If you want to protect your heart and avoid cardiovascular disease, then it should all start with a healthy lifestyle and diet. And what better way to begin living a heart-healthy lifestyle than to look at what you are eating for breakfast?
Learn to start the day off right with these simple, easy, and heart-healthy breakfast ideas that taste great.
What are the benefits of eating a healthy breakfast?
Many people consider breakfast to be the most important meal of the day, and it turns out that research supports that classic piece of advice.
Several studies have found that people who skip breakfast are actually at a much higher risk of getting heart disease.[1-6] The protective effect of eating breakfast is thought to be quite substantial; researchers from the University of Iowa, for example, found that skipping breakfast could be linked to an 87% increased risk of heart disease mortality.
There are many possible reasons to explain why eating breakfast can protect your health and your heart. Research suggests that if you eat breakfast, you are less likely to:
Have sufficient energy to start off your day [2,6-10]
But it's important to understand that it's not just any sort of breakfast that will provide these health benefits. You've got to pay close attention to what you eat for breakfast, not just whether or not you eat it.
What should you include in a heart-healthy breakfast?
If you want to begin making changes to your diet to support your heart, then it's a great idea to start with your first meal of the day.
When choosing foods to include in your breakfast, focus on those foods that will give you fiber, antioxidants, healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Turn to real, whole food like vegetables, berries, nuts and seeds, and whole grains and stay away from processed, refined, and high-sugar foods.
Include more of these foods:
Nuts and seeds
Berries and fresh fruit
Healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats
Limit these foods:
Processed or prepackaged foods
12 easy breakfast ideas that are good for your heart
Heart-healthy breakfasts don't have to take a lot of time. They don't have to be difficult, and they don't have to be a big deal. In fact, it can be quite easy to make a healthy breakfast with just a few simple ingredients from the refrigerator or pantry.
Check out these delicious, no-fuss breakfast ideas to get started:
1. Avocado toast on whole-grain bread
Slice up some avocado, mash it, and put it on a piece of toasted whole-grain bread. If you want to take it one step further, sprinkle your avocado toast with garnishes like sesame seeds, green onion, radish, sliced cherry tomatoes, chopped nuts, or even a poached egg.
2. Oatmeal with nuts and berries
Cook your own oatmeal with water and mix in chopped nuts and berries for a hearty, warming breakfast.
3. Yogurt parfait
For a colorful and festive breakfast, layer plain yogurt with fresh berries like blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries in a glass dish. If you'd like a crunchy layer, add in unsweetened granola, muesli, or chopped nuts.
4. Chia seed pudding
Chia seeds are a great source of healthy fats, protein, and fiber, and it couldn't be easier to make a tasty pudding out of them. Mix chia seeds with milk (about 2 T seeds per half cup of milk), let sit for a few minutes, stir again, and then refrigerate overnight to let it thicken up. When you are ready to eat, mix in your favorite flavors like vanilla or cinnamon and top with fresh fruit, berries, or unsweetened shredded coconut.
5. Quinoa porridge
Many people only think of using whole grains like quinoa in dinner or lunch dishes. But quinoa is actually a great breakfast food, too. Cook your quinoa with water ahead of time, and then when it's time for breakfast, warm up a serving size, mix in some milk, and experiment with different toppings like pomegranate seeds, coconut flakes, apple and cinnamon, or slivered almonds.
6. Hard-boiled eggs
If you make hard-boiled eggs ahead of time and keep them on hand, you'll have a simple, easy to grab, protein-packed breakfast all ready to go.
7. Omelet with greens and veggies
Make an omelet out of eggs and egg whites along with heart-healthy fillings like spinach, chopped tomato, grated cheese, sautéed onion, green onion, bell pepper, and fresh herbs. Cook your omelet in extra-virgin olive oil for a dose of healthy fat.
8. Breakfast burrito wrap
Want something savory? Create a breakfast wrap out of scrambled eggs, beans, chopped tomato, fresh cilantro, mashed avocado, salsa, and spices folded in a whole-grain tortilla. Better yet, ditch the tortilla and make a "burrito bowl" instead.
