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Want healthier arteries? Eat breakfast.


Researchers looking at the breakfast habits of over 4000 people ages 40-54 found that almost 75% of those who skipped breakfast every day had early buildup of plaque in their arteries, compared with 57% of those who ate a big breakfast every day. The results of this study were published in the October 2 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Journal article abstract:


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There are a number of lifestyle related risk factors that increase our likelihood of cardiovascular disease including -  smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, stress, and obesity. As this research suggests, skipping breakfast may be one more upping our chance of heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure.

Of all the risk factors, not eating breakfast seems pretty easy to change. However, old habits die hard. In my practice, clients tell me the same three reasons (excuses) all the time as to why they don’t eat breakfast:

1. No time

Eating breakfast doesn’t have to take more than 5 minutes. While sitting and having a leisurely breakfast may not be feasible unless you get up 15 minutes earlier, you can have breakfast if you plan to have breakfast.

          Whole grain cereal like Cheerios with a few walnuts or almonds, milk and a
           banana takes less than a minute to pull together.

          Old fashion oatmeal (not instant) takes exactly 2 minutes to cook in a microwave
          (1/2 cup oatmeal, 1 cup water, zap 2 minutes on high) add a sliced banana, apple,
          or berries (frozen or fresh) and throw in a few walnuts, almonds, sunflower or
          pumpkin seeds.

Low-fat Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla), with fruit - fresh or frozen, a few walnuts, almonds or seeds and a sprinkle of granola.

2. Don’t like breakfast foods

No one ever said we have to eat “breakfast foods” for breakfast.
If you don’t like cereal, yogurt or eggs, try:
           peanut butter (or any nut butter) and fruit (banana, berries, sliced apple) on
          whole grain bread.
           cottage cheese and fresh fruit with a few nuts or seeds.
           lower fat cheese (Neufchatel, Swiss, part-skim mozzarella) and tomato in a
           whole wheat pita pocket with a little mustard. (In a rush? Eat this in the car).

3. Want to lose weight

                     Skipping breakfast does not contribute to weight loss. In fact, it’s associated with obesity and being overweight. When we skip breakfast, it sends the message to our brain that food is scarce, so conserve energy (calories). Energy conservation in the body translates to lower metabolic rate (using less calories) and storing calories – weight gain.


Now, eating breakfast and eating a healthy breakfast are not necessarily the same thing. To help you make healthier breakfast choices, aim to have your meal contain the following:

  • Complex Carbs/fiber: Whole-grain breads, muffins, bagels, pancakes, hot or cold whole-grain cereals. (Read the food label – look for the words “whole grain” in the ingredient list. Multi-grain may or may not be whole grain, so be careful)

Fruits and vegetables Fresh or frozen whole food. Avoid juices, you want the fiber in the whole piece fruit/vegetable.

  • Lean protein.  Eggs, lean meat, beans, dairy (yogurt, cottage cheese other lower-fat cheese)  Avoid processed meats (bacon, sausage)
  • Healthy fats. Nuts (walnuts, almonds), seeds (chia, ground flax, pumpkin, sunflower), canola or olive oil.

For more information

Rush University Medical Center
The Science Behind Breakfast

Mayo Clinic
Healthy breakfast

Healthy Breakfast Recipes

Joanna Hayden, PhD, CHES is the principal of Associates for Health Education and Behavior, LLC, in Sparta, a practice focused on improving health through education. Her office offers individual and group health education, and individual health behavior change guidance.  For more information please see  To contact Dr. Hayden, email her

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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