When chronic inflammation appears, watch out: your health might be heading toward a steep cliff. Chronic inflammation sets in when the body is continually faced with an “injury,” and there is no interval for healing and repair to take place. Diet-induced inflammation, caused by overwhelming the body with too many toxic, acid-forming foods, has become widespread in our modern culture.
The foods you eat every day play a big role in whether or not you become prone to chronic inflammation. Foods to reduce inflammation—body-defending nutritional powerhouses—can help protect against a number of chronic illnesses such as arthritis, sinus problems, fatigue, weight gain, heart disease, kidney stones, ulcers, or cancer. (1)
A number of harmful foods have been identified as inflammation “triggers” and should be avoided. Fortunately, current research also indicates that eating a diet containing certain anti-inflammatory foods and nutrients may reduce the risk for inflammation-related diseases. (2)
What Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
While there isn’t one specific anti-inflammatory diet, studies suggest that people with a high intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, and fish may have a lowered risk for diseases linked to chronic inflammation. Certain substances within these anti-inflammatory foods (such as antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids) have also been shown to be effective for reducing inflammation.
16 Amazing Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Here’s a list of sixteen of the best anti-inflammatory foods you can add to your diet:
- Green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, Swiss chard and collard greens are rich in healing antioxidants and inflammation-fighting flavonoids.
- Animal-based omega-3 fats, including wild Alaskan salmon and krill oil. A 2012 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology found that inflammation was reduced effectively by dietary supplementation of krill oil. (3)
- Bok Choy, also known as Chinese cabbage, is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins and minerals, containing over 70 antioxidant phenolic substances.
- Celery possesses both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities that help improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as prevent heart disease.
- Beets repair cell damage caused by inflammation with their high antioxidant content, as well as providing high levels of inflammation-fighting potassium and magnesium.
- Broccoli is high in both potassium and magnesium, and its antioxidants are particularly potent anti-inflammatory substances.
- Blueberries rate very high in antioxidant capacity. Fresh blueberries also contain quercetin, a flavonoid that fights inflammation and even cancer.
- Pineapple supplies the digestive enzyme bromelain, which is known to help regulate the immune response that often creates unnecessary inflammation. It is also a rich source of antioxidants, potassium, manganese, and powerful phytonutrients.
- Matcha tea is a nutrient-rich green tea from Japan that has as much as 17 times the anti-inflammatory antioxidants of wild blueberries.
- Bone broths contain minerals in forms that your body can easily absorb, along with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates forreducing inflammation.
- Coconut oil pairs up well with spices such as turmeric to create strong anti-inflammatory compounds. It’s also heat-stable, and great for sautéing anti-inflammatory vegetables.
- Chia seeds are an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory superstar, containing beneficial essential fatty acids along with a host of vitamins and minerals. Their ability to reduce inflammation, normalize cholesterol and lower blood pressure make them valuable for heart health. (4)
- Traditionally fermented vegetables and other cultured foods can ward off chronic inflammation, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola. He recommends pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, kimchi, natto, and kefir and yogurt made from raw milk.
- Shiitake mushrooms contain the anti-inflammatory compound ergothioneine, along with other unique nutrients like copper.
- Flaxseeds (ground) are an excellent plant-based source of inflammation-fighting omega-3s, phytonutrients and antioxidants. Lignans in flaxseeds provide antioxidant benefits for anti-aging, hormone balance, cellular health and healthy gut microflora.
- Four anti-inflammatory herbs and spices—cloves, ginger, rosemary and turmeric—have been found to be significantly effective at reducing the inflammatory response, even when they were consumed in dosage amounts of only 1 teaspoon per day. (5)
What NOT to Eat
What you don’t eat can also have a significant impact on your risk of chronic inflammation. In other words, you can still be at risk of inflammation if you continue eating highly processed foods loaded with damaging ingredients. The good anti-inflammatory foods might help offset the bad foods a little, but eating them doesn’t cancel out the harmful effects of foods that increase inflammation.
