The fight against chronic inflammation begins as soon as you get up in the morning! Discover the best foods to eat for a top-notch breakfast.
Inflammation is initially a beneficial process: it’s the way in which the immune system responds to external aggressors (viruses, bacteria, allergens, injuries …) in order to maintain its integrity.
But when it becomes established over the longer term, it becomes problematic: this is referred to as chronic inflammation. Insidious and often silent, it is intrinsically linked to various health issues such as metabolic disorders, cardiovascular problems and auto-immune diseases (1-3).
It’s now recognized that diet has an effect on how inflammatory mechanisms behave. Breakfast, quite literally ‘breaking the (overnight) fast’, is an opportunity to recharge your batteries healthily, and set the right tone for your immune defenses (4). So it obviously makes sense to play the right notes!
The worst culprit of all? Refined sugar. Apart from being devoid of nutrients, it can affect the permeability of the intestinal barrier and alter microbiota diversity, which we now know is linked to immunity (5). So try to have a breakfast with no added sugar.
Highly-processed foods (biscuits, pastries, sliced bread…) aren’t much better. And sugar isn’t the only offender here: the additives they contain, especially certain emulsifiers, can also interfere with gut flora (6).
What about white bread? Though it adds a little crunch to breakfast when lightly toasted, it gets the thumbs down from nutritionists (7). With a high glycaemic index (of between 70 and 80), it acts more or less like a fast-release carb. As for the butter and highly-processed spreads that go with it, their saturated fat content may well maintain certain inflammatory markers (8).
Anti-inflammatory diet experts also recommend reducing your intake of certain allergens, such as peanuts, wheat, soya, cow’s milk and eggs. There’s no need to exclude them all the time – make your own decision based on how well you tolerate these foods.
A source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, fresh fruit should feature in any breakfast aimed at fighting inflammation (9). While all fruits have something to offer here, those of particular benefit include red berries, citrus fruit, mangoes and kiwi, the colored flesh of which reflects a high content of protective compounds. Eat the whole, fresh fruit rather than just its juice so that you get maximum benefit from its satisfying fibre content.
Though not the most appetising of foods when you’ve just got out of bed, leafy green vegetables are full of health benefits. Among the most alkalinising, spinach is recommended by naturopaths for countering acidity in the body (10). And it can be easily blended, unnoticed, into a fruit smoothie!
Combining mineral salts, sitosterol and flavonoids, nettles are a nutritional treasure trove. The caffeoylmalic acid they contain has an anti-inflammatory effect confirmed by the EFSA (11). Nettles can be consumed as a dried powder. The slightly grassy taste is quite subtle and melds easily into a green juice or herbal tea. Apart from its leaves, the plant’s root also features in certain supplements (such as Nettle Root Extract, which, for the men out there, is also good for prostate health).
A small root with bright orange flesh, turmeric exerts an anti-inflammatory effect as a result of its curcuminoids, a benefit confirmed by the EFSA (12-13). Give it pride of place at the breakfast table by making a re-energising golden latte, the Indian equivalent of our hot toddy: mix turmeric with some coconut milk, cinnamon, ginger, a pinch of pepper and a drizzle of honey. You can also increase your intake with turmeric supplements (for example Natural Curcuma, standardized to 95% curcuminoids for maximum efficacy).
Ginger also has anti-inflammatory properties listed by the EFSA, due partly to its content of gingerols (14-15). Steeped in water and lemon, this spicy root makes an invigorating juice which is perfect for getting the day off to a flying start. If you want to get maximum benefit from gingerols without the ‘throat burn’, then opt instead for a ginger extract supplement (such as Super Gingerols, standardized to 20% gingerols).
If you can’t do without a slice of bread or toast in the morning, at least choose sourdough! The fact that it’s fermented makes it more digestible with better nutrient absorption. It also has a lower GI (around 65), which is always good for reducing chronic inflammation (16-17). And bread made with dark or wholemeal flour is a must, preferably low-gluten too, to protect sensitive stomachs (try small spelt). If you normally have a bowl of cereal, swap your cornflakes for oat flakes, the beta-glucan content of which continues to attract scientific interest (18).
And finally, don’t forget about omega-3s to even out any imbalance with omega-6, an excess of which can be pro-inflammatory (19-20). They’re found in flax, chia and hemp seeds, as well as in walnuts.
Recipe 1: the Continental revisited
2 slices of sourdough bread + nut butter
+ 1 sheep’s milk yogurt
+ 1 small bowl of strawberries
+ 1 turmeric-ginger chai
Recipe 2 : the muesli inflammation special
50g-60g of oat flakes + 1 tbsp of chia seeds + 1 tbsp of goji berries + 5 walnuts + 1 diced kiwi fruit + 125 ml of almond milk
+ 1 lemon-ginger green tea
Recipe 3: the savory brunch
1 buckwheat galette + spinach and turmeric omelette (2 eggs + 100g of baby spinach + ½ tsp of turmeric + salt + pepper) + a few cherry tomatoes
+ 1 light green tea
As it’s not always easy to resist the temptation of a warm croissant, you can still up your intake of substances good for inner balance by taking an appropriate synergistic supplement (combining turmeric, ginger and other antioxidants like tulsi, the powerful formulation InflaRelief is the perfect breakfast boost) (21).
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