Top 10 Foods That Fight Inflammation
When your immune system’s in overdrive, it’s hard to relax. Chronic inflammation can cause fatigue, pain, skin disorders, depression, weight gain, and more, as well as leading eventually to the possibility of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Reducing inflammation is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health.
Luckily, it doesn’t take expensive medications to fight back against inflammation (and please do follow the instructions of your doctor!). In fact, some of the very best inflammation fighters are the powerful antioxidant foods found right in your kitchen and grocery store. Let food be your daily medicine against chronic inflammation! Here are 10 of the best anti-inflammatory foods out there:
This one is easy! Everyone loves juicy, delicious berries. Whether you pick blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, or some other variety, you’ll be getting a healthy dose of anthocyanins, a helpful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects. If you’re lucky enough, eat them fresh, otherwise buy frozen or dried berries to add to smoothies, cereal, or oatmeal.
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
Just like Mom says, “Eat your broccoli!” Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and other cruciferous vegetables contain loads of healthful compounds, including powerful antioxidants like sulforaphane. Additionally, eating a lot of cruciferous veggies is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer. So, load up your plate with piles of greens!
Fish are known to be a great source of protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. But did you know that those fatty acids, EPA and DHA, also turn into compounds that help fight inflammation in the body? Although all fish have some omega-3s, the best sources are sardines, salmon, herring, mackerel, and anchovies. Make it a habit to consume these healthy fish fats twice per week.
4. Olive Oil
One of the reasons the Mediterranean diet is known to be so heart-healthy is due to the effects of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Rich in healthy monounsaturated fats which reduce inflammation, it’s also thought that the antioxidants in olive oil may inhibit some genes and proteins which drive inflammation. However, watch out for “olive oil” that may actually be a lower-quality oil blend; read the label carefully, and look for quality certification levels, to be sure that what you’re getting is truly extra virgin olive oil.
5. Spices & Herbs
The strong flavor compounds found in certain spices and herbs also contain powerful antioxidants. Garlic works to reduce inflammation by curbing pro-inflammatory compounds in the body, while ginger’s strong flavor also provides antioxidant effects. Turmeric is another anti-inflammation all-star, packing a punch with its active compound, curcumin, a powerful antioxidant which directly combats inflammation. Add lots of garlic, turmeric, ginger, and other flavorful spices to your meals to combat inflammation on a daily basis.
6. Tea & Coffee
Tea, the anti-inflammatory beverage of choice, is loaded with catechin, a powerful antioxidant. Both green and black tea show marked benefits, though the levels may be higher in green tea. Drink daily, hot or cold as you wish, and enjoy the health benefits and delicious taste.
If you’re a coffee drinker instead, the news is still good! Coffee contains polyphenols, as well as other anti-inflammatory compounds. Caffeine in coffee or tea form has been shown to have effects on some aging-related inflammation markers, suggesting that your daily breakfast beverage can have a big impact on your health down the road.
Though some have trashed tomatoes for being part of the nightshade family, and thus thought to cause inflammation, in fact, the opposite is true. Tomatoes are an anti-inflammatory all-star, full of vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene, an impressive inflammation-fighting antioxidant. Tomatoes are also great because they’re so easy to incorporate into all sorts of dishes, and canned tomatoes are quick and easy to cook with.
This is just about everyone’s favorite anti-inflammatory food! Of course, just because it’s on this list doesn’t mean you should run out and eat a bunch of sweets; in fact, in order to get the greatest benefit from this superfood, you should stick to the darkest possible chocolate. Look for 70% or more cocoa in your bar, or else add raw cacao powder to your smoothies to super-charge them.
Regardless of how spicy you like your meals, you should try to incorporate various types of peppers into your diet on a regular basis. Both spicy and sweet peppers contain a variety of useful anti-inflammatory antioxidants, and of course, lend tons of flavor to a myriad of international dishes. Mix it up with different colors and types, since each one has its own range of healthy compounds.
10. Nuts & Beans
Finally, the humble bean is having its day. This classic vegetarian protein staple is well known for its fiber content, but legumes are also high in magnesium, which helps with inflammation. Likewise, nuts are nutritional powerhouses, make great snack foods, and also fight inflammation. The best nuts for this purpose include walnuts, peanuts, almonds, and pistachios; ideally, consume them raw and unsalted. Aim for one or two handfuls of nuts per day, since they are high in calories.
Enjoy experimenting in your anti-inflammatory kitchen!
About the Author
Chezlani Casar is a librarian and a lover of vegetables. She can often be found in her kitchen experimenting with new ingredients. Working with Laser Lipo and Veins, she hopes to inspire others to expand their own palates.