Eating a balanced breakfast is important for your health. The right breakfast food can provide your body with helpful nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that help you to get your day started on the best foot possible. But sometimes, there are breakfast items that (albeit deliciously tempting) are unhealthier for you, and these breakfast foods may contribute to inflammation in your body.
Inflammation occurs naturally all the time. If you get a paper cut, your finger gets red, swollen, and puffy—then it begins to heal. This is an immune response from the body to control the bleeding and prevent infection in the paper cut. Because inflammation can sometimes be a reaction that is essentially a precursor to healing, you don’t want to prevent it in all situations. The problem occurs when you have large-scale, chronic inflammation. This type of inflammation is more systemic than a localized paper cut and occurs continuously over time. For example, rheumatoid arthritis is a form of chronic inflammation, as inflamed cells attack the joint tissues, resulting in chronic discomfort and pain.
Overall, chronic inflammation has been linked to a host of health concerns, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. It’s also driven by lifestyle factors like nutrition, stress, sleep, and exercise. For instance, being sedentary, having chronic stress, not getting enough sleep, and eating a highly processed diet full of saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar have increased your risk of chronic inflammation. When it comes to your diet specifically, you may be eating some foods regularly that can contribute to greater inflammation—and this can apply to what you’re eating for breakfast every day.
When it comes to managing inflammation at breakfast time, Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook suggests limiting foods that are high in added sugar and saturated fat. And when it comes to avoiding saturated fat at breakfast, you may need to skip the drive-thru and pass on the fast-food breakfast sandwich.
“Saturated fat found in fast-food breakfast sandwiches, pastries, baked goods, and most frozen breakfast items can contribute to increases in cholesterol and inflammation if consumed regularly over long periods of time, and this is especially the case if the individual’s diet is low in fiber and contains other sources of saturated fat throughout the day,” says Goodson.
Not only that, but some fast food comes with trans fat, another type of fat known to be directly linked to greater levels of inflammation in the body. In fact, the World Health Organization suggests completely avoiding trans fats if you can.
To help reduce inflammation and still be able to enjoy the foods you love, Goodson suggests choosing breakfast sandwiches made with lean meat and whole grain bread or English muffin.
According to Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, author of The First Time Mom’s Pregnancy Cookbook and Fueling Male Fertility, turkey bacon is one of the sneakiest foods that can lead to inflammation if consumed frequently.
“Although many people lean on turkey bacon because they think it is a healthier choice, the truth is that it is still considered to be processed meat and can be high in saturated fat,” says Manaker. “Regardless of whether you are a turkey or classic bacon lover, keep your bacon intake to a minimum when trying to combat inflammation.”
Not only is saturated fat a concern, but turkey bacon is also commonly high in sodium, and too much sodium has been linked to increased inflammation as well.
Also on the list of sneaky inflammatory foods is a beloved classic: instant oatmeal. But Manaker warns that quicker does not always mean better.
“Sure, oatmeal is a classic good-for-you breakfast that is loaded with healthy fiber, vitamins, and carbs,” says Manaker. “But if you are opting for a flavored variety that contains added sugars, you may be contributing to your inflammation.”
This is because, unfortunately, research has found that diets high in added sugar can increase pro-inflammatory markers in the body, ultimately increasing inflammation.