Inflammation is a vital component of your body’s immune response. Think of it as your body’s way of telling you that it’s doing its job fighting off intruders, which is a great thing! Now, acute or short-term inflammation is GOOD. But when the inflammation lasts for a long time, it becomes known as chronic inflammation, which is BAD as it can lead to a lot of health problems. While there are modern drugs that can treat inflammation, we’ll focus on the diet side of things. Today, we’ll talk about the top 15 anti-inflammatory foods that can help manage chronic inflammation symptoms.
But first, what are the health risks associated with chronic inflammation?
Chronic inflammation – which can go on for years – can pose a serious threat to your health. It drastically increases the risk for many diseases (1, 2), such as:
|Type 2 diabetes||Hypertension||Arthritis and joint disease|
|Cardiovascular disease||Chronic kidney disease||Depression|
|Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)||Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)||Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)|
So, what exactly is behind chronic inflammation?
Well, apparently, there are several factors (1, 2):
- A diet rich in pro-inflammatory foods like refined carbs, deep-fried food, sugar-sweetened beverages, soda, red meat, processed meat, artificial trans-fat, and vegetable oils.
- Lack of physical activity
- Tobacco smoking
- Sleep disorders
- Exposure to environmental and industrial pollutants
Why is eating anti-inflammatory foods a must for those with chronic inflammation?
As the name suggests, anti-inflammatory foods are healthy, nutritious foods that reduce inflammation levels in the body. They usually come in the form of whole foods, NOT processed foods. Whole foods are minimally processed, single-ingredient foods that do not contain a ton of sugar, additives, and preservatives. They typically go straight from farm to table, still bursting with freshness, flavor, and nutrients!
Anti-inflammatory medications like corticosteroids do help, but when taken long term, they can have a lot of undesirable side effects (3). This is why switching to an anti-inflammation diet (like the Mediterranean diet for example) is highly recommended for anyone suffering from chronic inflammation. By giving your body the right fuel, it can repair the damage done by prolonged inflammation. It’s a healthy, long-term solution!
What are examples of anti-inflammatory foods to include in your diet?
Here’s an infographic summarizing the different foods that help fight inflammation. Feel free to print this out and bring this anti-inflammation food list the next time you go on a grocery run!
The sky’s the limit when it comes to eating fruits on an anti-inflammation diet. Eat a variety of fresh fruits like apples, bananas, berries, melons, oranges, mangoes, pears, peaches, etc. every day! A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases and healthy weight (4).
Green, leafy vegetables
A diet rich in green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, chard, arugula, lettuce, microgreens, mustard greens, collard greens, cabbage, and Swiss chard is associated with a decline in C-reactive protein levels (CRP is an inflammatory marker) as well as an increase in plasma beta-carotene (5). Researchers say this type of anti-inflammatory food will help lower the risk of various chronic diseases, including eye diseases that involve inflammation, such as age-related macular degeneration, dry eye, and glaucoma (6).
Weight loss in obese and overweight subjects has been linked to a decrease in pro-inflammatory markers (7). Now, one way to lose weight is by increasing the intake of veggies. But not all veggies are created equal. For instance, high-fiber, low glycemic load veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts can help with weight loss, while starchy veggies like corn, peas, and potatoes may do the opposite (8).
Whole grains are grains that are minimally processed. They have all 3 grain parts intact – the bran (outer layer), the germ (embryo), and the endosperm (the germ’s food supply). Compared to refined grains, whole grains provide more protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals (9). Examples of whole grains include whole wheat, whole oats, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, and brown rice.
Healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and fatty fish help improve insulin sensitivity, lower inflammation levels, and reduce fat storage in the body. These healthy oils also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (10).
Just like fruits and vegetables, legumes like green peas, lentils, peanuts, chickpeas, soybean, mung beans, lima beans, and sweet pea are also nutrient-rich. They contain lectins and peptides that have anti-inflammatory properties. While lectin is said to interfere with mineral absorption, the benefits far outweigh any risk (plus, soaking and cooking legumes can inactivate them). Legumes and other lectin-containing foods lower the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes (11).
Nuts like almonds, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, magnesium and other dietary minerals, and antioxidants. Frequent nut consumption is linked to lower inflammation levels in the body as well as improved lipid profiles, lower blood pressure, and decreased insulin resistance (12).
Chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are a few examples of anti-inflammatory foods in this category. Seeds are extremely nutritious as they contain all the nutrients and materials needed to develop into plants. A diet rich in nuts and seeds may reduce the risk of disease and prolong life expectancy (13).
Red meat is rich in nutrients but eating too much of it can lead to inflammation and oxidative stress, thereby causing various health issues (14). White meat, or more specifically, poultry meat like chicken and turkey are better on an anti-inflammatory diet. According to a study published in the Nutrients journal, white meat consumption may even help reduce the risk of gastric cancer (15).
