The Worst Breakfast Habits for Inflammation, Dietitians Say

Inflammation is a complicated medical condition. On the one hand, it is a necessary process that our body needs to heal from an injury, which is known as acute inflammation. On the other hand, chronic inflammation can lead to serious health problems and disease if left untreated. Causes of chronic inflammation, autoimmune disorders, exposure to toxins, obesity, and an inactive lifestyle. According to Harvard Health, it also “plays a central role” in diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and Alzheimer’s.

Because of inflammation’s connection to weight, diet, and exercise, there are certain foods we can eat and avoid to help reduce our chances of developing chronic inflammation long-term. While it can seem overwhelming to make a lot of changes at once, it can help to start with just one part of your day: your morning routine. Breakfast is an important meal and offers many opportunities to get healthy doses of protein, fiber, and other useful nutrients. However, your breakfast routine may also be causing inflammation-related issues that you are not yet aware of.

Read on for some of the worst breakfast foods and breakfast habits for inflammation, and for more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out Popular Foods to Reduce Inflammation After 50.


When it comes to finding breakfast habits that can help you reduce and control inflammation, a good place to start is to make sure you’re eating breakfast overall. Crazy mornings and busy schedules make it tempting to skip lunch and just have your coffee on the go, but research shows there may be a connection between inflammation and consistently skipping breakfast.

A study published in public health nutrition discovered that routinely skipping breakfast could lead to higher concentrations of CRP, which is a C-reactive protein and a common marker of inflammation in the body. These findings were more significant in older adults than in younger populations.

Skipping breakfast had an effect in those with a poorer quality diet, but did not appear to have a significant impact in those with a better quality diet. In other words, if you’re already eating an unbalanced diet and are missing many key nutrients, skipping breakfast can exacerbate this impact on your inflammation and health.


When it comes to inflammation, added sugar and refined carbohydrates are some of the biggest culprits.

“One of the worst breakfast habits for inflammation is eating refined carbohydrates and foods high in added sugar, such as packaged cakes, doughnuts, and baked goods,” she says. Amy Goodson, MS, DR, CSSD, LDmember of our board of medical experts and author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook.

Lauren Manaker, MS, RDNregistered dietitian on our board of medical experts and author of The New Mom’s Pregnancy Cookbook Y Feeding Male Fertility do you agree

“Refined, sugary pastries like donuts and muffins can be loaded with ingredients that can contribute to inflammation, so it’s best to stick to whole grain options without questionable ingredients,” says Manaker.

RELATED: A Major Side Effect of Eating Too Much Added Sugar, New Study Says

iced coffee with whipped cream

Sometimes indulging in sugary drinks in the morning, such as coffee drinks or juices with added sugar, can lead to inflammation or other unwanted health problems.

“Some research suggests that excessive sugar consumption may encourage the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria that may increase the risk of obesity and inflammatory bowel disease,” says Goodson. “In addition, simple sugars can contribute to blood sugar spikes and dips, leading to roller-coaster-like blood sugar and energy levels throughout the morning, and even throughout the day.” .

A meta-analysis published in nutrients found that higher sugar consumption, especially when consumed in the form of a sugary drink, was linked to more C-reactive proteins, also known as inflammatory markers, in the body. One study also found that people who reduced their sugar intake had fewer of these inflammatory markers.

artificial sweetener coffee

Even if you’re not hitting the drive-thru at Starbucks for a PSL, your morning cup of joe can still lead to unwanted inflammation if you’re in the habit of adding a fair amount of sugar.

“Coffee can be a healthy addition to a breakfast plate, depending on what’s added to your cup of Joe,” says Manaker. “Adding tablespoons of sugar, while tasty, is not the best option when it comes to managing chronic inflammation.”

Many different studies support the fact that sugar is one of the main culprits in causing unwanted inflammation. A report published in frontiers of nutrition states that sugar is not only a major factor in chronic inflammation, but is also linked to things like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome.

If you love sugar in your coffee, you don’t need to get rid of it forever. This is simply a reminder to watch how much you are consuming if inflammation is a concern for you. If sugary coffee is a habit you don’t want to kick, try to find other dietary areas throughout the day where you can limit your sugar intake.

RELATED: Coffee Habits That Age You Faster, Says Dietitian

mcdonalds breakfast
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Goodson also mentions that foods made with a lot of trans fats can cause inflammation and can have negative effects on cholesterol and heart health.

“These foods, such as fried fast food breakfasts, candy bars, cakes, baked goods made with margarine or shortening, and certain nondairy coffee creamers can be identified as having hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in the food ingredient list. Goodson says.

RELATED: 9 Fast Food Breakfasts To Stay Away From Right Now


Manaker cautions against regularly eating certain processed breakfast meats, such as sausage or bacon, which according to some studies can lead to higher concentrations of inflammatory markers like CRP.

“These foods are linked to the development of chronic inflammation,” says Manaker. “And while eating these foods once in a while is probably okay, eating them every day is not the best habit.”

If you’re concerned about inflammation in your body, your next best step is to talk to your doctor or dietitian about some of these regular habits you may have. Our hope is that you don’t feel pressured to eliminate each and every one of these habits from your life, but rather that you have a roadmap of where you can begin to reduce inflammation in your body.

An earlier version of this story ran on November 29, 2021. It has been updated to include additional copy and review revisions, corrections to any irrelevant or broken links, and more current research, as well as associated supporting citations.

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