If you spend your morning daydreaming about napping under your desk, your breakfast may need a makeover. Whether you're heading to the office or a day of mischief with your best girlfriends, a hearty bowl of cooked oats, blueberries and almonds provides the nutrients you need to keep you energized for the day. Oats, almonds and blueberries add vitamins, minerals and fiber to almost any recipe, and eating more of these hunger-busting foods may reduce your risk of heart disease.
The humble oat provides a hearty breakfast option, but most women do not eat enough of this healthy grain. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, less than 5 percent of adults eat enough whole grains for good health. Like all whole grains, oats contain fiber, a valuable plant component that keeps your digestive system healthy and helps control blood cholesterol levels. Women need 25 grams of fiber a day, and 1/2 cup of uncooked oatmeal provides 4 grams, or 16 percent of your daily recommended intake. Squeeze an extra whole-grain serving into your day by topping your baked chicken, meat or fish entrees with oats instead of breadcrumbs. For dessert, make a tasty fruit crisp with chopped fruit, oats and a little honey.
When a grumbling stomach sends you rushing to the vending machine, pass over the chips and candy bars and choose a pack of almonds. Like all nuts, almonds contain protein, the nutrient that builds body tissue and creates hormones. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that women consume at least 46 grams of protein a day, and 1/4 cup of nuts provides 5 grams. Almonds and other protein foods may slow the rate your stomach empties, keeping you feeling full and satisfied longer. One-quarter cup of almonds contains 133 calories, 3 grams of fiber and 10 grams of unsaturated fats, which are the good fats that promote healthy cholesterol levels. Avoid extra salt and sugar by choosing unsalted, plain almonds when you shop. Add a handful of almonds to grain dishes, yogurt and salads, or roast them in the oven for 10 minutes for a tasty snack.
A scoop of blueberries adds a sweet flavor to your morning oatmeal, but the benefits of these colorful fruits linger long after breakfast. One cup of blueberries contains 84 calories, 4 grams of fiber and a dose of vitamins A and C, two powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants protect your cells from damage by free radicals, which are reactive molecules created by pollutants and natural body processes. Anthocyanins, the blue pigments of blueberries, also act as antioxidants and may protect against certain chronic diseases. In a study published in "The Journal of Nutrition" in October 2010, the natural chemicals in blueberries improved insulin levels, the hormone that controls blood sugar, in women who had risk factors for diabetes. These disease-fighting berries make a perfect addition to side dishes and entrees. Toss blueberries with whole-wheat couscous, almonds and feta for a light summer salad, or use chopped blueberries as a fruity topping on your favorite grilled entrees.
Eating more oats, almonds and blueberries may keep your heart healthy. In the Nurses’ Health Study conducted by Harvard University, women who ate at least two servings of whole grains a day had a 30 percent lower risk of heart attacks and diabetes than women who ate fewer servings. The Iowa Women's Health Study found that women who ate nuts several times a week had a lower risk of heart attack, sudden cardiac death and heart disease than women who rarely ate nuts. Scientists still need to determine the exact role antioxidants play in disease prevention, but research shows promise for the anthocyanins in blueberries. According to a study published in "Circulation," women who ate at least three servings of blueberries and other foods containing anthocyanin each week had a lower risk for a heart attack than women who ate fewer servings.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Cereals, Oats, Regular and Quick, Not Fortified, Dry
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010: Chapter 4 - Foods and Nutrients to Increase
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Nuts, Almonds
- Harvard School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source - How to Get to Your Healthy Weight
- MayoClinic.com: Heart-Healthy Diet: Eight Steps to Prevent Heart Disease
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Blueberries, Raw
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Color Your Plate with Blueberries
- Harvard School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source - Nuts for the Heart
- Harvard School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source - Health Gains from Whole Grains
- Circulation: High Anthocyanin Intake Is Associated with a Reduced Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Young and Middle-Aged Women
Jennifer Dlugos is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience in the health-care and wellness industries. She is also an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter who teaches screenwriting and film production classes throughout New England. Dlugos holds a master's degree in dietetics.