There are two major categories of foods that are associated with chronic inflammation. These two food categories to avoid are:
- Foods high in omega-6 fatty acids
- Foods with a high glycemic index
Foods high in omega-6 fatty acids include:
- Grain-fed beef, poultry, or farmed fish
- Dairy products (such as milk, cheese, butter, and ice cream)
- Vegetable oils (including corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, peanut, canola and cottonseed oil)
To increase your intake of desirable omega-3 fatty acids, add walnuts, flaxseed, wild-caught salmon, and sardines. Replace inflammation-causing vegetable oils with coconut oil or olive oil.
High-glycemic index foods include:
- Sugar (including sugary drinks)
- Refined grains
- Refined carbohydrates and processed foods
Studies show that a high intake of high-glycemic index foods like sugar and refined grains can increase inflammation. (6)
Results of Eating an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Because inflammation is a contributor to just about every chronic disease, following an anti-inflammatory diet can curb chronic inflammation and help prevent or relieve the following conditions:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- heart disease
- inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease)
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- stroke. (7)
Once you begin eating foods that can help reduce chronic inflammation, your body will get the nutrients it needs to start healing itself. After following an anti-inflammatory diet for a while, you will likely notice some positive health changes.
Improvements in Bone and Joint Health
If chronic inflammation has left you with painful joints, an anti-inflammatory diet could improve your joint health and lessen your pain. According to the Arthritis Foundation, “certain foods have been shown to fight inflammation, strengthen bones and boost the immune system.” They also report: “Adding these foods to your balanced diet may help ease the symptoms of your arthritis.” (8)
While you might not expect to lose weight on a diet that emphasizes consuming healthy fats and oils, one long-term study concluded that weight loss was the result of eating anti-inflammatory foods. A five-year study, published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, found that people who followed an anti-inflammatory Mediterranean diet lost more weight than those who went on a low-fat plan. (9)
Mood- and Brain-Boosting Benefits
According to research published in BMC Medicine, the Mediterranean diet could actually improve your mood. During a 12-week study, scientists monitored a group of people who suffered from depression. After following the anti-inflammatory diet for 12 weeks, most of the patients reported major improvements in their symptoms. (10)
A long-term study measured the effects of a higher intake of berries on cognitive aging in a group of elderly women. Researchers conducting this study, published in Annals of Neurology, found that the women who ate increased amounts of blueberries and strawberries reduced their rate of cognitive decline by as much as two and a half years. This result was attributed to the high flavonoid content of these two berries. (11)
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
The biggest and best benefit of an anti-inflammatory diet may be its effect on the cardiovascular system. According to the Mayo Clinic, an anti-inflammatory diet lowers your risk of heart disease by reducing your levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, aka the “bad” kind of cholesterol that can build up deposits in your arteries. (12)
Sticking with an anti-inflammatory diet may also help reduce levels of certain inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP). High levels of C-reactive protein have been linked to an increased likelihood of heart attack or stroke. Levels of CRP tend to run higher in people with type 2 diabetes, but an anti-inflammatory diet reduced CRP levels in type 2 diabetes patients, according to a study published in Endocrine in 2016. (13)
A Final Reminder: Stay Hydrated!
When you’re eating foods to reduce inflammation, body “troublemakers” can still be a factor because of the toxins that are so prevalent in our environment. Be sure to drink plenty of water to keep your cells hydrated and functioning properly. Because you are always going to be exposed to things like pesticides, heavy metals, air pollution, and mold, you need plenty of water to flush out these toxins and prevent inflammation.
It’s a wonderful feeling when you wake up one day feeling pain-free and energetic, and knowing that your smart food choices have given you a happier, more productive life. If you have any questions, or any ideas for including more of the 16 powerful anti-inflammatory foods into your daily meal plans, please let us know in the comments section.
Sources for this article include:
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.