurriedly, she continued, and all the family, so far as possible, should partake of it together. And above all, it should be made up of easily digested foods, and balanced in such a way that the various food elements are present in the right proportions. It should not be a heavy meal, consisting of over 500 to 700 calories.

All of this must have delighted the magazines editor, John Harvey Kellogg, co-creator of the breakfast cereal. The only things missing were the words Buy more cornflakes and a money-off coupon.

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Buying cornflakes in the 1970s. Photograph: Evening Standard/Getty Images

Ever since, that line about the most important meal of the day has been trotted out by anyone with a breakfast food to flog, from Grape-Nuts cereal in the 1940s to todays grab-and-go breakfast drink, Nosh. Even the worthy-sounding Shake Up Your Wake Up campaign, with its worrying revelations about the dangers of skipping breakfast, turns out to be run by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. In the AHDBs own words, the campaign supports an industry-wide objective to stimulate sustained demand for cereals and oilseeds-based products.

Has the importance of the early-morning meal been exaggerated? Well, yes and no. Whole societies have flourished without it like the ancient Romans, who managed to conquer a fifth of the world without the benefit of a full imperial. According to food historian Caroline Yeldham, Caesar and his chums usually ate only once a day, around noon: They were obsessed with digestion and eating more than one meal was considered a form of gluttony. Britain also largely went without until 400 years ago. It was actually socially and morally frowned upon to eat breakfast until about the 17th century, says Heather Arndt Anderson, author of Breakfast: A History.

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A Roman fresco of a basket of figs. Caesar and his chums usually only ate once a day, around noon. Photograph: Alamy

Scientific study after scientific study, however, has shown that there are health benefits to breaking your fast shortly after waking, rather than in the middle of the day. As the British Dietetic Association puts it: Skipping meals, whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner, is not advised. Establishing a regular eating pattern has been shown to improve glycaemic control, reduce likelihood of weight gain and curb hunger pangs. However, it is estimated that up to one-third of us still regularly miss breakfast. It continues: People who eat breakfast have more balanced diets than those who skip it, are less likely to be overweight, lose weight more successfully if overweight, and have reduced risk of certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Some of these claims are disputed, but still, the consensus among health experts is that youre better off having breakfast than not.

So what should you be having? Not some swiggable abomination like the yoghurt-and-quinoa Nosh, obviously, or the equally ill-conceived Weetabix on the Go. Even in todays smugly busy world, almost no one is genuinely so rushed that they cant stick a slice of bread in the toaster or pour milk on some cereal and sit down to enjoy it. If youre stuck for quick and tasty ideas, the NHSs healthy breakfasts (for people who hate breakfast) include an energy-boosting apple-pie porridge, protein-packed scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast, homemade granola bars, and, for a weekend treat, muffins with ham, cheese and poached egg.

Once youve dipped your toe in the water, you may be tempted to wallow in the experience. Make sure you set aside enough time to savour it. As the American author John Gunther put it, All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.

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The traditional full English complete with black pudding. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

As an experienced breakfasteer, I personally take an anything-and-everything approach to the finest meal of the day. Ill happily tuck into a full English with extras such as black pudding and hash browns; a full German with cheese and wurst and rolls and jam; cold pizza from the night before; porridge with bananas and/or walnuts and/or maple syrup; toast and Marmite; toast and peanut butter; toast and fried eggs; yoghurt with honey; muesli; cornflakes; Shredded Wheat (though not Weetabix, because that tastes like cardboard); plain croissants, almond croissants, chocolate croissants, pains au chocolate; a bacon and egg buttie with rocket, tomato and brown sauce; even (especially) a maple-syrup-drizzled, bacon-filled doughnut or three, all washed down with some combination of coffee, tea and fruit juice.

Not all at the same time, of course. That would be greedy.

Why have breakfast? You dont need Google to answer that, just tastebuds. A good ones bloody lovely.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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