Most research that associates eating breakfast with mental acuity and emotional well-being has focused on youth. Studies have found that children and adolescents who eat breakfast show improved memory and test grades. The relatively few studies of adults show more mixed results, suggesting breakfast brings benefits in memory, energy level and mood.

Specific food choices at breakfast probably play an important role. Reflecting the national average, most people in these studies likely ate ready-to-eat cereal for breakfast. Chocolate donuts or a big plate of sausages and refined-grain pancakes may not necessarily offer the same benefits identified in these studies.

Several studies suggest breakfasts that slowly release carbohydrates into the blood help memory and concentration more than those that rapidly release large amounts. Carbohydrates are released slowly by foods that contain whole grains and solid fruit, rather than refined grains (bread, pastry or cereal) and fruit juice or soft drinks.   

Suggested Reading: Smart Organic Breakfast Choices

—Karen Collins, MS, RD, American Institute for Cancer Research