High-fiber cereal can help keep diabetes, heart disease, and stroke at bay

A healthy breakfast that includes high-fiber cereal can help you lose weight and keep diabetes, heart disease, and stroke at bay — especially when the menu also includes nonfat milk and fruit.

Research suggests that breakfast eaters are leaner than those who skip the morning meal, with one study reporting that missing breakfast was associated with a fourfold increase in the risk of obesity, says the February issue of Harvard Men's Health Watch. High-fiber cereals are central to breakfast's health benefits and can help men reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even intestinal polyps and colon cancer. Look for breakfast cereals that provide at least 6 grams of fiber per serving, suggests Harvard Men's Health Watch, but make sure your choice is low in sugar (less than 10 grams per serving). Add nonfat milk and bananas, berries, or apple slices to turn that bowl of fiber into a tasty meal.

Breakfast needn't be limited to high-fiber cereals, but wise choices are important, explains Harvard Men's Health Watch. Stick to whole-grain or pumpernickel breads for toast; opt for trans-fat-free soft margarines or cholesterol-lowering spreads that contain plant stanols. Eggs needn't be banned from the breakfast table, but are better reserved for the occasional brunch. However, in one study, men with diabetes who ate more than one egg a day had a twofold increase in cardiovascular risk. To date, there is no solid evidence that organic eggs or brands high in omega-3 fats offer any particular health benefits — and they still count as eggs.

Harvard Men's Health Watch recommends a little experimentation to find the combination of healthful breakfast foods that will make for an enjoyable and healthful morning meal. It also points out that many typical breakfast foods (hash browns, bacon, croissants) have too much fat or salt — and fast-food breakfasts have too much of everything, except the fiber that adds the real punch to breakfast's health benefits.

Harvard Men’s Health Watch is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $24 per year. Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/men or by calling 1-877-649-9457 (toll free).

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