An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Am I right? Whether or not this is true, including certain foods into our eating pattern have been scientifically proven to reduce the risk chronic disease, therefore, limiting doctor visits.
You may or may not be familiar with an anti-inflammatory diet. There are numerous benefits to focusing on intake of anti-inflammatory foods. Of course, the typical goal is to reduce inflammation. However, it’s extremely difficult and not recommended to completely change your eating pattern in a day.
Simply, let’s start with anti-inflammatory breakfast options!
This post will outline: the good and bad sides of inflammation, an anti-inflammatory diet background, and 7 easy anti-inflammatory breakfast options.
Inflammation and Health
To start off, inflammation does have a beneficial role in the body. You might have noticed swelling/inflammation from infection or after injury. Inflammation is our bodies’ healing response. This is acute inflammation. Ultimately, we need this.
On the other hand, inflammation can be harmful to the body in the form of chronic inflammation.
The same reaction occurs in both acute and chronic inflammation. The white blood cells attack the problem area for protection.
However, in chronic inflammation the white blood cells end up attacking nearby healthy cells. Inflammation can remain from the aftermath of an infection.
Inflammation of the gut has been shown to negatively affect brain health.
Pain can be caused by inflammation.
Additionally, chronic disease can be caused by inflammation. Specific examples include cancer, blindness, arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, diabetes, heart disease, and mental illness.
Moreover, research shows decreased risk of chronic disease with an anti-inflammatory diet eating pattern. This eating pattern has been shown to not only to reduce inflammation but improve overall health outcomes.
The tricky part is that we usually have no idea if we’re experiencing chronic inflammation. Luckily, managing inflammation through diet can be fairly simple. This starts with an anti-inflammatory breakfast.
Let’s Talk Mind and Memory
Inflammation has been associated with both mental health disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.
Inflammation and Mental Health
A link between inflammation and mental health disorders has been established.
There is a correlation between inflammation and depression. Those diagnosed with major depressive disorder have been found to have increased cytokines. Cytokines are small proteins and are pro-inflammatory. In other words, cytokines play a role in the body’s inflammation response and promote inflammation. These proteins can influence neurotransmitter metabolism and brain activity.
On top of that, elevated inflammatory markers have been found in patients with major depressive disorder.
Furthermore, an association has even been determined between pregnant mothers, infection, and schizophrenia and autism outcomes in offspring. This is believed to be due to the inflammation altering fetal brain development.
On a positive note, an anti-inflammatory diet has been shown to reduce depressive symptoms and overall inflammation.
Inflammation and Alzheimer’s Disease
On top of various chronic diseases addressed, inflammation can also contribute increased risk of Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Interestingly, there is a neuroinflammatory component in Alzheimer’s disease. This brain inflammation can be caused by chronic inflammation of the gut.
Studies have in fact linked both chronic and acute inflammation with increase in cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease.
Therefore, researchers believe inflammation may exacerbate and/or cause Alzheimer’s disease.
Fortunately, per recent research, those that follow anti-inflammatory diets have had reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and decreased cognitive decline.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet Background
Due to the potentially harmful effects of inflammation, an anti-inflammatory diet is recommended.
One of the best ways to assure adequate intake of anti-inflammatory foods is by following the Mediterranean diet. This diet pattern focuses on variety. Specifically, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fat.
First, antioxidants can have anti-inflammatory properties. High antioxidant foods include berries, beans, artichokes, and prunes.
Also, polyphenols contain antioxidants and are naturally found in plants. Polyphenols have been shown to lower inflammation markers in the blood. Examples of foods with elevated polyphenol content include dark leafy greens, berries, grapes, cherries, and onions.
Increased intake of flavonoids has been correlated with decreased inflammation. These are phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables. Highest amounts are found in: berries, apples, citrus, spinach, kale, legumes.
Fiber is an additional important factor to focus on to achieve an anti-inflammatory diet pattern. Fiber helps maintain a healthy gut.
Finally, omega 3s have been shown to reduce inflammation. This includes fatty fish, olive oil, avocados, olives, and some nuts and seeds.
It’s important to note that mindful eating is part of the Mediterranean diet pattern. Eating on the run can lead to overeating and poor food choices.
Evidently, meal and snack choices can contribute to inflammation. Gut inflammation can be caused by an increased intake of inflammatory foods.
Inflammatory foods: convenience foods, red meat, sugary drinks, refined carbohydrates, and fried foods.
