The One Breakfast a Gastroenterologist Wants You to Avoid for Inflammation

A gastroenterologist says you should avoid pastries at breakfast if you want to keep inflammation at bay.
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What you eat plays a role in your health for better or worse, says Max Pitman, MD, gastroenterologist and medical director at Salvo Health. One major aspect of your health that's affected by diet is inflammation.

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When it comes to your gut health, chronic inflammation contributes to digestive conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. And eating certain foods that throw off the natural bacterial balance in your digestive tract can in turn trigger inflammation throughout the body, per an October 2020 review in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Breakfast pastries like waffles, pancakes, muffins, croissants and biscuits may be easy to grab when you're on the go, but they can contribute to inflammation if you eat them often, Dr. Pitman says. Here's why you should avoid them, and what to eat instead.

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Why You Should Limit Breakfast Pastries

There are a few reasons you probably want to avoid breakfast pastries if you're concerned about inflammation and your gut health, according to Dr. Pitman.

They're High in Refined Carbs

Foods high in fiber can encourage the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and help reduce inflammation, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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On the other hand, breakfast pastries are typically low in fiber and high in refined carbs, which are known to promote the growth of harmful bacteria and cause inflammation, per the Cleveland Clinic.

That's because when you eat refined carbs, your blood sugar spikes dramatically, which sets off an inflammatory response in the body.

They Have a Lot of Saturated Fat

Breakfast pastries are often made with margarine and other high-fat ingredients. In fact, you might even notice hydrogenated oils (such as hydrogenated soybean or palm oil) on the ingredients list for many of these products.

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While hydrogenated oils may help food products last longer, they don't do your health any favors. They're linked to both heart disease and inflammation, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Eating too much of these fats has been shown to cause imbalances in gut bacteria, according to October 2016 research in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. These imbalances can trigger inflammation.

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They Can Be High in Refined Sugar

Like refined carbs, taking in high amounts of sugar can increase your blood sugar levels, which triggers inflammation, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

"Many of these breakfast pastries use some form of refined sugar, like high fructose corn syrup," Dr. Pitman says. "Eating them often can directly cause inflammation in the gut, or it can lead to blood sugar issues, which can then increase systemic inflammation throughout the body."

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Research backs this up. Eating too much sugar has been shown to create an imbalance in gut bacteria, which sets off those inflammatory pathways, according to a May 2020 review in Nutrients.

Breakfast Foods That Fight Inflammation

One way to help lower inflammation in the body is to eat more anti-inflammatory foods. Breakfast is an opportunity to start your day with fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains or yogurt.

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Dr. Pitman suggests switching to a breakfast made with fresh, whole-food ingredients such as eggs, avocados, whole-grain toast or oats for a nutritious oatmeal. Avoid processed meats like bacon, ham and sausage.

"Avocados are full of gut-healthy omega-3 fats, which are anti-inflammatory," says Amanda Sauceda, RD, a dietitian specializing in gut health. "On top of that, avocados are high in fiber, which your gut needs to be happy."

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You can also top oatmeal with berries for anti-inflammatory benefits. "Oats are high in fiber to help lower cholesterol and balance blood sugar while feeding the good bacteria in your gut," says Kelsey Sackmann, RD. "Berries add a sweet flavor without a lot of sugar, and they have anthocyanins that reduce inflammation."

And of course, smoothies with berries and a mixture of greens, nut butter and plant-based milk make a great anti-inflammatory breakfast option thanks to their gut-healthy nutrients.

Bottom Line

What you eat affects the inflammation levels in your body. Breakfast pastries like muffins, waffles, pancakes and biscuits can be high in refined carbs, added sugar and saturated fat, which are known to cause inflammation.

Adding foods like avocado, eggs, fruit and oats to your breakfast may have anti-inflammatory benefits and promote a healthy gut.

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