Anti-inflammatory foods play a key role in protecting you from disease. They have the ability to strengthen and heal your cells, improve your immune system, and make you less prone to illness.
Inflammation is major cause of disease, and it’s at the root of a number of serious chronic conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, and others. But it’s not all bad. In fact, a little bit of inflammation from time to time is actually a good thing.
Your body’s natural response to healing itself is inflammation. When you cut yourself, bump yourself, or even eat something that causes harm to your body, your immune system sends a little army out to heal the problem.
It’s why bumps, bruises, and cuts become discolored and swell up, your stomach bloats when you eat something that disagrees with you, or you start to sneeze when you inhale an allergen. All of that shows your immune system at work, and it’s perfectly healthy.
Chronic inflammation, however, is when the problems set in. Your immune system gets tricked and goes into overdrive. This process causes harm to your cells, damages them, and makes you more prone to illness and overall degradation.
The food you eat goes a long way towards fighting inflammation and preventing a number of chronic illnesses. An anti-inflammatory diet battles back against the ravages of chronic inflammation to strengthen your cells and immune system by providing healthy nutrition. If you want to reduce the risk of illness and feel more energized, natural anti-inflammatory foods are the way to go.
Adopting an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
If there was an anti-anti-inflammatory food list, it would look a lot like what the majority of Americans eat. The Standard American Diet, otherwise known as SAD, is full of inflammatory foods, including processed items such as bacon, cold-cut lunch meat, hot dogs, packaged cooked hams, and so on. Candies, cookies, soda, and chips are on that list, too, and so is anything with added sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, and trans fats. All of these items promote inflammation, and can lead to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke… you get the picture. They wreak havoc on your cells and immune system.
When you make healthier choices and eat natural anti-inflammatory foods (1), you can offer relief to your cells, relax your immune system, and reduce, or eliminate, unhealthy levels of inflammation. Anti-inflammatory foods are typically found around the perimeter of a grocery store and include things such as fruits and vegetables, healthy fats from fish, nuts and olive oil, herbs, spices, and tea.
A List of Natural Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Generally speaking, a good approach to fighting inflammation with nutrition is by looking at a Mediterranean-style diet. This kind of diet promotes heart health, lowers inflammation, and can prevent a number of the health conditions rooted in chronic inflammation. Because making a total dietary/lifestyle switch all at once is usually a recipe for disaster, try making gradual changes instead by including some of the following foods.
1. Leafy Green Vegetables
Virtually any leafy green vegetable can help act as a natural anti-inflammatory. They are easy to digest and high in fiber and a number of other nutrients with antioxidant capabilities. Furthermore, they are very nutrient-dense and easy to add to virtually any meal, so you don’t need a lot of them to get some real benefits. Spinach, collard greens, kale and bok choy are all great options. Some of the featured nutrients in these vegetables are vitamins A and K, but that’s just the beginning. Leafy green vegetables are an essential part of any anti-inflammatory diet.
Beets are a versatile and tasty option that put up a real fight against chronic inflammation. Rich in antioxidants that your body uses to fight cell damage and provide cellular repair, beets and other red/purple veggies are high in betalain, which helps to maximize immunity. Beets are also a great source of magnesium and potassium; two fundamental natural anti-inflammatories.
Broccoli battles inflammation like nobody’s business, and offers substantial relief against oxidative stress (2) to maintain the integrity of your cells to fight the effects of chronic inflammation. Some of the key players in broccoli’s crusade against inflammation and chronic disease are vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and sulforaphane (3), an antioxidant that reduces inflammatory cytokines.
Sweet, versatile, and a real boost to your immune system by lowering cytokines, these antioxidant fruits provide a sweet treat in an anti-inflammatory diet. And if blueberries aren’t your thing, don’t worry about it—most other colorful berries can offer similar benefits. Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and citrus fruits have quercetin and anthocyanins to boost immunity and tame unnecessary flare-ups (4).
5. Fatty Fish
Omega-3 fatty acids, especially those found in fatty fish, have strong anti-inflammatory capabilities. The EPA and DHA in omega-3s reduce inflammation that can lead to metabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes, and heart disease, and they should definitely not be overlooked. Some of the best sources are:
- Salmon (5)
Eating two or three servings of fish per week can provide all the omega-3s you need, but if you don’t like the taste you can use fish oil supplements. If you go the supplement route, get it from a trusted manufacturer and ensure it contains 500 mg of DHA and 750 mg of EPA.
Loaded with potassium, magnesium, and heart-healthy fiber and monounsaturated fats, avocadoes can act as a useful natural anti-inflammatory. And they also have no shortage of valuable antioxidants to promote cell integrity, including tocopherol and carotenoids.
7. Green Tea
Green tea has a number of benefits for your health, and limiting inflammation is one of them. Green tea is unique because of its high concentration of the antioxidant epigallocatechin-3-gallate, which can work to inhibit inflammation by lowering the number of cytokines and strengthening the structure of cellular fatty acids (6).
Chili and sweet peppers are loaded with vitamin C and quercetin that provide anti-inflammatory effects. Whether you want to add spice, sweetness, or color to your meals, peppers can provide a real punch back against inflammation.
Some Other Powerful Natural Anti-Inflammatory Foods
- Extra virgin olive oil
Herbs are another way you can easily battle inflammation using dietary measures. Including these herbs (7) and seasonings to tea, salads, meat, pasta, or any other dish can add flavor and anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Jamaican allspice
- Apple pie spice mixture
- Pumpkin pie spice mixture
Just as there are foods that can tame inflammation, other foods can lead to flare-ups. These items, which largely make up the food found in the Standard American Diet, typically include ingredients such as:
- Sugar (that is, added sugar)
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Refined carbohydrates (found in white bread, pastries, most baked goods, donuts, etc.)
- Vegetable oil and seed oil
- Intake of alcohol beyond two drinks per day
Coming up with recipes to battle inflammation is simple if you’re eating fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats while limiting processed food and alcohol. In fact, you probably don’t really need to do too much thinking or take too much time to prepare. Here are a few easy options.
Using a bed of spinach, chopped peppers and a little garlic, chop up a salmon filet to set on top. Drizzle some olive oil on top for a healthy, anti-inflammatory meal.
With summer on the horizon, what could serve as a better morning, mid-afternoon, or evening snack as a fresh fruit salad? Blueberries, strawberries (8), kiwi, and pineapple are the perfect blend to add a refreshing anti-inflammatory treat to your day.
Spice it Up
Whether you’re adding cinnamon to your coffee, Jamaican allspice to your meat dishes, apple or pumpkin pie spice to your oatmeal, or garlic to your veggies, these spices can help you fight inflammation in only a few sprinkles.
Battle Illness by Taking Advantage of These Natural Anti-Inflammatories
Fighting inflammation is one of the most important steps you can take in protecting your health. Adopting anti-inflammatory foods (9) into your diet plays a major role in your ability to do this, so it’s definitely worth a taste.