When it's time for breakfast, reach instead for ready-to-eat fruit and other anti-inflammatory foods that may help improve inflammation and ease RA pain. Even when morning stiffness slows you down, breakfast offers an opportunity to boost your health with the fresh fruits and satiating protein in these easy-to-prep picks. Top seasonal choices for people with RA include:
Berries and Cherries
Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries are lower in sugars than other fruits, and their rich colors mean they're high in antioxidants. Both qualities are helpful for people wanting to reduce inflammation in the body, because sugar can be inflammatory, notes Sonya Angelone, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of a nutrition counseling firm based in the San Francisco, California area.
In a survey published online in February 2017 in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, blueberries were linked with reduced RA symptoms. Much more research is needed to prove cause-and-effect between certain foods and symptoms, but it’s clear that blueberries aren’t a bad breakfast choice.
Similarly, eating cherries, particularly sour or tart ones, or cherry juice, may be beneficial, says Robin Foroutan, RDN, an integrative medicine dietitian based in New York City. Research published in August 2013 in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage suggests these fruits may offer anti-inflammatory benefits for other types of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis and gout, but studies on RA are lacking.
Still, it makes sense to try incorporating these ready-to-eat fresh fruits into your morning cereal, yogurt, or cottage cheese and see how you feel.
Waking up with swollen joints can make it difficult to prepare — nevermind eat — a healthy morning meal. Consider heating up last night’s dinner leftovers in the microwave. Another option: Make a protein smoothie, says Angelone. Smoothies blend up all the edible parts of fruits and vegetables, such as the pulp or skin. These fiber-filled parts help make a smoothie a complete meal; juicing, on the other hand, only uses juice, and any fiber from skin or pulp is discarded.
Just chop up anti-inflammatory summer produce, like nectarines, plums, or peaches, or add foods packed with potassium, such as half a frozen banana, spinach, or cantaloupe. (Research suggests that people with RA frequently show lower levels of potassium, often due to medication.) Then place them in a resealable plastic bag or container, and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, pour the bag’s contents into a blender, add some protein powder for additional benefits, and add a bit of lemon or lime juice.
Whether you prefer them hard- or soft-boiled, poached, scrambled, or another way, eggs are a great source of protein, notes Angelone. If cracking eggs is too difficult in the morning, “fresh liquid eggs from a carton are easy and quick,” she says. If you want to increase the nutrients in an omelet, buy precut veggies, like broccoli florets or bell peppers, or whatever produce you find in season at your local farmer’s market, and toss them in for additional veg servings.
Also consider using omega-3-enhanced eggs.
Green iced tea with a squeeze of lemon makes a great anti-inflammatory drink, notes Foroutan. Making juices or smoothies with spinach or other green leafy veggies can also be good, but don’t overdo it on the kale if you’re not familiar with its signature bitter taste. “You don’t have to go from zero to kale,” notes Foroutan. Blend it with sweeter items, like carrots or beets, to dilute the flavor. “A little goes a long way,” she says.