Here are the best ways to start your day if you're trying to reduce inflammation.

Carolyn Williams, Ph.D., R.D.
April 01, 2020
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What you eat can make a big difference in either stopping inflammation or encouraging it. Some inflammation is natural and not a negative thing (think: your body's immune response to fighting off a cold). But inflammation that's caused from a diet too high in inflammatory foods (think: added sugar), plus poor lifestyle choices for an extended period of time (like smoking), can turn problematic and up your risk for chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and more.

So, what are the best ways to start your day if you're trying to bump down inflammation in the body? Here are six of the best breakfasts for reducing inflammation.

1. Smoothies

Recipe pictured above: Cherry-Spinach Smoothie

Smoothies are a great way to load up on key anti-inflammatory foods like berries, probiotic-rich yogurt and greens. When creating your blender breakfast, incorporate a protein source like Greek yogurt, tofu or even a protein powder to balance carbs. Also, minimize added sugars or avoid them all together by using a banana, pitted dates or a little 100% fruit juice to sweeten naturally.

2. Breakfast Salads

Salad at breakfast may seem a little odd but why not try front-loading your day with some extra veggies? Leafy greens, like baby spinach, arugula and kale, are top anti-inflammatory foods because of their antioxidants and bioactive compounds that reduce existing inflammation and prevent new inflammation from forming.

Don't worry about getting too fancy. Just toss any assortment of fresh greens with an olive oil based dressing. Then add in berries, toasted nuts, a leftover whole-grain (like brown rice) or whatever ingredients you have on hand. Top with an egg for protein if desired. Check out this Baby Kale Breakfast Salad with Quinoa and Strawberries that provides 100% of two antioxidants, vitamin A and vitamin C.

3. Berries and Yogurt

Recipe pictured above: Greek Yogurt with Strawberries

Getting a dose of good bacteria is a great way to start the day since maintaining a healthy gut is essential for preventing inflammation. Start with a bowl of plain regular or Greek yogurt to minimize added sugar. Then add some berries for sweetness and flavor, but also for their polyphenols. These bioactive compounds are associated with berries' red and purple hues and have antioxidant-like effects that stop inflammation.

Try our Yogurt with Blueberries & Honey recipe and substitute any berry, fresh or frozen. Top with a toasted nut to add satiety and crunch, and drizzle a touch of honey or maple syrup over top, if desired.

4. Avocado Toast

Whole-grain toast topped with avocado is also a great choice, thanks to monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, fiber and carotenoids. Research suggest this combination of nutrients and compounds works together to soothe existing inflammation and may even counteract the start of new inflammation triggered by less-healthy foods.

Keep it basic with just avocado on toast, or step it a notch with these two recipes: Egg Salad Avocado Toast and West Coast Avocado Toast.

5. Whole Grains and Nuts

Recipe pictured above: Apple-Cinnamon Overnight Oats

Adding nuts to a whole grain like oats, groats, wheat berries, farro or quinoa boosts overall fiber, protein and good fats. This, in turn, creates quick meals that will keep you feeling full all morning and prevents future dips in energy and blood glucose. Plus, most nuts are also a good source of compounds called phytosterols that have anti-inflammatory effects. Go sweet with this Creamy Wheat Berry Hot Cereal or savory with our Savory Curry Cashew Oatmeal.

6. Eggs and Greens

Frequent spikes followed by dips in blood sugar are associated with increased inflammatory markers. To prevent fluctuations through the day, some individuals find that lower-carb but higher-protein breakfasts are best. And, combining eggs with greens (or pretty much any other veggies) is a quick, tasty way to do this.

A simple scramble like Spinach & Egg Scramble with Raspberries is perfect when you don't have much time, or you can prep these Muffin-Tin Spinach and Mushroom Mini Quiches ahead. You could also make our Broccoli and Cheese Omelet or Tomato-Arugula Omelets on the weekend.

Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, is author to the new cookbook, Meals That Heal: 100+ Everyday Anti-Inflammatory Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less and a culinary nutrition expert known for ability to simplify food and nutrition information. She received a 2017 James Beard Journalism award. You can follow her on Instagram @realfoodreallife_rd or on carolynwilliamsrd.com.