9. Overnight oats
If you soak oats in milk and/or yogurt overnight, you end up with a creamy, delicious, ready-to-eat breakfast in the morning. Simply put some oats in a container, cover them with milk or plain yogurt (or a combination of the two), and refrigerate until morning. Stir in your favorite toppings like nuts, berries, or even peanut butter when you are ready to eat.
10. Veggie scramble
Make your own breakfast hash at home using ingredients like kale, onions, garlic, ground chicken, turkey bacon, cubed sweet potato, and mushrooms. Cook the ingredients in extra-virgin olive oil and season with your favorite spices. Experiment with various healthy ingredients like carrot, beet, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, tomato, shallot, bell peppers, or eggs.
11. Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is a high-protein, healthy food. Aside from being a heart-healthy option, cottage cheese is also versatile and can be a great breakfast choice if you are looking to mix things up. Create a breakfast bowl of cottage cheese topped with pear, berries, apple and cinnamon, sliced banana, nuts and seeds, or even savory options like avocado and boiled egg.
12. English muffin breakfast sandwich
Who doesn't love a breakfast sandwich? Although traditional breakfast sandwiches can be made out of unhealthy ingredients (especially those on fast food menus), it's totally possible to create your own heart-healthy version at home. Take a toasted whole-grain English muffin and fill it with egg, sliced cheese, sliced tomato, and even healthy greens like arugula for bonus points.
Get started with heart-healthy ideas for breakfast
Starting off your day with a healthy breakfast will do your body all sorts of favors, including reducing your risk of heart disease.
To get started, think of a few simple changes you can make to your breakfast routine. Can you swap out sweetened yogurt for a homemade yogurt parfait? Can you make your own oatmeal instead of using instant packages? What about building your own breakfast sandwich on whole-grain bread instead of picking one up at a drive-through fast food window?
If you spend a little bit of time grocery shopping and preparing your food ahead of time, you can be ready to go on weekday mornings with options like overnight oats, veggie scrambles, and hard-boiled eggs that make healthy eating easy.
Here are some additional tips to keep in mind:
Watch your portion sizes. Even healthy foods can become unhealthy if you eat too much of them.
Make healthy swaps in your favorite recipes. For example, choose whole-grain toast or a whole-grain English muffin instead of white bread or biscuits.
Pay attention to your condiments. Common breakfast condiments like syrup, honey, jam, and jelly are high in sugar. They can quickly turn a healthy breakfast into a not-so-healthy one. Stick with unsweetened options like real fruit instead.
Don't forget about your drinks. Breakfast drinks like coffee, juice, and energy drinks can be loaded with added sugar and very high in calories. Go for water, unsweetened coffee, or unsweetened tea instead.
Read labels if buying pre-packaged breakfast foods. Pre-made foods are often sneaky sources of added sugar, excess salt, and unhealthy ingredients.
Rong S, Snetselaar LG, Xu G, Sun Y, Liu B, Wallace RB, Bao W. Association of Skipping Breakfast With Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2019 Apr 30;73(16):2025-2032.
St-Onge MP, Ard J, Baskin ML, Chiuve SE, Johnson HM, Kris-Etherton P, Varady K; American Heart Association Obesity Committee of the Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health; Council on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young; Council on Clinical Cardiology; and Stroke Council. Meal Timing and Frequency: Implications for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017 Feb 28;135(9):e96-e121.
Takagi H, Hari Y, Nakashima K, Kuno T, Ando T; ALICE (All-Literature Investigation of Cardiovascular Evidence) Group. Meta-Analysis of Relation of Skipping Breakfast With Heart Disease. Am J Cardiol. 2019 Sep 15;124(6):978-986.
Ofori-Asenso R, Owen AJ, Liew D. Skipping Breakfast and the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Death: A Systematic Review of Prospective Cohort Studies in Primary Prevention Settings. J Cardiovasc Dev Dis. 2019 Aug 22;6(3):30.
Cahill LE, Chiuve SE, Mekary RA, et al. Prospective study of breakfast eating and incident coronary heart disease in a cohort of male US health professionals. Circulation. 2013 Jul 23;128(4):337-43.
Lark helps you eat better, move more, stress less, and improve your overall wellness. Lark’s digital coach is available 24/7 on your smartphone to give you personalized tips, recommendations, and motivation to lose weight and prevent chronic conditions like diabetes.