It's often touted as the most important meal of the day, but can eating breakfast help your heart health? A study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation found a link between eating breakfast and a significantly lower heart disease risk in a some men. URMC Healthy Living Center registered dietitian Kacie Cook sheds light on the study and reinforces the value of that morning meal.
Health Matters: So, what's new about this?
Cook: It's interesting in that it focuses on men. Men are a little different than women when it comes to dieting, generally. They go for convenience, which means skipping meals, and this study says that skipping breakfast is harmful. Breakfast will have to be convenient if they’re going to eat it. They’re usually okay with less variety in their meals, so if they can identify even a couple breakfast foods they’ll eat, they’re set.
Health Matters: Among adults, skipping breakfast has been linked with certain unhealthy outcomes, such as excess weight. Along comes this study, and the message is loud and clear: Yet another reason to eat your breakfast. Any tips on getting something down if you’re just not a breakfast person?
Cook: I suggest using visual cues. Coffee lover? Stick the bananas next to the coffee pot. Morning vitamin routine? Same deal. Or, try sticky notes – or anything that’ll help nudge you in the direction of breakfast. You can shape your behaviors, so that the process starts to feel more natural.
Health Matters: How can taking a pass on breakfast sabotage your day?
Cook: Breakfast, or “breaking the fast,” is really important for overall health. You should try to eat within an hour of waking up. See, on waking from a full night’s sleep, you’ve effectively been fasting for eight to 10 hours. If you continue this state, your brain function suffers. Blood sugars drop – you can’t concentrate or perform at an optimal level. This applies to everyone: men and women, adults and kids.
On a side note, we notice that when folks don’t adequately fuel their bodies at the start of the day, they’re likely to make up for it at the end of the day.
Health Matters: What are the healthiest breakfast choices? And is it wise to decline a decadent breakfast, leaving that handful of unwholesome donut holes in the box? Or is something better than nothing?
Cook: A meal with fat, fiber, and protein is your best bet. This mix helps us feel full. Whey protein shakes are trendy these days. Don’t rule out foods that may not live in the breakfast aisle. It’s totally fine to down a fistful of nuts, Greek yogurt topped with berries and granola, a smoothie, a few slices of rolled-up deli meat, a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich, or any type of sandwich that appeals to you.
As for the donut-hole dilemma: If there’s absolutely no other option, go for it. With nothing in your stomach, your body won’t rev up properly, although in this case, the donuts will probably leave you wanting something else after about a half hour.
Kacie M. Cook is a registered and certified dietitian and the Clinical Nutrition Specialist at the URMC Healthy Living Center, part of the Center for Community Health.