Skipping This Meal Can Increase Your Heart Disease Risk, Says New Study

Updated: Mar. 01, 2024

A recent study dove deeper into the debate about why you shouldn't skip this pivotal meal. Here are an NFL dietitian's recs for the healthiest way to plan for this important part of your day.

Even if skipping a meal here or there is tempting, consider it carefully. Here’s just one reason we say this: a prospective study published in August 2022 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that skipping meals and eating just one meal a day increased the risk of all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality.

However, there was one particular meal that researchers found to be the key link to increased cardiovascular disease risk in particular.

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How breakfast lowers heart disease risk

For that August 2022 study, researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and evaluated the behaviors of 24,011 people over 40 years old. Through their follow-up records, the researchers found that those who skipped breakfast experienced an increased risk of cardiovascular mortality, compared to skipping lunch and dinner which was linked to increased risk of all-cause mortality.

This study has similarities to another observational study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease in 2019, which reported that those who regularly skip breakfast are 21% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease or experience cardiovascular mortality. The Harvard School of Public Health also pointed to the connection in a 2013 study, with researchers stating that skipping breakfast has been linked to high blood pressure and high cholesterol—both risk factors for developing heart disease.

While it is important to note that this research is an observational study of behaviors and risk factors—versus a randomized control study where a scientific experiment occurs—the research does continue to point to the positive benefits of eating breakfast. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a healthy breakfast can improve your heart health, while also benefiting your brain, your energy levels, and even your diabetes risk.

Says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, a Dallas, TX-based dietitian who has worked with teams like the Texas Rangers and Dallas Cowboys: “Breakfast breaks the overnight fast from sleeping and basically ‘jumpstarts’ the metabolism by providing energy from food to start the day.” Goodson adds another key point about the health benefit you can get from breakfast: “It also can help stabilize blood sugar, ideally setting people on a better eating path for the day.”

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Breakfast also benefits vitamin & mineral absorption

Plus, Goodson mentions how breakfast can actually benefit those who have been directed by a medical professional to take vitamins or mineral supplements in the morning. “Some people [report they become] nauseous if they take supplements on an empty stomach, making breakfast essential,” she says. “The goal is to consume supplements with a balanced meal of high-fiber carbohydrates and high-quality protein. If taking a fat-soluble vitamin like A, D, or E, then consuming healthy fat can help with absorption.”

So, what to eat for an optimally nutritious start to your day? Keep reading.

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How to set up the perfect balanced breakfast

With even recent studies showing breakfast to be such a vital start to your day, Goodson suggests a particular formula for ensuring you get the most bang for your buck in the morning.

“Research suggests that individuals who eat a protein-rich breakfast, with approximately 25 to 30 grams of protein, typically do a better job of managing their portion sizes at other meals throughout the day,” she says. “Many are often even satisfied with less food at dinner.”

Through her career as a dietitian, Goodson has found those who skip breakfast tend to be hungrier later in the day, which can lead to overeating, resulting in a craving for sweets and snacks at night.

Along with getting a sufficient amount of protein from your breakfast, Goodson suggests adding high-fiber carbohydrates to your breakfast, which help keep you satiated and promote good gut health. She also advises including some kind of healthy fat, which not only provides the body with the energy it needs for the day, but also protects the heart by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Some simple healthy fats Goodson recommends adding to your breakfast include nuts or nut butter, avocado, seeds, and more.

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Breakfast ideas from an expert

While getting that 25 to 30 grams of protein—along with good sources of high-fiber carbohydrates and healthy fats—may seem rather complicated, truthfully, the formula makes it rather simple. Goodson gives a few examples of healthy breakfasts to consume to ensure you’re getting all three of those important macronutrients.

  • Oatmeal with nuts, seeds, and berries paired with Greek yogurt
  • Breakfast sandwich on a whole grain English muffin with egg, cheese, and lean beef paired with a fruit cup
  • Eggs scrambled with cheese and veggies, whole grain toast, fruit, and milk
  • Smoothie with banana, berries, nut butter, milk, and Greek yogurt

Looking for even more balanced breakfast ideas? Check out these 27 Healthy Breakfast Recipes!

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Editor’s Note: The Healthy @Reader’s Digest’s Medical Review Board member Latoya Julce notes that sandwiches sold as fast food establishments are typically not as healthy as the description above. For the healthiest choice (lowest in calories, sodium and saturated fat), she advises skipping sausage and cheese, and if you can customize, adding veggies.