Skipping Breakfast Puts Your Heart at Risk

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Food and Nutrition
Last Reviewed 02/24/2014

We’ve long-known that skipping breakfast isn’t good for your heart, but now we have the evidence to show just how big the impact is. In a report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers at Australia’s University of Tasmania followed 2,184 volunteers over two decades.

What they found is that skipping breakfast triggers higher blood insulin levels and higher cholesterol. Plus, it changes the way your body stores fat, leading to more fat storage around the middle. All of these are major risk factors for heart disease and warning signs that diabetes could soon develop.

In fact, the researchers found that those participants who skipped breakfast in childhood and continued that habit into adulthood were well on their way to developing cardiovascular disease by the time they were in their late twenties. But eating breakfast is only half the battle. The other half is making the right food choices…

What Makes a Heart-Healthy Breakfast?

When people tell me what they eat for breakfast, usually my first response is, “Where’s the protein?” In order to avoid a high insulin response, it’s important to eat protein with your morning meal. There’s another benefit here, too. Heart-healthy proteins provide slow-burning energy that will keep you energized, and increase your satiety until your mid-day meal.

One good protein-rich choice for breakfast is eggs. While the traditional Mediterranean diet suggests limiting eggs to a few times per week, I feel you’ll be fine eating eggs on a regular basis, as long as they come from free-range chickens raised on organic feed. In addition to being a good protein source, eggs provide choline which is vital for your circulatory and neurologic systems. They also contain DHA, an essential fatty acid.

Other good heart healthy protein choices for breakfast include salmon, organic chicken sausage, organic peanut butter, almonds, and walnuts. I recommend combining them with slow-burning carbohydrates—such as putting peanut butter on a slice of whole-grain bread. Or, try topping your steel cut oatmeal with slivered almonds and walnut pieces.

Now it’s your turn: What do you eat for breakfast?

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