Nothing prepares you for the day like a nutritious breakfast. It’s well-known that skipping breakfast may leave you feeling hungrier later in the day, but it may also adversely affect your cholesterol level.

A 2020 study in adults found that skipping breakfast may be associated with an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol, which is sometimes referred to as “bad” cholesterol, is associated with an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

A 2019 review of research that looked at the outcomes of skipping breakfast in children and adolescents found that this practice may be associated with cardio-metabolic risk factors, including higher LDL cholesterol. However, additional research is still needed to support this conclusion.

The foods you choose for breakfast can go a long way toward lowering your “unhealthy” LDL cholesterol and raising your “healthy” HDL cholesterol. Here are some of the best morning foods for improving your numbers.

1. Oatmeal

A 44-gram serving of steel-cut oaks packs 4 grams of dietary fiber. Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, which attaches to LDL cholesterol in your digestive tract and helps remove it from your body.

Opt for an unsweetened variety where you can add your own toppings. Topping your oatmeal with a sliced apple, pear, or some raspberries or strawberries can add a boost of fiber.

Don’t have the time to cook a bowl of oats? Cold oat cereal works, too. Just avoid products that are loaded with sugar. Adding a sliced banana or berries will also increase the fiber content of your cereal.

2. Almond milk

Almonds are filled with healthy fats, fiber, magnesium, and vitamins. They’re also part of the family of tree nuts. According to Harvard Health Publishing, eating 2 ounces of these nuts each day can lower LDL cholesterol by about 5 percent.

Up to 50 percent of the weight of almonds comes from monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). These fatty acids are associated with the reduction of LDL cholesterol.

Pour yourself a glass of almond milk, toss a few sliced almonds onto your oatmeal, or eat them by the handful. The recommended serving size is about 1 ounce or a small handful. The recommended number of servings can vary per person. One cup of sliced almonds contains 45 grams of fat.

3. Avocado toast

This mash-up of toasted bread and mashed avocado may be a trendy breakfast choice, but it also scores high in healthfulness.

A 2015 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that an avocado per day lowered LDL cholesterol levels in people who were overweight or obese. However, it should be noted that the study was funded with a grant from the Hass Avocado Board. Another study linked eating avocados with higher HDL cholesterol levels.

Avocados are healthy on several levels. They’re high in monounsaturated fatty acids, which lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke. You can use them as a replacement for breakfast foods that are high in saturated fats, like sausage or bacon, which have been associated with an increased risk for heart disease.

Avocados are also a rich source of sterols, which are plant-based substances that help to lower cholesterol. They’re also high in both soluble and insoluble fiber.

4. Egg white scramble with spinach

If you’re watching your cholesterol levels but still looking for a nutrient-dense breakfast option, egg whites are cholesterol-free and packed with protein.

There’s mixed research on how dietary cholesterol affects blood cholesterol, and as a result, the risk of cardiovascular disease.

While in the past, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans set a limit of three whole eggs per week, this recommendation was adjusted to 300 milligrams per day of dietary cholesterol in the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Scramble up a couple of egg whites and toss in a handful of spinach for fiber. Cook your eggs in olive or canola oil. These healthy oils may help improve your cholesterol numbers when used in place of animal-based fats, like butter.

5. Orange juice

Orange juice is well-known for being an excellent source of vitamin C. Some brands add a nutritional boost by fortifying their juice with plant sterols and stanols. Adding 1.5 to 3 grams of sterols to your daily diet could lower your LDL cholesterol by 7.5 to 12 percent.

If you’re not a fan of orange juice, try one of the other fortified foods available. Food sources of phytosterols can include:

  • vegetable oils, such as corn, sunflower, soybean, and olive
  • almonds
  • wheat germ and wheat bran
  • fruits such as passion fruit and orange
  • vegetables such as cauliflower

6. Whey protein smoothie

Whey protein is made from whey, the liquid in milk that’s removed when manufacturers make cheese.

Some studies have suggested that whey protein supplements may help lower cholesterol, although results have been inconsistent. One meta-analysis of 13 studies found that the supplements lowered triglycerides, another type of fat in the blood.

A 2017 study found that whey protein supplementation may lower cardiovascular risk factors including LDL cholesterol in people who are overweight or have obesity.

Make a healthy morning smoothie by combining low fat yogurt, ice cubes, berries, and a scoop of vanilla whey protein. This sweet concoction is low in fat and high in nutrition.

7. Smoked salmon

Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. These good fats can increase healthy HDL cholesterol and reduce the number of triglycerides circulating in the blood.

You can enjoy smoked salmon on top of a whole-wheat bagel, in addition to other toppings such as tomato, capers, and sesame seeds. It can also be a healthy addition to scrambled eggs along with other plant-based ingredients like mushrooms and spinach — or as a protein topping on a brunch salad.

8. Apple bran muffins

This fast and delicious breakfast combines two sources of fiber: apples and bran. Bran is the hard outer layer of grains such as wheat, oats, barley, corn, and rice. High in fiber, bran also contains iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.

According to a 2019 review of research, consuming whole grains such as bran may be associated with lower levels of LDL cholesterol.

If you’re using a muffin mix, you can increase its healthfulness by using applesauce in place of oil.

Meal Prep: Everyday Breakfast