OK, I have to admit that I hardly ever eat breakfast. So this article got my attention, maybe some of the posters here will benefit from reading it also.
Breakfast of (Heart) Champions
Why a healthy first meal is vital for your ticker
By Lorie Parch
Special to MSN
Given our druthers, many of us would start the day with breakfast a la Homer Simpson: a couple of doughnuts and coffee. Alas, such a meal does your heart no favors. In fact, the saturated fat, calories, sugar and lack of nutrients would be downright dangerous if you ate that every day. The good news, though, is that by having a healthful breakfast every morning, you can go a long way toward keeping your ticker strong. "You start with the good building blocks of breakfast and then transcend it into the other meals of the day," says Dr. Nieca Goldberg, chief of women's cardiac care at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York and the author of Women Are Not Small Men: Life-Saving Strategies for Preventing and Healing Heart Disease in Women (Ballantine, 2002).
So what are the building blocks for a heart-healthy breakfast? You should aim for three elements, says Cindy Moore, director of nutrition therapy at The Cleveland Clinic and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "You want a combination of a fiber source — probably a whole grain of some kind like bread or cereal; a piece of whole fruit; and some sort of protein source, whether dairy or eggs/egg substitutes or fish or lean poultry. The optimal breakfast has those three."
Fiber is especially important to lowering the risk for heart disease, since it offers a double benefit: "Many fiber sources contain B vitamins — folic acid (folate), vitamins B6 and B12 — which help in reducing homocysteine levels," explains Moore. When homocysteine, an amino acid, doesn't get broken down normally in the body, there's more of it around. More homocysteine usually means more plaque, which can increase the risk for vascular and heart problems, Goldberg says. A study published in the Jan. 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that women ages 27-44 who got at least 1,000 micrograms of folate daily (through diet and supplements) had a 46 percent reduced risk of high blood pressure than those who got less than 200 micrograms a day. What's more, when you get lots of fiber
also reduce cholesterol levels.
Since fortified cereals and breads contain more fiber than is easy to get in most foods, breakfast is the perfect opportunity to bulk up to reach the 3-plus ounces (85-plus grams) of whole grains the new federal dietary guidelines say we should try to get daily: Aim for 4-5 grams of fiber per serving, advises Moore, though many of the higher-fiber cereals will contain a lot more than that. "You could have oatmeal, whole-grain toast or a bagel or English muffin, or even a whole-wheat pita filled with hummus — the chickpeas have fiber too — and matchstick carrots and broccoli." Fruits and vegetables also have lots of fiber and the new guidelines recommend eating two cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables per day (for a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet). Whatever high-fiber foods you choose, you'll be doing your body good. A study of thousands of male health-care professionals over 14 years, published in the December 2004 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that those who ate the most whole grains had the lowest incidence of coronary heart disease — something other studies corroborate. But the study also noted that the bran in the cereals seemed to be the most important dietary factor in keeping the men's hearts healthy: Those who got 11 grams of bran daily reduced their heart disease risk by a very impressive 30 percent. .
But it's not just the fiber that's responsible for those health benefits: Cereal, fruits and vegetables are full of heart-protective antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E. Says Goldberg: "The heart [benefit of] antioxidants [in studies] was found from food, not supplements. People were eating it in their diet. If you add fresh fruit — blueberries, raspberries, strawberries — they all have antioxidants, and blueberries are one of the highest sources."
What to skip
Skipping breakfast can be just as bad as the doughnuts-and-java start to the day. By passing up your first meal, not only are you missing an opportunity to get in more fiber and heart-healthy sources of protein, calcium and other nutrients, but you also may be increasing your odds for gaining weight. "Some studies have shown — though this isn't conclusive — that people who eat on a more frequent basis are not only at a little more healthful weight, but they have lower cholesterol levels," says Moore.
If you're adding breakfast to your daily lineup, be sure to skip processed foods like energy bars, ready-to-go meals, frozen foods and the like. "Oftentimes these products contain trans fatty acids. If you look on the ingredients list and see 'partially hydrogenated oil,' that's a tip-off that it has trans fatty acids," explains Moore. "These fats act similarly to saturated fat, in that they raised the LDL (the bad cholesterol) and lower HDL (the good cholesterol)." In 2006, new regulations will require all food labels to show the amount of trans fatty acids in a food, but until then you'll need to look out for the word "hydrogenated" on the ingredient list. Also be wary of full-fat animal products — pork bacon, sausage, cheeses — at breakfast, as these are typically high in heart-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol, not to mention calories.
Here are some suggestions for a heart-healthy and delicious start to the day, courtesy of nutritionist Cindy Moore:
Two slices whole-grain toast (or whole-grain English muffin or bagel)
1 egg (fried using nonstick pan spray)
1/2 to 3/4 ounce (or 1 pre-packaged slice) reduced-fat Swiss or cheddar cheese
1 tomato slice
1-2 slices reduced-fat turkey bacon (microwaved)
Pancakes and waffles
Use these substitutions for your favorite recipe. You can leave out the oil entirely, says Moore, and it won't affect the flavor.
Substitute whole-wheat flour (for all-purpose flour) for half the flour called for
1 Tb sugar (or sucralose/Splenda)
Dash of salt
Substitute skim milk (for whole, 1, or 2 percent milk)
Substitute egg substitute (for whole egg)
To add flavor and fiber to pancakes, drop blueberries, strawberries or raspberries into the batter. For waffles, make a quick fruit sauce instead of using syrup: Add a little water to frozen berries (1/4-½ cup for a whole package of berries) to soften them. When the berries are the right texture, add 1 Tb of sugar or so and mix in. Pour sauce on waffles, pancakes or French toast.
Combine egg substitute or a combination of egg substitute and whole eggs (about 4 eggs' worth) and about 1 cup fat-free milk. Remove the crusts from 4-6 slices of whole-grain bread and cube the bread into about ½-inch square cubes. Pour egg and milk mixture over cubed bread and let it sit for about 5 minutes so milk gets absorbed (bread should be moist; you can add more milk if desired). If you have some grilled onions or peppers or other cooked veggies, you can mix these in with the bread mixture and sprinkle with black pepper. Pour mixture into a casserole dish. Put low-fat cheese slice on top and spread a bit of margarine mixed with unseasoned bread crumbs (made with whole-grain bread, if possible) on top. Microwave 1-2 slices of reduced-fat turkey bacon, chop it up and sprinkle on top of dish. Bake for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
Lorie Parch is a health writer specializing in health, nutrition and fitness and former executive editor at Shape magazine.