Eating Breakfast: Why It’s The Right Start for Your Heart

Regular eating patterns may be the best for a healthy heart

We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day for good energy and even weight control. A recent statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) adds heart health to the list of reasons why it’s a good idea to eat in the morning.

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Irregular patterns of eating make it more difficult to maintain a healthy body weight and good heart health, the AHA statement says. Studies show that those who eat breakfast tend to lower their risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. And those who don’t eat breakfast tend to weigh more and have more metabolic problems.

Eating a majority of your calories in the beginning of the day is a good idea, says dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD.

“Most people tend to need that energy to get the day started, and then they have the entire day to burn those calories,” she says. “It makes sense to eat more calories during the part of the day when you’re most active.”

Food choices matter, too

Does that mean it’s time to belly up to the buffet table and go wild on breakfast foods? Not so fast.

The AHA recommends taking a intentional approach to eating that includes planned meals and snacks at regular times that spread an appropriate amount of calories throughout  the course of the day.

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Ms. Zumpano suggests including these nutrients for a healthy breakfast:

  • Soluble fiber — It helps lower cholesterol and is good for cardiovascular health. You can find soluble fiber in oats, beans, fruits and vegetables.
  • Lean protein — Best choices include turkey or chicken, or low-fat dairy.
  • Optionally, a healthy fat Avocado, olive oil or nut-based oils offer a healthy dose.

Five breakfasts that fit the bill:

  1. A cup of cooked oats with flax seeds and berries, and a boiled egg or two egg whites on the side. Or, instead of eggs, add protein to the oatmeal using non-fat Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or nuts.
  2. Add flavor to an egg-white omelet with vegetables. If you’re adding cheese, use low-fat or part-skim varieties. Add a slice of whole-grain toast or berries on the side.
  3. Combine low-fat cottage cheese with fresh fruit or vegetables. Add flax seeds or chia seeds, chopped nuts or low-fat granola; or put it on rice cakes or whole-grain crackers.
  4. Top a whole-grain English muffin with egg whites, low-fat cheese and low-fat turkey bacon or sausage.
  5. Top whole-wheat toast with sliced avocado, olive oil and a poached egg or egg white.

Time issues

Ms Zumpano acknowledges that some people don’t have time to prepare a large breakfast every day.

“There are a lot of things that affect the timing and portion size of your food, so you have to do what’s best for you,” she says.

Some simple adjustments, however, can boost the nutrition of your morning food routine.

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“If you don’t have a lot of time to make a large breakfast, you could distribute what may make up a larger breakfast into some snacks to eat throughout the morning,” Ms. Zumpano says.

For example, you could have a protein smoothie first thing in the morning. Then have some fruits and nuts, or a piece of whole-grain toast, later on.

“Unfortunately, most people don’t have time to prepare and eat a large breakfast in the morning,” Ms. Zumpano says. “But spreading those calories out throughout the morning is totally OK.”

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