Breakfast and your health

Your mother was right (again): It is important to start your day with a good breakfast. But the hearty feast of bacon and eggs that you may remember from your youth is hardly a good start by today's standards, and the doughnut and coffee that have replaced it in today's fast-paced world is no better. Why is breakfast so important, and how can you plan a meal that is enjoyable, convenient, and healthful?

Morning metabolism

Retaining the patterns that served our hunter-gatherer ancestors so well in the Stone Age, your metabolism maintains a nearly steady supply of energy whether food is on board or not. It's a good thing since your brain can't store any energy on its own, depending instead on a constant infusion of glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream. After a meal, food is digested in your stomach and intestines; carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are broken down into smaller fragments that are absorbed into your bloodstream. As your blood sugar level rises, your pancreas secretes insulin, the hormone that allows glucose to enter cells, where it powers the body's metabolism. Glucose that's not needed on the spot is converted into glycogen, which is stored in the liver and muscles to meet future energy needs. But the body can store only a small amount of glycogen; most of your energy reserves are in the fatty acids that are socked away in your body's fat deposits. In contrast to the treatment of other nutrients, your body does not store excess protein; it converts it into fat.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».

Disclaimer:

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.