Popular Breakfast Foods That Reduce Inflammation, Say Dietitians
Many call inflammation the "silent killer" for good reason: even though you can't always feel or see it, chronic inflammation can have severely damaging consequences in the long run. In fact, it's been linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and bowel diseases. Fortunately, there is something you can do about it — eat right. While certain foods trigger inflammation in the body, others can keep this response at bay.
"Typical breakfast foods such as sugary cereals, pastries, and pancakes are high in white refined carbohydrates, and are pretty low in nutrients like protein, healthy fats, and fiber," says Amy Davis, RD, LDN. "Seeking out inflammation-flighting foods to incorporate at breakfast can help ensure a balanced diet."
Naturally, since breakfast sets the tone for your daily diet, it only makes sense to prioritize anti-inflammatory foods first thing in the morning. With that in mind, here are some popular breakfast foods that RDs recommend for warding off inflammation. Then, be sure to read up on our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
A 2016 review in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a greater intake of nuts was associated with lower amounts of inflammatory biomarkers. Walnuts, specifically, have a powerful effect thanks to high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, a particular type of omega-3 fatty acid found in plants that has a known anti-inflammatory effect.
Try adding chopped walnuts to a piping hot bowl of oatmeal for a nice dose of crunch.
It goes without saying that berries are an antioxidant powerhouse. Not only are they high in fiber, but they contain many important vitamins as well. Diana Gariglio-Clelland, RD for MasalaBody, says the real advantage to these tart and tasty fruits lies in a specific type of antioxidant called anthocyanin—a compound that may have potent anti-inflammatory effects.
In one small 2011 study in the Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis, overweight adults who ate strawberries had lower levels of certain inflammatory markers that are associated with heart disease. Another study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that daily blueberry consumption for six weeks reduced oxidative stress and increased anti-inflammatory cytokines.
"Not only do berries fight inflammation, rather, they also train your body cells to respond more effectively to inflammation that will occur in the future," says Clara Lawson, RDN.
Lawson suggests adding berries to your Greek yogurt in the morning. Not sure which Greek yogurt to buy? Here are the The 20 Best and Worst Greek Yogurts, According to Dietitians.
Good things come in small packages, and that's definitely true of seeds: don't underestimate their anti-inflammatory power. Specifically, you'll want to start finding ways to add chia seeds and flax seeds to your morning meal.
"Chia seeds are some of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have long been proven to have anti-inflammatory effects," says Gariglio-Clelland.
According to Rachel Fine, RD and owner of To The Pointe Nutrition, flax seeds are also a rich source of lignans, a powerful phytochemical with anti-oxidative characteristics.
"Flax also contains the highest percentage of omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) per serving," she says. "ALA fatty acids convert in the body to EPA and DHA, which are two important omega-3's specifically important for heart health and brain health,."
Luckily, these seeds are surprisingly versatile. Lawson advises sprinkling chia seeds onto a fruit salad or yogurt parfait or blending them into a smoothie. You can also toss them onto a bowl of cereal for some added texture and nutty flavor.
Whole grains might help fight inflammation, according to a study in the Journal of Nutrition. That's why Gariglio-Clelland highly recommends starting your day with a bowl of oatmeal or whole-wheat toast. Other good options include quinoa porridge or whole-grain breakfast cereals.
"Fibrous breakfast cereals offer prebiotic nourishment to the beneficial bacteria lining our gut," says Fine. "A flourishing microbiome is thought to release substances that help lower levels of inflammation."
"Avocados are also rich in polyunsaturated fats, which are precursors to eicosanoids—powerful hormones important to the inflammatory response," says Fine.
In a study published in Food & Function, people who consumed a slice of avocado with a burger had lower levels of the inflammatory markers NF-kB and IL-6 than those participants who ate the hamburger alone.
Try adding creamy avocado to an omelet—or, for a one-two punch of anti-inflammatory foods, spread it onto whole-grain toast in the morning.
One of the first foods experts recommend for those trying to minimize inflammation are leafy greens.
"Spinach is a great anti-inflammatory superfood that is rich in lutein, a carotenoid that has been shown to reduce inflammation," says D'Angelo.
You can't go wrong with some orange or grapefruit slices at breakfast time. Citrus is packed with vitamin C — a well-known antioxidant that's been proven to reduce inflammation, says Caitlin Carr, MS, RD.
For a tasty morning treat, try broiling half a grapefruit with honey and cinnamon and then topping it with Greek yogurt—or adding sliced oranges to baked oatmeal.
According to Kevin Maberly, RD with Tiger Medical, fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which can play an important role in reducing inflammation.
A study in the Scandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation found that ulcerative colitis patients who consumed 50 grams of Atlantic salmon weekly experienced reductions in the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) after eight weeks.
All the more reason to enjoy some lox with your eggs in the morning—or try our Smoked Salmon Sandwich Recipe!
Thanks to their rich vitamin and mineral content, many vegetables have anti-inflammatory properties. But broccoli is definitely one of the best veggies you can pick if you're looking to fight inflammation, says Maberly. That's because this cruciferous vegetable is high in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that reduces your levels of inflammation-causing cytokines and NF-kB (a protein involved in inflammatory responses).
Broccoli and eggs go together like avocado and toast, so try adding this veggie to an omelet with feta or cheddar—or to a frittata or quiche, like our Healthy Loaded Vegetable Frittata Recipe.
For even more anti-inflammatory tips, read these next:
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