Additionally, increased intake of saturated fat and foods made with hydrogenated oils can contribute to inflammation.
On the other hand, some foods can fight inflammation in the body. It’s unclear how often these foods “need” to be consumed to combat inflammation. However, there are numerous benefits to including all foods daily.
- Fruits: berries, cherries, plums, grapes, oranges
- Non Starchy Vegetables: spinach, kale, tomatoes, broccoli, zucchini, cucumbers, cauliflower
- Legumes: lentils, beans, chickpeas
- Whole Grains: oats, barley, brown rice, wholegrain bread, quinoa, buckwheat, millet
- Healthy Fat: salmon, tuna, olive oil, avocado
- Nuts and Seeds: almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds
- Herbs and Spices: garlic, ginger, turmeric, cayenne
- Additional: red wine, dark chocolate, green tea
It’s equally important to include adequate lean protein into our diet. Including plant based protein such as soy.
Additionally, these diet patterns encourage at least 64oz of water daily and regular physical activity.
Don’t think you’re ready for a full lifestyle change? In that case, let’s just start with breakfast.
The most important meal of the day—you’ve heard this over and over before. Breakfast really is important, starting the day off on the right foot (or food) matters.
To start, the ideal breakfast would contain 2 of the 3: protein, carbohydrate, fat. This is to promote satiety and assure adequate nutrients.
Additionally, including fiber and protein will aid in keeping you full throughout the morning.
Anti-Inflammatory Breakfast Foods
Let’s get into the specific anti-inflammatory breakfast foods to include in your morning routine.
Eggs fall into the lean protein category. There’s so many things we can add to them (like vegetables) and ways to cook them (like omelets). Eggs offer protein, choline, and even omega-3 fatty acids. Plus, many other vitamins.
There are many options when it comes to eggs. Of course, eggs can be scrambled, hard or soft boiled, or over easy.
To be able to check off additional anti-inflammatory foods, add veggies! Omelets, vegetable scrambles, or baked egg cups are great ways to do this. Creating an egg sandwich on whole wheat bread should keep you full throughout the morning by providing fiber and protein.
Anti-inflammatory Breakfast Recommendation: Spinach, onion, tomato and Swiss cheese omelet. Including fresh herbs or legumes can really make this a power breakfast!
As stated above, oats are a whole grain. Whole grains are high in fiber and generally reduce inflammatory markers.
There’s also many options when it comes to oats. Such as, overnight, baked, or regular oatmeal. Add-ons can include nuts, nut butter, Greek yogurt, or fruit.
However, its important to monitor sugar content of prepackaged and preflavored oatmeal packets. Therefore, I’d recommend purchasing a tub of rolled or steel cut oats.
Anti-inflammatory Breakfast Recommendation: Overnight oats with low fat milk, strawberries, and walnuts
Be sure to check out this: Almond Joy Overnight Oats Recipe.
Whole Grain Cereal
When choosing a cereal, look for whole grain as the first ingredient. Some may include a yellow whole grain symbol. Choosing a whole grain cereal will assure adequate fiber intake.
However, be careful of added sugars in breakfast cereals. A general recommendation is to aim for less than 6 grams of added sugar per serving.
Recommendations include: Cheerios, Wheaties, Bran Flakes, Shredded Wheat.
Low sugar/High fiber: Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs, Kashi Go Lean Original, Food For Life Ezekiel 4:9 Organic Sprouted Grain Cereal, Arrowhead Mills Sprouted Corn Flakes, Nature’s Path Heritage Crunch, Fiber One Original
Plus, for additional fiber and benefits- add bananas or berries to any cereal.
Anti-inflammatory Breakfast Recommendation: Kashi Go Lean Original w/ low fat milk + a banana and blueberries
Fruit salad can be super easy and you can pick your favorite fruits to include. Fruits offer vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
Even better, fruit salad can be meal prepped and eaten the next few mornings. Super convenient for those on the go!
In order to keep you full, I highly recommending adding a protein or fat to the fruit salad.
Anti-inflammatory Breakfast Recommendation: Berry fruit salad with nuts, coconut flakes, and chia seeds
A yogurt parfait can include multiple food groups easily. Yogurt is great for gut health. Greek yogurt has the added benefit of protein. Moreover, the protein and probiotics have anti-inflammatory properties.
Yogurt Tip: confirm your yogurt choice has live and active cultures.
Again, be mindful of sugar content of yogurt.
