In honour of Heart Health Month, let’s turn our attention to the most important meal of the day. Studies show that people who eat breakfast regularly have lower levels of cholesterol and smaller mid-sections than those who tend to skip this meal. Start your day right with these tasty, heart-healthy breakfast ideas.
Nothing says breakfast like eggs in the morning. Whether you prefer them scrambled, poached or served omelette-style, eggs (or even just egg whites) are a good source of protein and a great way to start your day. But boost the heart health factor of this breakfast staple by tossing in some slices of avocado. Full of heart healthy monounsaturated fat – the same fat found in olive oil - avocadoes can help lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and raise your HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. Avocadoes are also a good source of fibre, potassium, B vitamins and vitamin E. Their rich and creamy texture pairs perfectly with a plate of eggs.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a heart-healthy combination of yogurt and fresh or frozen berries in the morning. A 2011 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who ate at least 100 grams of yogurt daily (that’s just less than ½ a cup) had less thickening of the carotid arteries, a finding which may be associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Antioxidant-rich berries such as blueberries and blackberries are also low in fat and a good source of heart-protecting fibre and vitamins. To prepare, alternate layers of yogurt and berries in a clear dish or parfait glass, and sprinkle some low-fat granola or toasted coconut on top before serving.
There’s no better comfort food for breakfast than a warm bowl of stick-to-your ribs oatmeal. Oatmeal is a superb heart healthy food because it is rich in soluble fibre, which helps to lower LDL cholesterol by reducing its absorption into the bloodstream. For a healthier version of this breakfast classic, skip the instant oatmeal packages and try less processed steel-cut oats, which have a delicious taste and chewy texture. Top oatmeal with a handful almonds, which contain heart-smart monounsaturated fat (yes, the same type found of olive oil and avocadoes). Studies show that one ounce of almonds daily, or a small handful, can help lower LDL cholesterol, and are therefore associated with a lower risk of heart disease. A delicious, heart-healthy way to start your day!
Who doesn't love digging into a stack of fresh, warm pancakes in the morning? But instead of preparing them with refined white flour, try whole wheat or buckwheat flour instead. You’ll boost your intake of cholesterol-lowering fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants without sacrificing the taste you love. For even greater heart health benefits, skip the syrup and butter, and top your pancakes with some fresh fruit instead.
Sip your way to a healthier heart with a cool, creamy blend of fruit in the morning. Toss some of your favourite frozen fruit into a blender - bananas, any type of berry and mango all work well - along with some liquid (milk, soy beverage, almond milk or orange juice) and blend. To further boost the heart health benefits, blend in 1-2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed into the smoothie. Flaxseed is a good source of cholesterol-lowering fibre, as well as omega-3 fatty acids that may help to lower triglycerides (another type of “bad” fat in the blood) and reduce the risk of blood clots.