We’ve all heard it before: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Studies aren’t definitive when it comes to the hierarchy of meals—there isn’t much proof to show that breakfast is more important than lunch, for example—but research at least tells us that a power breakfast may have some benefits, while skipping breakfast can have some negative effects on health.

Why Eat Breakfast

Studies suggest that eating breakfast may have the following health benefits:

May lead to a lower BMI. According to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, body mass index (BMI) is the measure of body fat based on height and weight. The lower your BMI, the better, and research suggests that having breakfast may help lower BMI and prevent weight gain over time.

A study of over 50,000 healthy Seventh Day Adventists in the U.S., for example, found that breakfast eaters tended to have a lower BMI than breakfast skippers. The study noted that having a big breakfast and increasing the overnight fast—meaning skipping (or having a small) dinner—may also be helpful, stating that “in relatively healthy adults, eating less frequently, no snacking, consuming breakfast, and eating the largest meal in the morning may be effective methods for preventing long-term weight gain.”

It makes sense, considering our bodies most efficiently process glucose earlier in the day. The findings seem to align with the old saying that you should “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”

Having a filling breakfast may also keep you from consuming unhealthy snacks throughout the day, which also helps keep your weight down.

May be good for your heart. A study published in the journal Circulation followed over 26,000 men over 16 years and found that those who skipped breakfast had a 27% higher risk of coronary heart disease compared with those who did not.

May improve children’s academic performance. A study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience looked at the link between breakfast and the academic performance of children and adolescents. The findings indicate that regularly having a healthy breakfast can help improve performance in school, particularly when it comes to math.

May lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic illness that typically stems from an unhealthy diet that is high in sugar. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition involving 96,000 participants found that breakfast skippers have a 33% higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes. For those who more often than not skip breakfast—at least four times per week—the risk is even higher at 55%.

What to Eat

You shouldn’t use this as an excuse to load up on stacks of pancakes doused in syrup and feast on cured meats like tocino and fried rice every single morning. The quality and not just the regularity of breakfast is also important, so avoid anything processed and high in sugar or sodium.

The experts recommend the following to start off your day:

Oats. These grains make a healthy breakfast that’s rich in fiber, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and other minerals. Oats come in a variety of forms; just make sure you steer clear of the flavored kinds as these have added sugar. Sweeten a plain bowl with some sliced fresh fruit, make granola, or whip up a batch of overnight oats you can eat on the go if your mornings are always hectic.

Greek yogurt. Just as you should avoid flavored oatmeal, you should also avoid flavored yogurt and instead go for protein-rich Greek yogurt. Aside from having lots of muscle-building protein, yogurt also has probiotics, those microorganisms that help you maintain a healthy gut.

Eggs. The reputation of the much-maligned egg has changed in recent years, as research has found that its cholesterol content doesn’t have a great effect on blood cholesterol. Enjoy this protein- and Vitamin D-rich food boiled, poached, or scrambled on a non-stick pan—avoid using oil when you cook it. You can also make an omelet loaded with vegetables like bell peppers and spinach for added nutrients.

Fruit. A mix of fruits like bananas, watermelons, and berries can supply you with fiber and a host of different nutrients. You can make a fresh fruit salad, add them to your oats or yogurt, or freeze them and blend them with milk to make a smoothie. 

Visit Healthy Options to load up on some power breakfast foods and make a healthy breakfast a regular part of your day.