Anti-inflammatory Breakfast Recommendation: Vanilla Greek yogurt w/ honey, berries, whole grain granola, and flax seeds
Avocados are one of my Good Mood Foods. They offer omega 3s and fiber. Not only are they delicious but avocados are so versatile!
Avocados alone may not keep you full all morning. However, including a carbohydrate or protein will help!
Anti-inflammatory Breakfast Recommendation: Avocado spread on whole wheat toast topped with Everything but the Bagel Seasoning and chia seeds
Lox or Smoked Salmon
Finally, lox and smoked salmon contain protein and omega 3s–perfect for anti-inflammation.
It’s also recommended to pair with a carbohydrate or protein.
Anti-inflammatory Breakfast Recommendation: Whole wheat bagel, low fat cream cheese, lox + chia seeds
To conclude, inflammation can contribute to chronic disease outcomes, including depression and Alzheimer’s disease. An anti-inflammatory diet can improve outcomes by combating inflammation.
Additionally, a few key components of an anti inflammatory diet include: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts/seeds, and healthy fat.
Fortunately, adding anti-inflammatory foods to breakfast can be very simple. Many options are things you may already be including in your daily routine.
Focusing on anti-inflammatory breakfast options can kickstart your morning!
Don’t forget to grab your copy of my FREE 12-item Sleep Well Grocery List. This list contains my top 12 foods to include in your diet for better sleep.
Other Posts you may Enjoy
- Is Oatmeal Good for Prostate Health?
- 13 Nontraditional Mediterranean Diet Smoothies
- Sweet and Simple Almond Joy Overnight Oats
- Honey Baked Avocado
*although evidence based, an anti inflammatory diet provides no guarantee of resolved depression or chance of Alzheimer’s disease. Please consult with a healthcare provider if you are experiencing feelings of depression or frequent forgetfulness. Please refer to my Resources page to further explore additional resources.
Barry Sears (2015) Anti-inflammatory Diets. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 34:sup1, 14-21, DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2015.1080105
C. Holmes, C. Cunningham, E. Zotova, J. Woolford, C. Dean, S. Kerr, D. Culliford, V. H. Perry. Systemic inflammation and disease progression in Alzheimer disease. Neurology Sep 2009, 73 (10) 768-774; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181b6bb95
Gordon B. Can diet help with inflammation. EatRight. July 2019, revised March 2020. https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/can-diet-help-with-inflammation
Harvard Health. Playing with the fire of inflammation. April 2021. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/playing-with-the-fire-of-inflammation
Harvard Health. The thinking on flavonoids. Oct 2020. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/the-thinking-on-flavonoids
Heart Foundation. Food and Inflammation. July 2018. https://www.heartfoundation.org.nz/about-us/news/blogs/food-and-inflammation
Heppner, F., Ransohoff, R. & Becher, B. Immune attack: the role of inflammation in Alzheimer disease. Nat Rev Neurosci 16, 358–372 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn3880
Katie Tolkien, Steven Bradburn, Chris Murgatroyd. An anti-inflammatory diet as a potential intervention for depressive disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Nutrition. Volume 38, Issue 5, 2019, Pages 2045-2052. ISSN 0261-5614. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2018.11.007.
Naidoo, Uda. Gut Inflammation is Brain Inflammation. Chef Uma MD. Accessed: Feb 5, 2022. https://umanaidoomd.com/gut-inflammation-is-brain-inflammation/#:~:text=Whole%20foods%3A%20un%2Dprocessed%2C,gut%20flora%2C%20which%20in%20turn
Ricker M, Haas W. Anti-Inflammatory Diet in Clinical Practice: A Review. Nutrition in Clinical Practice. Nutrition and inflammation. Volume 32, Issue 3. (2017). 318-325. https://doi.org/10.1177/0884533617700353
Shivappa N, Godos J, Hébert JR, et al. Dietary Inflammatory Index and Cardiovascular Risk and Mortality-A Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2018;10(2):200. Published 2018 Feb 12. doi:10.3390/nu10020200
Snyder, William.The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Inflammation. Vanderbilt School of Medicine. February 2015. https://medschool.vanderbilt.edu/vanderbilt-medicine/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-of-inflammation/#:~:text=When%20it’s%20good%2C%20it%20fights,possibly%2C%20autism%20and%20mental%20illness.
Zunszain P.A., Hepgul N., Pariante C.M. (2012) Inflammation and Depression. In: Cowen P., Sharp T., Lau J. (eds) Behavioral Neurobiology of Depression and Its Treatment. Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences. vol 14. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/7854_2012_211