A healthy breakfast may protect against heart disease

Breakfast is more than just an eye-opener that helps you transition from sleep to the day ahead. Eating breakfast, especially one that includes whole grains, reduces your risk for heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart failure, reports the May 2008 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

A host of mostly small studies show that eating breakfast, as compared with skipping it, makes for smaller rises in blood sugar and insulin after all of the day's meals and snacks. Smoothing out the blood sugar and insulin roller coaster can help reduce levels of harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. It can also curb the appetite.

What you eat for breakfast matters just as much as whether you eat it, if not more so. The Harvard Heart Letter suggests these menu ideas that are heavy in whole grains, fruits, and healthy protein sources:

  • a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal topped with fruit and walnuts
  • a bowl of high-fiber, whole-grain cereal such as Fiber One, Shredded Wheat, or Cheerios with milk and sliced banana, strawberries, blueberries, or other fruit
  • 6 or 8 ounces of 1% yogurt with blueberries and sunflower seeds
  • a whole-grain English muffin with peanut butter
  • an omelet made with one egg and one egg white, or egg substitute, served with whole-grain toast and orange slices
  • a smoothie made with milk, yogurt, orange or pineapple juice, strawberries or blueberries, and banana, plus some oat bran, ground flax seeds, or wheat germ for extra fiber and healthful oils.

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