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Why Do We Eat Eggs or Cereal for Breakfast and How Many Eggs Should We Eat in a Day?

Why is breakfast so important? Learn the history of breakfast foods, what to eat for breakfast, and how many eggs you should eat in a day.

By Brittany Edelmann
Jan 9, 2024 4:00 PM
Cooking eggs for breakfast
(Credit: Mariia Volvach/Shutterstock)


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The alarm clock goes off and the thought of eating scrambled eggs with cheese or maybe cereal gets you out of bed. But, why do we have eggs and dairy for breakfast? Surprisingly, there is a bit of scrambled history for these meals. And it may be time to re-evaluate if eggs and dairy are good choices to have for the first meal of the day.

What Is the History of Breakfast?

If you look back in time, it might not be surprising that for the most part, a simple and convenient meal was key to kick start one’s day. Take for example, Ancient Romans, who apparently consumed bread, cheese, olives, salad, nuts, raisins, and cold meat left over from the night before. So, when did eggs come into the picture?

According to researchers of this 2018 study published in the Nutrients journal, the rich and ennobled mainly ate eggs during breakfast, while others had foods such as oats, rice, and other cereals. The “Clean-Living Movement,” which emerged in the 19th century, is when a “cooked breakfast” became popular in the U.S. It was during this time – the late 19th century — that John Harvey Kellogg created the flaked breakfast cereal, which had oats called “granola” and later became boxed and widely distributed.

Read More: The Best Times of the Day to Eat, According to Science

Why Is Breakfast So Important?

Convenience has become important when picking a breakfast option, and many of us seem to skip breakfast altogether. Whether skipping breakfast is due to other demands that require our attention, a lack of hunger, or other personal reasons, studies have shown that there are benefits of having something nutritious to eat when starting your day.

For example, a 2020 study published in the Nutrients journal, revealed participants who ate breakfast had more energy, and higher intakes of fiber, fruits, and vegetables throughout the day. They also consumed fewer soft drinks. As the authors suggest from their findings, “breakfast consumption is associated with better macronutrient intake and healthier food and beverage consumption.”

What Should You Eat for Breakfast?

Still, there’s no doubt what you choose to eat for breakfast can vary based on your lifestyle, income, or your culture. For some of us, tortilla and rice are a breakfast staple and for others, eggs and fruit, or cereal are the first choice. What you choose to eat can make a difference.

“The most important part of the breakfast is making sure that you have a good protein source,” says Robyn Blackford, a registered dietician. And yes, eggs and dairy are a great source of protein, which makes sense why researchers found eating an egg – compared to a bagel – can lead to less calorie intake throughout the day, greater weight loss, and increased fullness. 

Read More: How Much Protein Do You Actually Need in Your Diet?

Are Eggs Bad For You?

Nonetheless, if you’re thinking about whether you should add eggs or dairy to your morning routine, there’s no doubt there’s been an “eggcellent” debate about whether eggs, specifically the egg-yolks, are bad for us. According to Blackford, “all of the nutrients are in the stuff people are saying take it out.”

“In eggs and dairy, there are lots of nutrients and vitamins that we need that are essential,” Blackford adds.

What Nutrients Are in Eggs?

According to researchers of this 2021 study published in the Nutrients journal, by adding just one egg in the morning, including the yolk, intakes of pantothenic acid, riboflavin, selenium, and vitamin D increased over 10 percent. Choline, another nutrient lacking in the diet of many (one that’s important when it comes to neurodevelopment, metabolism, and physiological functions) can also increase by eating just one egg.

Read More: 6 Brain-Boosting Foods You Should Have on Your Plate

Are Eggs Bad For Cholesterol?

Maybe you’ve been told to stay away from eggs because they can increase cholesterol. Some studies, like this 2015 study, reveal eating eggs, which contain dietary cholesterol, doesn’t necessarily lead to an increased cardiovascular disease risk. Other studies like this 2020 study published in the Nutrients journal found increased egg consumption might influence cardiovascular disease risk, specifically with one type of cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-c).

As the researchers state, there are limitations to the research, and at the end of the study that “RCTs (randomized control trials) with long term follow-up are needed to guarantee the association between egg consumption and human health.”

How Many Eggs Should You Eat a Day?

If you’re unsure about the risks, for the most part, having one egg per day doesn’t seem to be harmful.

“I actually believe that the amount of sugar that you eat every day is worse than counting the amount of cholesterol that you're eating,” Blackford says.

Though it’s always important to think about your underlying health conditions or risks, along with other aspects of your diet that might be impacting your overall health.

Researchers of this 2015 study published in the Nutrients journal even state, the five decade long shift from eggs for breakfast to carbohydrate rich cereals might not have been the best approach to weight maintenance and probably contributed to our national obesity problem.”

Read More: 4 Science-Backed Diets to Improve Your Health

Is Milk Good For You?

Still, many of us gravitate towards cereal and dairy milk as a quick and easy breakfast. Dairy products, which include yogurt, milk, and cheese, can have a bad reputation too. You might even opt for non-dairy milk as a substitute.

Blackford explains that dairy milk has many benefits. For example, it contains high amounts of protein and can help muscle growth and repair. It’s also beneficial for overall growth and development in children and is a great source of calcium, which helps support our bones.

Is Yogurt Good for You?

Yogurt can be high in protein, along with many other health benefits, but watch out for the added sugars, Blackford says. For example, even yogurts that say, “made with fruit,” tend to be mainly added sugar. Instead, try opting for one that has no added sugar, and if possible, Blackford recommends adding a small serving of fresh fruit instead. Many cereals today are highly processed and contain high amounts of added sugars.

Read More: Is Milk Bad for You? Here's What the Science Says

What Will You Choose for Breakfast?

Clearly, this idea of breakfast has changed over the years and can vary. Not only are eggs and dairy a good source of nutrients and protein, but “you can find them in your tiniest food markets, to your biggest grocery stores,” Blackford explains.

Despite when you choose to eat, whether first thing in the morning or later in the day, Blackford says she feels very strongly about having eggs and dairy as part of a healthy diet every day.

“I think eggs and dairy hit a lot of things that are important for our body to properly function,” Blackford says. If you have allergies or can’t eat eggs or dairy, there are other options or substitutes out there. She even recommends doubling down on your dairy if you can’t eat eggs.

Read More: Therapy on a Plate: How Your Diet Can Benefit Your Mental Health

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