If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
And while what you eat at every meal matters, it’s true. Your breakfast choices really can affect the rest of your day.
But it turns out chowing down on sugary doughnuts or carb-packed pancakes might not be the worst early morning eating mistake you can make.
Because Spanish researchers say, their new study has revealed that skipping breakfast could cause as much harm to your heart health as making poor food choices.
Heart attack and stroke risk could skyrocket
We already knew from earlier research that eating a healthy breakfast leads to…
- better heart health
- a healthier body weight
- better cholesterol numbers
And past studies have hinted that skipping breakfast may harm your heart health.
But know we know far more about what that harm is. And how it happens.
According to the new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, not eating breakfast, or eating very little, could send your risk for heart disease skyrocketing.1
In fact, skipping breakfast was linked to DOUBLE the risk for narrowing and hardening of the arteries… a dangerous condition known as atherosclerosis.
With atherosclerosis, plaques silently build up and block your arteries, putting you in grave danger of a heart attack or stroke.
Breakfast skippers had twice the arterial lesions
None of the volunteers had any history of heart problems before the study began. And the majority of them—around 70 percent—usually ate what researchers called a low energy breakfast.
That means that their morning meal made up somewhere between five to 20 percent of the total calories they ate in a day.
Around 20 percent typically tucked in to a high-energy breakfast that provided them with at least 20 percent of their calories for the day.
And then there were the breakfast skippers. These folks ate little to nothing for breakfast, or less than 5 percent of their recommended calories for the day.
When researchers used imaging tests to compare volunteers who skipped out on breakfasts to those who ate a healthy, high-energy breakfast the heart risk became clear.
The folks who ate little to no breakfast had more than TWICE the number of arterial lesions in some regions.
But hardening of the arteries wasn’t the only problem they spotted. The breakfast skippers also tended to have bigger bellies, a larger body mass index, higher blood pressure, raised cholesterol levels and elevated fasting blood sugars.
Lower your risk for hardening of the arteries
Those volunteers who gulped down just a cup of coffee or glass of juice in the morning—or nothing at all—often had other unhealthy habits too.
However, the link remained even after the researchers factored in other behaviors that could raise the risk for hardening of the arteries such as smoking and a sedentary lifestyle.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re in the clear if you always eat breakfast. Because the folks who ate low energy breakfasts also had a bigger risk for atherosclerosis, when compared to the high energy group.
Light breakfast eaters were 21 percent more likely to have damage in a major artery located in their neck. And 17 percent more likely to have hardening in a blood vessel in their abdomen.
In other words, even though the study doesn’t prove direct cause and effect, there’s plenty of new evidence that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
Start giving your breakfast the attention it deserves and begin each day on the right foot. A breakfast packed with plenty of protein and healthy fats will fill you up, give you the energy you need to power through your day and slash your risk for hardening of the arteries. And it could be the first step in establishing other healthier habits that help lower your heart risks as well.
Need some inspiration? One of my favorite breakfasts is an egg stuffed avocado (click here for the recipe), a fistful of nuts and a hot steaming mug of freshly brewed coffee.
1. “The Importance of Breakfast in Atherosclerosis Disease,” Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2017; 70 (15): 1833