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4 Ways of Looking at Breakfast

A closer look at the day's most important meal

As a Weapon of Mass Construction
Sumo wrestlers credit chanko-nabe—a chunky stew of vegetables, broth, noodles, and meat or seafood-for their girth. They down it as a late breakfast after training for several hours, and while it clearly bulks up the 300-plus pounders, the meaty mixture contains nothing controversial. (In fact, many restaurants in Japan serve a similar dish.) Protocol demands that junior grapplers cook the dish daily for the champs, who get first dibs. One famous wrestler is said to have consumed 65 bowls of it-that’s about 29 pounds of beef-in a single sitting. Lucky for him, the next scheduled activity after chanko-nabe is a nap.

As the Un-Donut
If your shrinking budget can’t lure you away from that 7 a.m. fancy coffee drink or sugary pastry, perhaps a nutritional news flash will. Recent studies have shown that eating a healthy breakfast can boost your memory and trim your waistline. So what makes the best morning meal? ‘A power shake packed with nutrients,’ says nutritionist Oz Garcia. To turbocharge his own fruit smoothie, he adds flaxseed (with omega-3 fatty acids), pomegranate concentrate (with three times the antioxidants of red wine), almond butter, green tea extract, blueberries, wheat germ, garlic, and probiotic yogurt.

As a Marketing Marvel
Breakfast cereal is now a $9 billion business. But back in the day, when John Harvey Kellogg set out on a national health crusade, cereal had a more select fan club. In the late 1890s, Kellogg and other Seventh Day Adventists cooked up the first batch of cornflakes in his Battle Creek, Michigan, laboratory, touting it as a cure for constipation. But breakfast-in-a-box really took off in 1949, after the chairman of Kellogg’s happened to share a train ride with legendary adman Leo Burnett. Soon after, the men joined forces to market cereal directly to kids. Brightly packaged boxes helped—Norman Rockwell designed the one above, which hit store shelves in 1955—as did big spending on some of the earliest color TV commercials.

As a Learning Incentive
When American kids eat breakfast, studies show, their test scores improve. In Third World countries, the morning meal has an even more pivotal role. In rural Cambodia, when a bowl or two of rice with split peas is provided first thing in school, children journey from miles away to learn. When free meals go away-as was the case for a month and a half last spring when rising rice prices forced the World Food Program to suspend its breakfast program—so do as many as one third of the kids. The students stay home, WFP program director Thomas Keusters explains, to search for frogs and crabs to eat instead.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest