Author: Jen Martin
April 10, 2020
Inflammation can be both good and bad.
On one hand, it helps your body defend itself from infection and injury. On the other hand, chronic inflammation can lead to weight gain, disease, and bring out symptoms from chronic illness.
Stress, inflammatory foods, and low activity levels can make this risk even greater.
However, studies demonstrate that some foods can fight inflammation.
Here are 13 anti-inflammatory foods:
Berries are small fruits that are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Although dozens of varieties exist, some of the most common include:
Berries contain antioxidants. These compounds have anti-inflammatory effects that may reduce your risk of disease of lessen symptoms associated with chronic illness.
Your body produces natural killer cells (NK cells), which help keep your immune system functioning properly.
In one study in men, those who consumed blueberries every day produced significantly more NK cells than those who did not.
In another study, adults with excess weight who ate strawberries had lower levels of certain inflammatory markers associated with heart disease.
2. Fatty fish
Fatty fish are a great source of protein and the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
Although all types of fish contain some omega-3 fatty acids, these fatty fish are among the best sources:
EPA and DHA reduces inflammation that can lead to metabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease.
Your body metabolizes these fatty acids into compounds called resolvins and protectins, which have anti-inflammatory effects.
Studies have found that people consuming salmon or EPA and DHA supplements or in liquid form experienced reductions in the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP).
However, in another study, people with an irregular heartbeat who took EPA and DHA daily experienced no difference in inflammatory markers, compared with those who received a placebo.
Broccoli is extremely nutritious.
It's a cruciferous vegetable, along with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale.
This may be related to the anti-inflammatory effects of the antioxidants they contain.
Broccoli is also rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that fights inflammation.
Avocados are packed with potassium, magnesium, fiber, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
In addition, one compound in avocados may reduce inflammation in young skin cells.
In one study, when people consumed a slice of avocado with a hamburger, they had lower levels of the inflammatory markers NF-kB and IL-6, compared with participants who ate the hamburger alone.
5. Green tea
You've probably heard that green tea is one of the healthiest beverages you can drink.
It reduces your risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and other conditions.
Many of its benefits are due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, especially a substance called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). A study conducted by Dr. Orhan Aktas from Institute of Neuroimmunology, Berlin, revealed for the first time that green tea may one day help cure multiple sclerosis (MS).
EGCG inhibits inflammation by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokine production and damage to the fatty acids in your cells.
Chili peppers contain sinapic acid and ferulic acid, which may reduce inflammation and lead to healthier aging.
While thousands of varieties of mushrooms exist worldwide, only a few are edible and grown commercially.
These include truffles, portobello mushrooms, shiitake and baby bella's.
Mushrooms are very low in calories and rich in selenium, copper, and all of the B vitamins.
They also contain phenols and other antioxidants that provide anti-inflammatory protection.
However, one study found that cooking mushrooms lowered their anti-inflammatory compounds significantly. Thus, it may be best to eat them raw or lightly cooked.
Grapes contain anthocyanins, which reduce inflammation.
Grapes are also one of the best sources of resveratrol, another compound that has many health benefits.
In one study, people with heart disease who consumed grape extract daily experienced a decrease in inflammatory gene markers, including NF-kB .
Another study showed their levels of adiponectin increased. Low levels of this hormone are associated with weight gain and an increased risk of cancer.
Turmeric is a spice with a strong, earthy flavor that's often used in curries and other Indian dishes.
It has received a lot of attention for its content of curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient.
In fact, consuming 1 gram of curcumin daily combined with piperine from black pepper caused a significant decrease in the inflammatory marker CRP in people with metabolic syndrome.
However, it may be hard to get enough curcumin to experience a noticeable effect from turmeric alone.
In one study, women with excess weight who took 2.8 grams of turmeric per day showed no improvement in inflammatory markers.
Taking supplements containing isolated curcumin is much more effective. Curcumin supplements are often combined with piperine, which can boost curcumin absorption by 2,000%.
If you're interested in using turmeric in cooking, you can find it in most grocery stores or online.
10. Extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is one of the healthiest fats you can eat.
It's rich in monounsaturated fats and a staple in the Mediterranean diet, which provides numerous health benefits.
In one study on the Mediterranean diet, CRP and several other inflammatory markers significantly decreased in those who consumed 1.7 ounces (50 ml) of olive oil daily.
The effect of oleocanthal, an antioxidant found in olive oil, has been compared to anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.
Keep in mind that organic extra virgin olive oil offers greater anti-inflammatory benefits than those provided by more refined olive oils.
It's easy to find extra virgin olive oil at your local grocery store, but you can also buy it online.
11. Dark chocolate and cocoa
Dark chocolate is delicious, rich, and satisfying.
Flavanols are responsible for chocolate's anti-inflammatory effects and keep the endothelial cells that line your arteries healthy.
In one study, smokers experienced significant improvements in endothelial function within 2 hours of eating high-flavonol chocolate.
However, make sure to choose dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa — a greater percentage is even better — to reap these anti-inflammatory benefits.
If you forgot to grab this treat on your last run to the store, you can always buy it online. Better yet, dairy-free option is a much healthier choice and compliant for Paleo, Keto, and Mediterranean diets.
The tomato is a nutritional powerhouse and are high in vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene, an antioxidant with impressive anti-inflammatory properties.
Lycopene may be particularly beneficial for reducing pro-inflammatory compounds related to several types of cancer.
One study determined that drinking tomato juice significantly decreased inflammatory markers in women with excess weight — but not those with obesity.
*Note - that cooking tomatoes in olive oil can maximize the amount of lycopene you absorb.
Also note, that tomatoes falls into the "night shade" family, and for those living with auto-immune disorders can cause inflammation.
That's because lycopene is a carotenoid, a nutrient that’s better absorbed with a source of fat.
Cherries are delicious and rich in antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and catechins, which fight inflammation.
In one study, when people consumed 280 grams of cherries per day for 1 month, their levels of the inflammatory marker CRP decreased and stayed low for 28 days after they stopped eating cherries.
Summary Sweet and tart cherries contain antioxidants that reduce inflammation and your risk of disease.
In addition to filling your diet with nutritious anti-inflammatory ingredients, it’s important to limit your consumption of foods that can promote inflammation.
For example, processed foods like fast food, frozen meals, and processed meats have been associated with higher levels of inflammatory markers for women.
Other foods like sugar-sweetened beverages and refined carbs have likewise been shown to promote inflammation.
Here are some examples of foods that have been linked to increased levels of inflammation:
Junk foods: fast food, convenience meals, potato chips, pretzels
Refined carbohydrates: white bread, pasta, white rice, crackers, flour tortillas, biscuits
Fried foods: french fries, donuts, fried chicken, mozzarella sticks, egg rolls
Sugar-sweetened beverages: soda, sweet tea, energy drinks, sports drinks
Processed meats: bacon, beef jerky, canned meat, salami, hot dogs, smoked meat
Trans fats: shortening, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, margarine
The bottom line
Even low levels of inflammation on a chronic basis can lead to disease.
Do your best to keep inflammation in check by choosing a wide variety of delicious, antioxidant-rich foods.
Peppers, dark chocolate, fish, and extra virgin olive oil are just a few foods that can help you combat inflammation and reduce your risk of illness.
A Note From Jen Martin, Master Certified Health & Wellness Coach
If you need help getting inflammation, symptoms and quality of life under control, please schedule a call with me. Let's put a plan of action together for you, so you can take back control of your health and well-being, so that you can live life to the fullest!