Eat Breakfast, Age Well?

New research exploring the eating habits of older adults has uncovered some surprising results. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that 20-30% of older adults don’t eat breakfast, arguably the most important meal of the day. Over time, skipping breakfast can lead to nutrient deficiencies and put older adults (and young people too) at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Eat Breakfast, Age Well?
Brooke Lark

Why You Should Eat Breakfast Each Morning

1. Skipping breakfast can lead to nutrient deficiencies.

A study surveying the eating habits of over 10,000 Australian adults found that “breakfast skippers” didn’t meet the recommended dietary allowances for many vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, B vitamins and iron. B-vitamins not only play a critical role in keeping our brains healthy, they also help convert food into fuel for energy, keeping our metabolism humming and our cardiovascular system and hearts strong.

2. Skipping breakfast puts you at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

In a recent American Heart Association Scientific Statement the country’s leading experts reported that skipping breakfast is associated with elevated hemoglobin A, higher fasting blood glucose levels and all-day post-meal hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). In a separate study, men aged 40 to 75 years who skipped breakfast were found to have a 21% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to regular breakfast eaters. In the same study, women who skipped breakfast, even just once a week, had a 28% higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

3. Skipping breakfast increases risk for heart disease.

The eating habits of more than 26,900 American men between the ages of 45-82 were charted over a 16-year period, starting in 1992. Men who reported skipping breakfast had higher blood cholesterol levels, higher blood triglycerides, and a 27% higher risk for coronary heart disease compared to men who reported eating breakfast. In the same study, daily breakfast eaters were less likely to have high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and high blood pressure.

 5 Healthy Breakfast Ideas

As we get older, it’s increasingly important to make sure we eat healthy meals, starting with breakfast. But what you eat for breakfast matters because not all breakfasts are nutritionally equal. A healthy breakfast includes these nutritional elements:

  • Protein from foods such as eggs, milk, Greek yogurt, nut butter, nuts, seeds or beans
  • Fiber from foods such as bran cereal, oats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans or seeds
  • A serving of vegetables or fruit such as a banana, tomato, avocado or berries

Here are a handful of ideas to help you kick-start your morning:

1. Smoothie Bowls

Smoothie bowl with fruit and nuts

Read about the health benefits →

Smoothie bowls are growing in popularity and here’s why: they’re healthy, delicious and easy to make at home. Smoothie bowls are a nutritious breakfast option for active older adults because they’re rich in calcium, which is important for healthy bones and osteoporosis prevention.

2. Yogurt

Greek yogurt in a bowl

Read about the health benefits →

If you’re looking for a quick, nutritious breakfast, try yogurt. It’s a good source of calcium, protein and probiotics, and goes well with a handful of healthy toppings, like seeds, nuts and fruit.

3. Oats

Oats: More than Just a Comfort Food

Read about the health benefits →

Full of fiber and other top-notch nutrients, studies show that eating a bowl of oatmeal in the morning is a very good idea, especially as we get older.

4. Eggs

What's the Latest on Eggs and Cholesterol?

Read about the health benefits →

Eggs are a good source of high-quality protein, and about half of the protein in an egg is found in the yolk. Those golden yolks also contain a host of valuable nutrients, including lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect against age-related vision loss. For an extra nutritional bonus, select eggs that are fortified with omega-3, an essential fatty acid that protects the heart and brain. Try an omelette or frittata filled with veggies.

5. Ancient Grain Bread

Health Benefits of Ancient Grains

Read about the health benefits →

Millet, quinoa, chia seeds, spelt, farro and Kamut all fall into the ancient grain category. Compared with modern grain varieties, which are often heavily refined, ancient grains contain many essential vitamins (particularly vitamin B) and minerals (such as potassium and magnesium), as well as iron and fiber. They’re also packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Whole grain toast with avocado, tomato and hemp seeds make a nutritious combination.

About the Writer

Sue Mah

As a dietitian and chef’s daughter, Sue loves good food. She is President of Nutrition Solutions, focusing on nutrition for health/wellness. With generations of grandparents playing mahjong in their 90s, Sue is a cheerleader for healthy active aging.

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