7 Anti-Inflammatory Foods You Should Be Eating
Before we get to which anti-inflammatory foods you should be eating, we need to learn a little bit about what exactly is inflammation. We often hear about inflammation and how it's bad for the human body. However, the primary purpose of inflammation is signalling to your body that it needs to fight off an invader. These can be microbes like a bacteria, virus, or even something that you have an allergy to. In this case, inflammation is a good thing. Otherwise, these invaders will attack our body and we wouldn't be able to defend ourselves against it.
However, as you may have guessed, inflammation is not always a good thing. Specifically, chronic inflammation is what we aim to reduce. That means when you have inflammation each day, even when invaders are not attacking us. In fact, many diseases are caused by chronic inflammation.
Many major diseases that plague us—including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer's—have been linked to chronic inflammation.
Fear not, my loyal reader, for there is hope. There is a powerful tool in the fight against chronic inflammation and it doesn't come from your doctor; it comes from your grocery store! Many studies highlight how anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce chronic inflammation in the body. This can lead to effects such as faster healing from injuries, more energy, protects from certain diseases, and quicker recovery from injuries. So you may be asking yourself, "self, what foods should I be eating to help reduce inflammation?" You answer yourself, "I don't know, that's why we're reading this article!" Allow me to be your guide by going over 7 anti-inflammatory foods that you can start eating immediately to start taking advantage of the benefits.
1. Green Leafy Vegetables
I can already hear the creaking sound of you rolling your eyes. "Really, you're telling me to eat my greens? Duh!" Eating green, leafy vegetables may seem obvious, but don't overlook the reasons for why it's good for you. We're talking about foods like broccoli, spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, and collards. These foods are high in anti-oxidants and polyphenols, protective compounds found in plants. Broccoli also contains a compound called sulforaphane, an antioxidant that fights inflammation by reducing your levels of cytokines and NF-kB, which drive inflammation.
Tomatoes are what we would consider a powerhouse as far as nutrition goes. They contain high amounts of vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene, an anti-oxidant with high 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.
- Burton-Freeman B, Sesso HD. Whole food versus supplement: comparing the clinical evidence of tomato intake and lycopene supplementation on cardiovascular risk factors. Adv Nutr. 2014 Sep; 5(5): 457–485.
Another thing to keep in mind is that cooking tomatoes in olive oil can maximize the beneficial compounds that you can absorb. That's because we consider lycopene a carotenoid, a nutrient that's absorbed better with a source of fat. Which brings us to our next super food...
3. Olive Oil
This is one of the healthiest fats you can eat. It's a major part of the Mediterranean diet, which is the most often-recommended diet that has a ton of health benefits. Extra virgin olive oil is what we recommend, and its anti-inflammatory effects have been compared to a dose of ibuprofen without the side-effects. Studies link extra virgin olive oil to a reduced risk of heart disease, brain cancer, and other serious health conditions.
Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are loaded with antioxidants which have anti-inflammatory effects that may reduce your risk of disease. In one study, adults with excess weight who ate strawberries had lower levels of certain inflammatory markers associated with heart disease. Another study reveals that those who consumed blueberries every day produced significantly more NK cells than those who did not. NK cells have an immunity-boosting effect.
4. Fatty Fish
Fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel, and anchovies contain high-levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Although all fish contain these fatty acids, those fish are the best sources to find them. Those fatty acids reduce inflammation that can lead to metabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease. One thing that you want to watch out for in fish such as mackerel and tuna is the mercury content. As long as you you eat fewer than 2 servings a week, it's not something you need to worry about. However, eating a can of tuna every day is definitely going to cause problems, do not do that! You can cause serious neurological issues.
Nuts contain a healthy kind of fat that helps stop inflammation. Pick nuts like almonds and walnuts. The same kind of fat is found in avocados too, another food I recommend. Try not to eat more than a handful of nuts per day though, the calories and fat can add up quickly in these small super foods.
This food is an orange root vegetable that has taken the nation by storm over the last few years. Indians have long used this anti-oxidant rich spice in curries and other dishes. Turmeric reduces inflammation related to arthritis, diabetes, and other diseases. It has received a lot of attention for its content of curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient. Taking supplements containing isolated curcumin is much more effective. Curcumin supplements are often combined with piperine (a compound in black pepper), which can boost curcumin absorption by 2,000%. You can find this supplement that contains both compounds in most health-food stores.
Did you know this is the word that knocked me out of my second grade spelling bee in the final round? Well, now you do. Anyway, this super food contains potassium, magnesium, fiber, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. They're also linked to reducing cancer risk and reduce inflammation in skin cells. In one study, when people ate 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 by itself.
So, What Did We Learn About Anti-Inflammatory Foods?
We now know that these anti-inflammatory foods are easy to find in your local grocery store, they're not weird or complicated dishes you need to prepare (most can be eaten raw), and they help boost immunity, health, and fight against disease in so many different ways. I highly encourage you to start integrating these foods into your diet if you aren't eating them already. The next step would be to cut back on foods that we know are inflammatory to our bodies and may encourage inflammation and rates of certain diseases. But, on the pathway to health, we walk one step at a time.