It’s true the right diet can reduce inflammation. Yes, there are drugs on the market to ease your pain and allergies but they weaken your immunity and have side effects. I like to use foods to heal instead.
There are 2 major things that cause inflammation, what you eat and your stress levels. The foods that cause inflammation are trans fats, high glycemic foods (refined carbohydrates) and chemicals. These substances stimulate the inflammation response in your body.
You can reduce inflammation by eating the right food, limiting sugar, eliminating chemicals and processed foods, reducing stress and getting enough sleep and sunshine.
Luckily nature has provided us with some amazing anti-inflammatory foods that are really yummy. Besides their ability to reduce inflammation, they also supply you with loads of essential vitamins and minerals that boost your immunity. Here are my 10 favorite everyday anti-inflammatory foods and why I like them. I’ve also included a recipe for each one. I recommend including some of them in your diet every day.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is the natural response your body has to stress. When you get a cold, your body responds with inflammation in the form of a fever that fights the infection. The inflammation does its job, you heal and the inflammation goes away. The same thing happens when you cut yourself. Immune cells are called to the site through the blood stream. The blood vessels near the site become miraculously permeable and the site becomes warm and red due to the increased blood flow and you’re healed.
Inflammation is a natural part of the body’s defense against injury and disease. Problems only occur when you are chronically inflamed. Then, instead of protecting your body it causes pain, premature aging and can lead to heart disease and cancer. It may be the root cause of all degenerative disease.
Chronic inflammation can show up in many ways. It could be as simple as acne or as drastic as heart disease. Pain in your joints, acid reflux even fatigue along with osteoporosis and arthritis are all the result of chronic inflammation.
Top 10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods
1. Green Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are the best foods to lower inflammation. Their high alkalinity reduces inflammatory acids. They have large amounts of inflammation busting phytochemicals and antioxidants,
Leafy greens also help keep your gut in good health. Their high fiber content lubricates your gut and removes toxins. It keeps your the flora balanced. Poor gut health produces an inflammatory response which can cause chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, food sensitivities, chronic pain, and more.
The good news is almost all vegetables help reduce inflammation and I recommend eating a rainbow of colored vegetables. Each color provides unique nutrients.
Note: If you have inflammation in your joints, you may want to stay away from the nightshade family of plants. These include tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants which have a chemical alkaloid called solanine that may trigger inflammation in some people.
Recipe: Sautéed Kale with Mushrooms and Carrots
A delicious woodsy flavored green vegetable with only 6 ingredients.
2. Salmon and Oily Fish
Salmon, anchovies, sardines, and mackerel are full of Omega 3 fatty acids. Studies show (1) omega-3’s are one of the most effective natural anti-inflammatories.
They contain EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which are essential building blocks for the body’s anti-inflammatory agents and for turning off the body’s pro-inflammatory cytokines.
They help reduce inflammation throughout the body, and some studies have shown benefits for heart health, brain function, and diabetes. You can also get Omega 3’s from flax, chia, and hemp oil.
Recipe: Salmon with Almond Horseradish Crust
Salmon topped with an easy to make almond flour, horseradish, and dill crust.
Blueberries, raspberries, acai berries, goji berries, cranberries, and strawberries have an anti-inflammatory effect and are among the healthiest foods you can eat. They are full of the antioxidants, Vitamin C and phytonutrients needed to reduce chronic inflammation.
Berries contain a type of flavonoid antioxidant called ‘quercetin’ that stands out as an especially strong anti-inflammatory. (1) It’s found in berries, leafy greens, tomatoes, and broccoli. It’s considered one of the most abundant antioxidants in the human diet. Quercetin helps prevent free radical damage which affects inflammation and how quickly your body ages. (2)
Another antioxidant called anthocyanin found in blackberries, blueberries, cherries, and cranberries give fruits and vegetables their purple, blue or deep red hues. These beneficial plant pigments offer anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer benefits. They are especially good at reducing inflammation in your heart.
Recipe: Anti-Inflammatory Strawberry Green Smoothie
A berry green smoothie full of nutrients and delicious enough for everyone to enjoy.
4. Onions & Garlic
These common vegetables are loaded with sulfur compounds and quercitin which relieve inflammation directly and inhibit enzymes that cause joint inflammation.
