What to Eat for Breakfast When You Have RA

Get a jump start on your day with a meal that fights inflammation and helps you feel better with rheumatoid arthritis.

Lindsay Bosslett
Reviewed by
Greg Schimizzi, MD

Although no diet can “cure” rheumatoid arthritis, eating right can be an easy—and yummy!—way to help your body fend off symptoms. Start your day off right by serving some of these foods at breakfast. Each has been proved to help lower inflammation and alleviate joint pain and stiffness.    

Get a little nutty
Sliced almonds, crushed walnuts, peanut butter . . . whichever kind of nuts you love, adding them to your morning oatmeal or spreading some nut butter on toast can be a great way to help your joints. Turns out that the monounsaturated fats and omega-3s in nuts are powerful anti-inflammatories. The proof? The results of a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that people who ate the most nuts had the lowest levels of inflammatory markers in their blood. Just stick to a 1-ounce serving (about ¼ cup daily) to keep calories in check.

Just add chocolate
Chocolate as part of a healthy breakfast? You bet! Sprinkle some cocoa powder over a cup of plain yogurt, or add a spoonful to your coffee or tea for a nice warm mocha. Chocolate—or, really, the cocoa bean—is chock-full of flavanols, plant chemicals proved to reduce inflammation and blood clotting. For the most benefit, stick with unsweetened cocoa powder or dark chocolate. 

Whip up a berry smoothie
For the perfect on-the-go arthritis-busting breakfast, grab your blender and throw in blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. Add some ice and a bit of low-fat milk or yogurt, blend until smooth and enjoy! How does this tasty drink help your joints? Blueberries and blackberries are antioxidant powerhouses, high in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, while raspberries are high in ellagic acid, another known anti-inflammatory which may reduce the risk of some cancers. The polyphenols found in strawberries also act as anti-inflammatories.

Have a bowlful of cherries
These sweet, juicy red gems are also good for your joints (especially people with gout!). In one study in the Journal of Nutrition, participants who added Bing cherries to their diets saw a significant decrease in several blood markers of inflammation. Laboratory studies show that cherries’ anthocyanins—compounds responsible for the fruit’s rich red color—provide their anti-inflammatory power. Have a cupful along with your regular breakfast, or pit them and add to oatmeal, yogurt or smoothies.

Enjoy an apple a day
While there is no reason to keep your rheumatologist away, eating an apple daily can indeed help soothe your joints. Credit goes to apples’ high concentration of quercetin, a flavonoid known to reduce inflammation. In a University of Michigan study, researchers found a link between apples, flavonoids and quercetin and a decrease in inflammation. Try dicing an apple and adding it to your oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon. Or slice an apple and dip it in peanut butter for a double inflammation-busting boost.

Add onions to your omelet
Sauté some garlic, onions or leeks for a flavorful, savory addition to your morning omelet. These items contain allicin, a compound that researchers at King’s College London and the University of East Anglia found can reduce inflammation—and may even help prevent the onset of arthritis flares.

Get a little seedy
Sprinkle some flaxseeds or pumpkin seeds over your cereal, yogurt or oatmeal for a burst of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been proved to decrease the production of chemicals that spread inflammation.

Serve up a glass of milk
The vitamin-D fortified kind, that is. When the Women’s Health Study followed 30,000 women for 11 years, researchers found that participants who got less than 200 international units (IU) of vitamin D (about the amount in two glasses of milk) a day from their diet were 33% more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than women who got more. Not a fan of milk? Eggs are also a good source of vitamin D, as is salmon—so spread some lox on a bagel for a D-fortified treat!

Get your C
Slice some oranges or add some green bell pepper to an omelet. Both are good sources of vitamin C, which has been shown to protect collagen, a building block for the cartilage that protects your joints. Other good sources? Kiwifruit, broccoli, tomatoes and strawberries.

Cut up some cantaloupe
This sweet orange melon gets its color from the antioxidant carotenoid, in particular one called beta-cryptoxanthin, which has been shown to reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers from the United Kingdom found that people who ate diets high in beta-cryptoxanthin were half as likely to develop inflammatory arthritis as those who ate few foods rich in beta-cryptoxanthin. Cantaloupe is great sliced up on its own, added to smoothies or served with a dollop of cottage cheese.

April 2013