Is Your Breakfast Big Enough to Support Your Heart Health?
Many of us struggle to include a healthy and satisfying breakfast as part of our morning routine. Whether it’s getting the kids or even just yourself out the door every morning, it can be hard to start your day with a good meal. It might feel easier to grab something small, if anything at all, as you rush to start your day.
Established research shows skipping breakfast is associated with weight gain and higher cholesterol. A new study reveals that skipping out on breakfast may also be connected to developing a type of heart disease known as atherosclerosis.
“Breakfast is often called the ‘most important meal of the day’ because it can impact your energy and choices during the rest of the day,” says Megan Ramaika, M.A., RD, LDN, a registered dietitian at Crozer-Keystone Health System. “Research shows that people who tend to skip breakfast also often make poor lifestyle choices that can raise their risk for high cholesterol, heart attacks and other heart complications.”
The Connection Between Breakfast and Heart Disease
While the new study, published by the American College of Cardiology, did not find a direct cause-and-effect relationship between skipping breakfast and developing atherosclerosis, it did find a connection between the habit and the risk.
“Atherosclerosis is a heart condition where plaque builds up in the arteries. These arteries then start to harden and narrow,” Ramaika says. “Having atherosclerosis can lead to complications like heart attacks and strokes.”
People who did not regularly eat breakfast (or ate insufficient ones) tended to have other unhealthy habits – including making other poor diet choices, frequently drinking alcohol, or smoking. This group also tended to have a bigger waist circumference and higher body mass index, as well as higher blood pressure and cholesterol.
Those who did eat breakfast made healthier choices. They were also less likely to be obese or have unhealthy cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes. These findings suggest that people who start their day off with a healthy and balanced meal have less of a chance of plaque building up in their arteries.
The Importance of Breakfast
“Eating breakfast cannot only improve different aspects of your health directly, but it also helps you live healthier in general,” Ramaika says. “Making a healthy breakfast kick starts your day and helps your body crave better nutrition for the reminder of the day. Not only does it provide the fuel needed to get going first thing in the morning, but individuals who regularly eat breakfast had better success at maintaining their weight, which coincides with reducing the risk for heart disease.”
Getting a good breakfast doesn’t have to be a difficult or overdone task each morning. There are many ways you can have something quick or on the go that’s nutritious. If you often grab carbohydrates for breakfast, such as bagels or cereal, there are ways to balance them out or make them healthier.
Planning ahead for when you know you’re pressed for time is the first step toward success. There are many recipes you can prepare that only need to be blended or reheated prior to enjoying. An example of an easy way to change your habits is adding a protein source to your bagel in the morning – such as adding a serving of nut butters filled with healthy protein and filling fats.
The American Heart Association recommends choosing breakfast options that include fresh fruit or whole grains. A good example of one of these could be to have a fruit smoothie packed with fruits/vegetables and low-fat yogurt loaded with probiotics.
“If you often skip breakfast or eat one that isn’t great for you, changing this habit can significantly impact your energy levels and mood, making the rest of the day a breeze with healthier habits,” Ramaika says. “Starting with a good breakfast is an easy step toward better health and lifestyle choices.”