5 Anti-Inflammatory Breakfast Foods: Which Ones Are You Eating?

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With rising rates of lifestyle diseases, like type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, more people are looking for lifestyle habits that will lower their risk. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is all the rage these days. The idea is that certain foods reduce inflammation in the body. Why is that important? Almost every illness in humans has an inflammatory component, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and infections. If you can reduce inflammation in your body, you may prevent some of these health problems or reduce their effects on your body.

Why a Healthy Diet is Important

Diet plays a key role in inflammation. Does your diet consist of mainly processed junk foods and lots of soft drinks? This isn’t just harmful to your waistline, it can lead to serious health problems. Eating a diet rich in refined carbohydrates, ultra-processed foods, and trans-fat fuels the fires of inflammation, while some foods appear to calm the flames and those are the ones you want more of in your diet. What better time to start getting anti-inflammatory foods than right after awakening? Let’s look at some of the best anti-inflammatory breakfast foods.

1. Oatmeal

oatmeal with blueberries

Oatmeal is a superfood you can enjoy eating regularly because it’s packed with fiber and other nutrients, and has even been linked to reduced risk for heart disease. It also contains avenanthramides, compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Choose your oatmeal wisely though. Avoid instant oatmeal, as it has a greater impact on blood sugar than old-fashioned oats. Steel-cut oats are the best choice, since they’re the most blood-sugar friendly. Don’t add sugar to your oats either. When you start your day with oatmeal, you can get a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that help fight inflammation. 

2. Nuts

When you prepare that bowl of oatmeal, add a sprinkling of chopped nuts to the bowl. Nuts contain alpha linoleic acid (ALA), an anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid. Plus, they contain vitamin E, an antioxidant vitamin, arginine, and magnesium, all of which help tame inflammation. Studies show nuts also lower inflammatory markers in the blood stream, including one called c-reactive protein (CRP) associated with cardiovascular disease. You can’t go wrong with any of the tree nuts, although walnuts are the highest in omega-3s. Plus, they have the added benefit of modestly lowering blood cholesterol, including LDL-cholesterol, the kind linked with strokes and heart attacks. 

3. Berries

free aronia berry juice sample

Start the day with a bowl of super berries and you’ll get a wealth of antioxidants with anti-inflammatory benefits. Aronia berries (chokeberries) top the list of anti-inflammatory berries due to their high content of anti-inflammatory compounds called flavonoids. The purple color comes from anthocyanins, a power anti-inflammatory chemical that may offer protection against cardiovascular disease. Studies link anthocyanins with improvements in blood vessel function. When blood vessels function better, it lowers the risk of blood clots forming that lead to a stroke or heart attack.

4. Green Tea

What better way to hydrate in the morning than with a cup of green tea? Green tea contains less caffeine than coffee and is an abundant source of antioxidant catechins, including EGCG (epigallocatechin3-gallate), one of the most potent antioxidants and the focus of many studies. Some studies find that anti-inflammatory compounds in green tea may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some forms of cancer. Research also shows that compounds in green tea directly affect the expression of genes involved in inflammation. Plus, green tea is a delightful beverage to sip as you watch the sun come up. 

5. Avocado

Skip the butter on your toast and spread it with avocado instead. Why avocado? Avocados are one of the most nutrient-dense fruits, and are a rich source of vitamin E and carotenoids, both of which reduce inflammation. One study found that consuming a slice of avocado reduced NF-kB, an inflammatory marker, in people after they ate a hamburger. What’s not to love about the creaminess of avocado too? It’s an ideal substitute for butter with much more nutrient power. 

The Bottom Line

Some say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and you can increase its anti-inflammatory benefits by adding these 5 foods to your morning meal. Make sure to avoid ultra-processed foods, sugar, trans-fat, and other foods that fuel inflammation. Put out the fire by making smarter dietary choices. 

References:

Flavonoids from black chokeberries, Aronia melanocarpa, February 2005, Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 18(1):61-68, DOI:10.1016/j.jfca.2003.12.003

Ohishi T, Goto S, Monira P, Isemura M, Nakamura Y. Anti-inflammatory Action of Green Tea. Antiinflamm Antiallergy Agents Med Chem. 2016;15(2):74-90. doi: 10.2174/1871523015666160915154443. PMID: 27634207.

Galland L. Diet and inflammation. Nutr Clin Pract. 2010 Dec;25(6):634-40. doi: 10.1177/0884533610385703. PMID: 21139128.

Minihane AM, Vinoy S, Russell WR, Baka A, Roche HM, Tuohy KM, Teeling JL, Blaak EE, Fenech M, Vauzour D, McArdle HJ, Kremer BH, Sterkman L, Vafeiadou K, Benedetti MM, Williams CM, Calder PC. Low-grade inflammation, diet composition and health: current research evidence and its translation. Br J Nutr. 2015 Oct 14;114(7):999-1012. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515002093. Epub 2015 Jul 31. PMID: 26228057; PMCID: PMC4579563.

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