Why Breakfast Can Save Your Life

Breakfast flapjacks
Again and again, I’ve sung the praises of starting your day with breakfast. Even a small morning snack has been shown to reduce weight gain, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and lower the risk of developing diabetes. I didn’t think I’d need any more reasons to start my day off right, but I just heard the best reason yet: Eating breakfast helps prevent heart attacks.

Breakfast’s gift to your heart is a big one. A study published this week in the journal Circulation found that eating in the morning reduces the risk of heart attacks to the tune of 27%. This is great news for those of you who take those few extra minutes to blend a delicious smoothie, grab some warm whole-grain toast or even microwave some leftovers from the night before. And it’s a tasty “wake-up” call for those of you who have been neglecting the most important meal of the day.

Skipping breakfast has become an epidemic in our country, where our busy lives so often steal away our few moments of morning “me” time. According to national surveys, one out of every four to five people skip breakfast. And every year, even more people fall off the breakfast wagon. Breakfast consumption has plummeted since the 1960s, when it was well over 80%. It’s a trend we’ve got to reverse – our hearts (and our waistlines) can’t take it.

After a night of sleeping, your body craves calories. Without them, your body just isn’t sure when (or if) it will be getting its next energy delivery. To be safe, it slows its metabolism and plunges into starvation mode, holding onto all the calories it can. Plus, starving yourself in the morning just makes you hungrier later in the day, making it even harder to resist that bag of chips or candy near your desk.

These effects may be the root cause of why skipping breakfast raises heart attack risk, makes you substantially more likely to gain weight, and makes you up to 21% more likely to develop diabetes. Breakfast works by doing just what the name suggests – it breaks your overnight fast and turbocharges your metabolism for the day, so the sooner you get munching, the better.

I’ve heard plenty of excuses from my patients and friends about why they just can’t, or won’t, eat in the morning. You’re not hungry in the morning? Try eating a little less at night, or just start cooking and see how you feel – the smell of a scrambled egg white might just get your stomach grumbling. You don’t like breakfast food? It can be any food you want. Yogurt and eggs don’t need to monopolize the breakfast market – try a small serving of your favorite lunch foods instead. Or maybe you don’t have time for morning munching. Luckily for you, we’ve shared countless suggestions for fast, easy, and – most importantly – scrumptious morning snacks on my show and our website.

Your heart won’t thank you if you’re reaching for a donut or a cinnamon bun, but that doesn’t mean your breakfast can’t feel like an indulgence. Smoothies are one of the best options for getting in those disease-fighting antioxidants and vitamins. I drink my famous Green Drink smoothie, which is packed with protein and vitamins almost every morning, but for those who aren’t partial to the color, you might try something like our Magical Breakfast Blaster, which I also love, to jumpstart body and mind for the day ahead. Breakfasts packed with fiber will help power you on through the day and can help reduce those sugar-crash cravings later on. One of my personal favorites is steel-cut oatmeal, loaded with walnuts and fruits. If you’re also an oatmeal fan, here’s an easy recipe to try.

I promise your tongue won’t be the only thing thanking you for that first bite. Your heart will pay you back with every beat.