Onions display anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, antihistaminic and anti-aging properties. In general onions with a sharply strong taste like red onions contain the highest amount of antioxidant compounds. They are higher in total flavonoids than white onions and yellow onions are considered to be in the middle.
Garlic has long been a folk remedy for colds and illness, and its anti-inflammatory properties are amazing! Garlic contains sulfur compounds that stimulate your immune system to fight disease. (5)
Garlic also improves heart and vascular health. Studies show eating raw or cooked garlic regularly reduces the risk of cancers.
Onions and garlic are great in soups, grain dishes, and sautéed greens. I use them in almost every dish I cook.
Recipe: Roasted Ratatouille – A traditional ratatouille with a concentrated roasted flavor and velvety texture along with a garlicky kick.
This yellow spice is most often associated with Indian food, curry and yellow mustard. It’s a very powerful anti-inflammatory that can safely reduce pain and swelling. It contains a powerful, non-toxic compound called curcumin. Studies show that turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effects are on a par with aspirin and ibuprofen yet have none of their side effects. (6)
Recipe: Cleansing Turmeric Vegetable Soup
A delicious anti-inflammatory, brothy vegetable soup.
6. Olive oil
Olive oil has a rich supply of polyphenols that protect the heart and blood vessels from inflammation.
There is a compound in the oil, called ‘oleocanthal’ that prevents the production of pro-inflammatory COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes – the same way ibuprofen works. It blocks the mediators of inflammation and inhibits the inflammatory pathways.
Paul Breslin, PhD, co-author of a 2011 study says “By inhibiting these enzymes, inflammation and the increase in pain sensitivity associated with them is dampened,” The more intense the “throaty bite” you taste in your olive oil the more oleocanthal it contains.
Recipe: Zucchini Pomodoro
A quick, easy and healthy recipe made with garden fresh tomatoes and olive oil blended into a tasty, raw tomato sauce and served with spiralized zucchini “noodles.”
7. Bone Broth
Bone broth is full of easily absorbable minerals: calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, and sulfur that support the immune system and reduces inflammation, arthritis and joint pain.
But the real magic of bone broth comes from the collagen and amino acids proline and glycine that help heal the damaged cell walls of an inflamed gut, a condition known as leaky gut. Eat it often.
Recipe: Bone Broth
A deeply mineralized stock you can use to cook vegetables or grains, make sauces and of course soup.
8. Chili Peppers
I love spicy food but I know it’s not for everyone. One reason to add a little spice to your life is chili peppers reduce inflammation
They contain a chemical called ‘capsaicin’ which is responsible for their heat as well as their health benefits. Capsaicin is a potent inhibitor of a neuropeptide associated with the inflammatory processes. The hotter the chili pepper, the more capsaicin it contains.
Capsaicin is also in many skin creams used to relieve pain and inflammation for conditions like arthritis, sore muscles and headaches.
I add a little red pepper flakes to sautéed greens and many dishes.
Recipe: Thai Style Vegetables with Spicy Coconut Sauce
This is a rich, satisfying vegan dish with many anti-inflammatory vegetables and vibrant flavors and colors. You can make it very spicy or hardly spicy at all depending on your tastes.
No list of anti-inflammatory foods is complete with ginger. For centuries ginger has been savored and revered as a culinary and medicinal gem.
Ginger’s warming effect works as a powerful cleanser that mobilizes toxins and restores balance to the body. It also cleanses the lymphatic system, your body’s sewages system. Ginger decreases inflammation and alkalizes your body.
Recipe: Ginger Tea
Ginger tea is a powerful cleansing drink that mobilizes toxins and restores balance to your body.
Raw sauerkraut or kim chi contain live bacteria which are intensely interested in cleaning up you digestive system crowding out the bad bacteria which cause inflammation. They populate your intestines with the good bacteria you need for proper digestion. Recent studies show good gut bacteria helps reduce both C-reactive protein and cytokines (which turn on the inflammatory response). Include a few tablespoons of sauerkraut with your meals each day.
Recipe: Avocado, Kale Kelp Noodle Salad
A delicious salad with only 6 ingredients, full of anti-inflammatory kale, sauerkraut, kelp noodles, avocado and lemon. Yum!