No matter what your goals are for the new year, here’s a simple one to add that will reap benefits for you now and later: eat breakfast every day. I don’t mean toast and coffee, or a pastry on the run… we’re talking about a hearty meal that will fuel your body for the morning and help your heart.
It’s estimated that up to a third of adults skip breakfast, and I notice that mirrors the increase in obesity and cardio-metabolic issues that our society has seen in the last several years. Those who eat a good breakfast daily tend to have fewer problems in these areas.
A recent study
has confirmed this. It found that not eating breakfast is associated with an increased risk of plaque buildup in the arteries, or atherosclerosis. Study participants who didn’t eat, or had a light breakfast, were also more likely to have risk factors for heart disease: larger waist, higher body mass index, higher blood pressure, higher blood lipids and higher fasting glucose levels.
A big question is why. For starters, skipping breakfast is a bad nutritional choice, and it could be accompanied by other unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking or not exercising. Missing breakfast is also associated with overeating or eating unhealthy foods later in the day. Additionally, it affects hormone levels and how we sleep. These are all very important factors when it comes to heart health.
Eat like a horse at breakfast, a puppy at lunch and a bird at dinner.
As a cardiologist, this is advice I’ve been telling my patients for years. You basically reverse the typical American way of eating and front load the day with the most calories. Eat hearty with breakfast foods that are high in protein, fiber and have some carbohydrates. A few suggestions include: veggie and egg muffin cups, yogurt with fresh fruit and granola, hard-boiled eggs with sugar-free trail mix, overnight oats, whole wheat bread with nut butter or a low-fat breakfast burrito.
I also tell my patients to avoid carbs after 5 p.m. because they’re ‘fuel food.’ We sleep at night, so we don’t need as many carbs. This is lifelong advice that is supported by a recent study
. I now follow it myself. Simply by eating a bigger breakfast and reducing carbs in the evening, I’ve lost 10 pounds in the last 18 months. I encourage you to make the change, and see how it benefits you.
Dr. Baliga is a cardiologist and a professor of internal medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.