A first-of-its-kind study shows that eating a big breakfast is one of the best things you can do for your heart.
Spanish researchers found that middle-aged people who consume at least 20% of their daily calories at breakfast are far less likely to have atherosclerosis and other heart disease risk factors.1
Atherosclerosis is hardening of the arteries due to plaque buildup. It is a major cause of heart attacks and strokes.
Researchers studied 4,052 Spanish volunteers ages 40-53. They divided them into three groups
- Breakfast skippers. They usually ate 0-5% of their daily calories at breakfast.
- Light breakfast eaters. They consumed 5-20% of their daily calories at breakfast.
- Big breakfast eaters. They consumed more than 20% of their daily calories at breakfast.
The researchers examined the arteries of all the subjects. They found that plaque buildup was more common among breakfast skippers and light breakfast eaters.
About three-quarters of breakfast skippers showed signs of atherosclerosis. This compares to 64% of light eaters. Just 57% of big breakfast eaters had any artery plaque.
But breakfast skippers were also far more likely to have other health issues, including:
- Excess belly fat
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol and triglycerides
- High blood sugar
All of these can contribute to heart disease.
This was an observational study. That means it couldn’t prove that skipping breakfast causes heart disease. But it did show that eating little or nothing in the morning is strongly associated with risk factors that lead to cardiovascular disease.
The study also found that light breakfast eaters and breakfast skippers had overall less healthy diets than big breakfast eaters. They ate fewer fruits, vegetables, and seafood. They also were more likely to drink to excess and/or smoke.2
Dr. Valentin Fuster is director of Mount Sinai Heart and editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. He led the research.
“This study provides evidence that skipping breakfast is one bad habit people can proactively change to reduce their risk for heart disease,” says Dr. Fuster.3
The study was recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Dr. Prakash Deedwania is a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. He says 20-30% of American adults routinely skip breakfast. It’s often a habit started in childhood, he said.
“Adverse effects of skipping breakfast can be seen early in childhood in the form of childhood obesity,” Dr. Deedwania said. “Although breakfast skippers are generally attempting to lose weight, they often end up eating more and unhealthy foods later in the day.
“Skipping breakfast can cause hormonal imbalances and alter circadian rhythms. That breakfast is the most important meal of the day has been proven right in light of this evidence.”
Big Breakfast Helps Weight Loss
Although it seems counterintuitive, eating a hearty breakfast helps people lose weight. Breakfast reduces the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin throughout the day.4
Protein is especially beneficial. A study of overweight and obese female college students shows that a meaty, eggy breakfast maintains feelings of fullness over an entire day.5
Great high-protein breakfast choices include organic eggs, smoked salmon, unsweetened Greek yogurt, and peanut butter smoothies with protein powder. Such foods replenish protein lost during a long night’s sleep, ensuring optimal muscle maintenance throughout the day.6
Here’s a recipe for a fantastically tasty and nutritious high-protein breakfast…
Eggs with Tomato, Swiss Chard, and Chick Peas
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained
1 28-ounce canned diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
2 cups fresh Swiss or red chard, or spinach chopped
Fresh basil, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Heat oil in ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté for five minutes until soft. Add chickpeas and sauté for another three minutes.
- Add diced tomatoes, cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add Swiss chard and cook down for about one minute.
- Make six little wells in the tomato and chard mixture, and add eggs to the skillet slowly.
- Move the skillet to the preheated oven, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the whites are set.
- Remove from oven, sprinkle with basil, serve, and enjoy.[vii]
One serving (two eggs along with the sauce) gives you more than 20 grams of protein. Plus, you’ll get high levels of heart-healthy potassium, fiber, and vitamins A and C.