Protein For Breakfast May Put You In A Better Mood, Says Recent Study

A new study suggests that what you put on your plate in the morning may dictate your mood—proving yet again that your mother was right: Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.   


May 26 2019, Updated 7:27 p.m. ET

We’ve all woken up on the wrong side of the bed. But did you consider your breakfast selection might be making matters much, much worse? A new study, published in the journal PNAS, suggests that what you put on your plate in the morning may dictate your mood. Proving yet again that your mother was right: Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.

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International Business Times reports that a breakfast high in protein will set your mood straight for the day—and that breakfasts high in carbs over proteins result in people being more annoyed by their peers and coworkers throughout the day. Chowing down on protein first-thing in the day may help you be more accepting of those around you, better manage stress, and enjoy a better disposition overall.   

For the study, 111 people were offered a breakfast high in protein or carbs. After eating everything on the plate and taking some time to digest, they had to play a little thing called the “Ultimatum Game.” In the game, the “contestants” are offered an unequal split on a sum of money. For example, the experimenter might offer the subject $4 while he or she kept $15. If the person in the study accepts the offer, the money is divvied up accordingly. If the offer is refused, no one gets anything.   

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The study seeks to explore whether someone will turn down any sum of money in order to punish the person standing to gain more—or if they will accept the cut on the notion that any money would be better than none. People who ate high levels of protein for breakfast were more likely to accept the offer. Those who had consumed a lot of carbs were far more likely to say no.

So what exactly went into these breakfasts? Here’s what the study participants had to eat, as reported by the International Business Times. The high-carb breakfast was comprised of:  

  • 88g wholegrain bread
  • 20g ham
  • 5g cream cheese
  • 30g strawberry marmalade
  • 130ml milk
  • 200ml apple juice
  • 110ml water
  • 225g banana
  • 225g apple
  • Total calories: 850

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    And here’s what the high-protein group ate: 

  • 70g sunflower seed bread
  • 70g wholegrain bread
  • 40g ham
  • 30g cream cheese
  • 40g Camembert
  • 240ml milk
  • 200ml water
  • 250ml yogurt
  • 120g banana
  • Total calories: 850 

    The study author’s author, Soyoung Park of the University of Lübeck, told the International Business Times that these results demonstrate how diet can impact mood no matter which mealtime it is.

    "We had to do this with the breakfast because there's a greater chance that people have not eaten anything before," she told the Times. "I can imagine it also works after lunch and dinner but then was not possible to control for what they have eaten before… What this study is showing is that a simple meal that we all eat normally has such a big influence on our behavior. If you imagine that we eat three times a day—it is actually a very large intervention in our lives."


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