Mounting research in recent years has pointed to chronic inflammation as a serious threat to your health. Specifically, studies have linked chronic inflammation to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and other diseases and conditions. Not only that, but April Kelly, RDN, founder of OC Nutrition Coaching, notes that inflammation can also contribute to fatigue, chronic pain, and mood problems. The good news is, you can easily combat inflammation by adopting certain eating habits.
To be clear, inflammation in itself isn’t actually a bad thing. According to Joy Wang, R.D. and a senior registered dietitian with sunbasket, acute inflammation helps your body heal from injury or illness, such as a sprained ankle or a mosquito bite. When this response starts happening too frequently or intensely, and the effects linger, however, it can cause all kinds of problems. That’s known as chronic inflammation.
“Chronic inflammation may cause the immune system to inadvertently attack its own tissue,” explains Wang. “Over time, this ongoing internal battle can lead to chronic illness, autoimmune diseases, and accelerated aging.”
While there are many lifestyle habits that can help prevent chronic inflammation, Wang says your diet is one of the most important modifiable factors. In general, foods that help lower inflammation are less-processed, low in saturated fat, and higher in fiber, antioxidants, and heart-healthy omega-3 fats.
With that in mind, registered dietitians highly recommend the following breakfast habits to keep inflammation at bay. And don’t forget to scope out the Eating Habits That Make Your Inflammation Worse.
“Foods that provide antioxidants can help fight inflammation,” says Holly Klamer, MS, RDN with MyCrohn’sand ColitisTeam.
That’s why Klamer advises getting a variety of fruits and veggies—ideally, in a range of colors, so you’re getting a diverse array of these powerful compounds.
Pro tip: According to Wang, the bolder and more vibrant in color a food is, the stronger its anti-inflammatory powers generally are.
Dark leafy greens, berries, broccoli, peppers, cherries, oranges, tomatoes, squash, avocados, and carrots are among the fruits and veggies highest in antioxidants. Try sneaking veggies into omelets, egg scrambles, breakfast sandwiches and wraps, and smoothies, or tossing fruit into yogurt, oat, chia pudding, and acai bowls. Kelly also suggests cooking eggs in olive oil, which is particularly high in polyphenols—a specific kind of antioxidants.
Antioxidants help to protect your cells from damage, which is often caused by inflammation and is associated with cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Danielle Levy-Wolins, RD for Thistle recommends starting your day with foods that are rich in these heart-healthy fats, like oily fish, nuts, navy beans, and seeds. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Seek out eggs fortified with omega-3 fatty acids
- Add salmon to avocado toast
- Use navy beans in your breakfast burrito
- Sprinkle flaxseeds, chia seeds, or hemp seeds onto your yogurt or cereal
- Top your oatmeal with walnuts
- Use tofu to make a breakfast scramble
Spices and herbs don’t just amplify the flavor of any dish—they also happen to boost the antioxidant content, too. Studies have shown that many of them are packed with flavonoids and polyphenols, including parsley, oregano, dill, thyme, rosemary, ginger, and turmeric.
Better yet, Levy-Wolins says that by flavoring your favorite breakfast foods with herbs and spices, you can cut down on the salt.
“While sodium is a necessary electrolyte, too much can increase blood pressure and overall inflammation,” she explains.
There are so many ways to integrate spices into your morning meal. Dill, turmeric, and cayenne pepper all pair nicely with eggs, while cinnamon and ginger work well in oatmeal as well as smoothies.
Fermented foods already get a lot of attention for their gut-friendly probiotic properties. But according to Amanda Sauceda, MS, RD, they can also keep inflammation at bay. A 2021 study in nutrients found that fermented cabbage (like kimchi and sauerkraut) and fermented soy products (like tempeh), specifically, have proven anti-inflammatory properties.
Not sure how to incorporate these foods into your morning meal? Try adding sauerkraut or tempeh to a breakfast potato hash or grain bowl. Paulina Lee, RD and founder of Savvy Stummy, also recommends kefir. This fermented milk beverage boasts a creamy consistency and tangy taste that lends itself well to overnight oats, smoothies, and chia seed pudding.
If you’re looking for an anti-inflammatory beverage to kick off your morning with, Lee recommends pouring a cup of tea. Not all teas are created equal in this regard, though—so you’ll want to seek out options made from herbs and plants known for their antioxidant content, like green tea, ginger tea, fennel tea, rosehip tea, and holy basil tea.
Research has shown that epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a type of polyphenol in green tea, has potent anti-inflammatory properties. Fennel is also chock full of phenolic compounds like quercetin and kaempferol. These antioxidants can shield your cells from oxidative damage and lower inflammation.
To kick the inflammation-fighting power of your tea up a notch, blend in some spices like turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, saffron, and star anise.