Breakfast- “the most important meal of the day”- yet, most of us skip it on the regular or just have coffee or a glass of juice and call it good. Moreover, many people choose calorie-heavy options that don’t provide much nutrient content. These often include sugar-sweetened breakfast cereals, pastries, bagels, or huge portions of bacon and sausage. So, what’s all the hype to “the most important meal of the day”?
How Does Breakfast Affect Heart Health?
Research has already shown that having a healthy, nutrient-dense breakfast can provide sustainable energy throughout the day and that eating breakfast can help with weight control. There has also been research showing that eating an unhealthy breakfast is linked to increased risk of developing metabolic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension, as well as elevated levels of cholesterol, glucose, and insulin.
A recent study now connects a healthy breakfast with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. The study in question looked at comparing breakfast skippers (people who just drank coffee or juice) to two groups of breakfast eaters (low-energy breakfast eaters- subjects who limited breakfast to 5-20% of their daily caloric intake and high-energy breakfast eaters- subjects who consumed more than 20% of their daily caloric intake at breakfast). The study found that breakfast skippers were 2.5 times more likely than high-energy breakfast eaters to develop atherosclerosis and that low-energy breakfast eaters were 1.2 times more likely to develop plaque buildup in their arteries.
While this is the first study with these findings relating breakfast to cardiovascular health, these are promising results. The study also suggests that choosing a hearty heart-healthy breakfast can help you make better food choices throughout the day.
How to Build a Heart-Healthy Breakfast
- Start with a lean protein source- think eggs or a lower fat Greek yogurt.
- Then, choose a complex carbohydrate, such as 100% whole wheat toast or steamed sweet potatoes. These types of carbs will provide a nutrient boost of fiber and other healthy vitamins and minerals.
- Finally, add a piece of whole fruit. You can even include vegetables- I know- vegetables at breakfast? But bell peppers, onions, and spinach pair VERY well with eggs- make an omelet or include them in your scrambled eggs.
Do you have more questions about how to incorporate a healthy breakfast into your diet? Talk to one of our CHI Health dietitians. Happy breakfast eating!
Originally Published: January 2021. Updated: January 2023.