For your body to work properly, you definitely need a healthy heart. Among many other roles, the heart is an organ that is responsible for pumping blood, oxygen, and nutrients to different parts of the body. What you eat can greatly affect how your heart functions, so it’s important to know which foods you should consume regularly, and which ones you should avoid.
In fact, when it comes to breakfast, there’s one item that is actually pretty good for the heart. Keep reading to find out what cardiologists Dr. Sabah Siddiqui, MD and Dr. Nicole Harkin, MD of Whole Heart Cardiology recommend. Hint: It may even be in your pantry already!
Eating Oatmeal For A Healthy Heart
Dr. Harkin notes, “Hands down, my favorite breakfast I recommend all of the time to my patients is oatmeal—and not the instant kind.” She suggests that when choosing oatmeal, opt for steel cut or rolled oats which are whole grains and high in fiber.
According to Dr. Harkin, “Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that our bodies don’t break down, and has been shown to lower cholesterol, regulate blood glucose, [and] aid in weight loss. [It is also linked to] having a lower risk of chronic diseases like heart disease.”
She also shares, “I love to cook them with a banana for natural sweetness, a touch of vanilla extract and cinnamon for flavor, and ground flax seeds for extra fiber. I also top it with a nut butter, some berries, and soy milk for some plant protein and healthy fats.”
Dr. Siddiqui supports this and recommends oatmeal as well, especially the old fashioned or rolled oats kind. She advises, “[Do not go for the] instant oatmeal variety as it has a lot of sugars and sodium which isn’t good for the heart.”
She continues, “Oatmeal is a great source of soluble fiber that can improve bad cholesterol (LDL) levels that are linked to cardiovascular disease. In addition, non-processed oatmeal is free of added sugars. Whole oats are high in antioxidants and vitamins, including vitamin E, which is known for its heart-protecting benefits.”
Other recommended breakfast foods by Dr. Siddiqui include proteins such as egg or avocado. She clarifies, “A caveat with eggs: Since the data in regards to cholesterol is so controversial, stick to egg whites, which are a healthy source of nutrition and may help reduce blood pressure.”
Additionally, “Avocados are also considered to be good for the heart as it is full of dietary fibers, nutrients, and fats that help lower our LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels while maintaining our HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels,” she explains.
What You Need To Know About Weight Loss And Eating Breakfast
“While the studies are somewhat inconsistent when it comes to breakfast and weight loss, in general it does seem that trying to aim to have more calories in the first half of the day (as opposed to all later in the day), may be beneficial,” Dr. Harkin mentions. “But regardless of what time your first meal of the day is, it’s a great idea for it to be full of fiber and/or protein.”
Dr. Siddiqui advises, “Control your portion sizes. Eats foods that have less sugar and carb content. [Focus on foods such as fruits and vegetables that are] rich in fiber, protein, and antioxidants. Stay away from processed foods, fried foods, and oily foods. This will help keep you full longer and in the long run reduce snacking and weight gain.”
Tips For A Healthy Heart
Of course, a diet plan is nothing if you don’t actually exercise. “It has to be a combination of both,” Dr Siddiquin warns. “Try to work out, do any kind of aerobic exercise, brisk walk for 30 minutes 4-5 times a week to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.”
To conclude, Dr. Harkin also explains that “heart disease is the number one cause of death for women across the globe.” She continues, “It’s so important to set up healthy habits now to prevent heart disease, rather than treat it later with pills. This means amping up the fruits and veggies, subbing in beans and lentils for meat when you can, getting at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, and combating stress with meditation or yoga. Know your numbers like glucose and cholesterol, and work with your doctor to get them down if they aren’t optimal.”
So, always keep in mind that breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Don’t skip it because once you do, it will only lead to unhealthy eating habits. As per Dr. Siddiqui, you can start your day right by “eating less carbs, less sugar, and more fiber content—it helps keep you full for longer.” Healthy eating will boost your weight loss efforts, and it can even prevent serious illnesses such as diabetes and eventual cardiovascular disease.