Find out if you really need to eat breakfast every morning.

I've always been a breakfast eater. Breakfast-along with a couple cups of coffee-gives me that much-needed energy boost to start my day and keep me going until I break for lunch. My breakfast-eating habit isn't unique, but there are plenty of people-some of my friends and family included-who start their day on an empty stomach. It was a question from one of those non-breakfast-eating friends of mine that inspired this topic: did she really have to eat breakfast even if she wasn't hungry. To answer her question, I did a little research-and here's what I found:

Benefit 1. Get & Stay Lean

Eating a morning meal is a healthy habit. Research shows that regular breakfast eaters tend to be leaner and dieters are more successful at losing weight-and keeping it off-when they eat breakfast.

Benefit 2. Nutrients

What's more, people who typically eat breakfast also get more fiber, calcium, vitamins A and C, riboflavin, zinc and iron-and less fat and dietary cholesterol. Perhaps it's because they often eat cereal, which is fortified with vitamins and minerals, and fruit, which is naturally nutrient-rich.

Benefit 3. Heart Health

Breakfast is good for your heart, too, according to new research in the October 2010 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study found that people who skipped breakfast throughout childhood and as adults had higher "bad" LDL and total cholesterol than lifelong breakfast eaters. (They also carried more weight in their midsection.) Why skipping breakfast is linked with higher cholesterol isn't clear, but the findings support previous research, says study author Kylie Smith, M.S., of the University of Tasmania, Australia. Plus, she notes, eating breakfast has also been shown to improve concentration and mood.

Bottom Line

Not hungry when you first get up? Don't worry. Eating breakfast doesn't have to be the first thing you do each day. Just make sure that when you do eat, your meal is something that will sustain you for a few hours-it should include some fiber and protein.