13 Anti-Inflammatory Foods & Why You Should Include Them In Your Diet
Inflammation is triggered by the immune system, and can be both good and bad for the body. The “good” type of inflammation occurs when there is an inflammatory response to a pathogen. This process is designed to create certain immune cells that can protect against and fight off infection.
However, when inflammation is driven by an immune response when no infection is present, it can be highly damaging, because the cells that are created to fight off infection begin to attack healthy tissues. When this occurs frequently or continuously for a long period of time, it can lead to conditions such as heart disease, Crohn’s disease, or even cancer.
What a person eats can play a vital role in the body’s inflammatory response. Some foods actually help send inflammatory messengers around the body, leading to inflammation. Foods such as processed sugars or refined carbs can trigger inflammation. But the good news is that there are plenty of foods that can help to lower inflammation throughout the body – and that are tasty and healthy, too.
What makes a food anti-inflammatory?
Every type of food you consume will have different compounds that affect the body’s processes in different ways. Anti-inflammatory foods are full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can lead to a reduction in overall inflammation.
Why should we eat an anti-inflammatory diet?
There are many reasons to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Some have less to do with inflammation and more to do with overall health. Anti-inflammatory foods are full of essential nutrients the body needs to run properly. Studies have shown that chronic inflammation leads to chronic diseases. These diseases also represent the leading causes of both disability and mortality across the globe. Some such diseases that are driven by inflammation include diabetes, chronic kidney disease, fatty liver disease, and autoimmune and neurodegenerative disease.
What are the best foods to reduce inflammation in the body?
There are many foods you can eat to help reduce inflammation in the body. The following 13 foods are the best choices if you want to get all the nutrients you need to keep inflammation at bay.
Berries are often considered “superfoods” because they are packed with nutrients. There are so many different types of berries to choose from, with the most common being strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Studies have shown that berries contain a powerful antioxidant called anthocyanin. This compound can help to lower inflammation and regulate the inflammatory response within the body. Berries can also help to lower inflammatory markers, which leads to a lessened risk for chronic inflammation.
2. Fatty Fish
Omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA are great in combating inflammation. When the body metabolizes these specific fatty acids, they turn into compounds known as resolvins and protectins, which play a vital role in anti-inflammatory processes. Fatty fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids; the best types of fish to choose are salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel.
Studies have found that cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts can decrease the risk of developing both heart disease and cancer. This may be linked to the foods’ ability to reduce inflammation. Broccoli, for example, contains high amounts of sulforaphane, which is an antioxidant. It helps to counter inflammation in the body by reducing inflammation-causing cytokines.
Avocados are another so-called “superfood”, and for good reason. They are full of nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, fiber, and monounsaturated fats. Avocados can also lower inflammatory markers in the body, which helps lower levels of inflammation.
5. Green Tea
Green tea has a long history of being a great health benefactor. Aside from its ability to reduce the risk of developing several diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease, it’s also a powerful antioxidant that contributes to lowered levels of inflammation. Green tea contains a specific substance known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG for short, which reduces pro-inflammatory production of cytokines that can damage fatty acids within cells.
Bell peppers are rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants that can lead to lowered levels of inflammation in the body. One specific antioxidant, quercetin, can help to reduce oxidative stress in those with inflammatory diseases.
Another food that contains anthocyanins is grapes. As mentioned above, anthocyanins have the ability to reduce inflammation, which may lead to a decreased risk of developing chronic diseases. Grapes also contain resveratrol, which is a powerful compound that also reduces inflammation.
Turmeric is typically used in Indian dishes. It has a strong flavor that compliments many different dishes. The key reason why turmeric can be considered a good anti-inflammatory food is because it contains curcumin. Curcumin has been shown to help lower inflammation in those with chronic diseases such as arthritis and diabetes. When taken combined with piperine from black pepper, it can also decrease inflammatory markers.
9. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Healthy fats are important for overall health, and extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest fats out there. Studies have shown that those who consume extra virgin olive oil daily reduced the number of inflammatory markers within their body. It also contains oleocanthal, an antioxidant, which can decrease inflammation in a similar way to anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
Mushrooms are rich in selenium, copper, and B vitamins. These nutrients are needed daily for overall health. The anti-inflammatory substances in mushrooms include phenols and other antioxidants. By adding mushrooms to your diet, it’s possible to reap the benefits of less inflammation.
11. Dark Chocolate and Cocoa
It might seem like chocolate should not be on a “healthy” foods list – however, dark chocolate is one indulgent snack that can be of great benefit to your health. This is because it is full of flavanols that can help to keep inflammation at bay.
Tomatoes are packed with nutrients such as vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant that provides anti-inflammatory benefits; it can possibly reduce compounds that drive inflammation in relation to some cancers. To maximize the effects of lycopene, you can cook tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil for extra absorption.
Cherries contain anthocyanins and catechins, both of which are antioxidants that can help to fight inflammation throughout the body. One particular study found that those who eat cherries every day saw a decrease in inflammatory markers. The most impressive aspect of the study was that participants had low inflammatory markers for almost one month after they stopped the daily consumption of cherries.
What is the best natural anti-inflammatory?
There is no single best natural anti-inflammatory, but the foods mentioned above are all standouts when it comes to lowering inflammation. Eating a well-rounded diet full of these foods can decrease inflammation, reduce your risk of developing disease, and help you stay healthy.