Seafood like fish and shellfish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (especially fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel), as well as a long list of vitamins and minerals. Some fish species are low in fat but still extremely rich in nutrients (16). According to the Arthritis Foundation, eating a 3 to 6 ounce serving of fatty fish at least 2-4 times a week can lower inflammation and protect the heart (17).
Eggs are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. After all, if left to hatch, it will develop into a living animal! Eggs are an excellent source of protein, iron, vitamins A, B2, and B12, choline, zinc, and calcium (18). According to a recently published systematic review, eggs have both pro and anti-inflammatory action. Amongst healthy populations, it has a pro-inflammatory effect (which is good since acute inflammation is an important immune response!). However, amongst obese and overweight individuals, the anti-inflammatory effects were more pronounced (19).
Dairy products are rich in calcium and are known for their bone-building properties. Examples include milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, and cream. A 2019 systematic review of randomized clinical trials showed that dairy product consumption had significant anti-inflammatory effects amongst healthy individuals and those suffering from metabolic syndrome (20).
Herbs and spices
According to Britannica, there are more than 70 herbs and spices. These not only add flavor to our favorite dishes, but most also have health benefits ranging from anti-inflammatory to antioxidant and antimicrobial effects. According to a systematic review published in the Genes and Nutrition journal, the following herbs and spices were found to exhibit anti-inflammatory effects (21):
Curcumin (a compound found in Turmeric) is an especially potent anti-inflammatory spice. However, the only problem with consuming turmeric is that curcumin only comprises a mere 3% when measured against the weight of turmeric (22). So, if you want to experience curcumin’s health benefits, it’s best to take it in supplement form, specifically in Meriva Curcumin form. We offer two soy-free varieties: Meriva Curcumin 500mg and 250mg.
Dark chocolate may not be everyone’s favorite type of chocolate, but when it comes to health benefits, it’s far healthier than its “lighter” cousins. Any chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa is considered “dark”. It’s chock-full of antioxidants such as bioflavonoids, resveratrol, and PQQ that help reduce inflammation and lowers your risk of heart disease (23, 24).
Long before bone broth started making its rounds in the wellness industry, people have been drinking warm bone broth to relieve fever and colds for centuries. Depending on the type of bone used and the veggies added, this popular folk remedy is a great source of collagen, amino acids, and minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus (25). But so far, early studies point to the amino acids glycine and arginine to be behind bone broth’s potential anti-inflammatory effect (26, 27).
Here’s a table summary of these 15 anti-inflammatory foods:
|Type of food||Examples|
|Fruits||apples, bananas, berries, melons, oranges, mangoes, pears, peaches|
|Green leafy vegetables||spinach, kale, chard, arugula, lettuce, microgreens, mustard greens, collard greens, cabbage, Swiss chard|
|Non-leafy vegetables||cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts|
|Whole grains||whole wheat, whole oats, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, brown rice|
|Healthy fats||olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, fatty fish|
|Legumes||green peas, lentil, peanuts, chickpeas, soybean, mung beans, lima beans, sweet pea|
|Nuts||almonds, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts|
|Seeds||chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds|
|Poultry||chicken, turkey, duck, geese, pheasant|
|Seafood||freshwater fish, saltwater fish, shellfish, octopus, shrimps, crabs|
|Eggs||omega-3 enriched eggs, pastured eggs, organic eggs|
|Dairy||milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, cream|
|Herbs and spices||curcumin, sage, mint, tarragon, basil, parsley, ginger, rosemary, chili pepper, oregano, thyme|
|Dark chocolate||should be at least 70% cocoa|
|Bone broth||made from animal bones like chicken, beef, pork, and even fish bones|
What are the benefits of eating anti-inflammatory foods?
All the non-inflammatory foods listed above are healthy and delicious. But if your taste buds have been finely tuned to appreciate only the deep fried, artificially sweetened, and high calorie variety, then you may have a hard time adjusting to the natural flavors of whole foods! Hopefully, the benefits below will help convince you to make the switch to a diet that will fight inflammation.
Unlike all the empty calories you get in many processed junk foods, eating a bunch of fruits and veggies daily helps promote a healthy weight (4, 8). This will then lead to a reduction in pro-inflammatory markers since weight loss is also a critical factor in reducing inflammation (29)!
Improves insulin sensitivity
With the infusion of healthy fats into your diet, you also get to experience an improvement in insulin sensitivity. This bodes well for your health since insulin sensitivity helps improve blood sugar levels, which then reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes, PCOS, metabolic syndrome, and more (10, 30).
Decreased risk for various diseases
Throughout this article, we’ve cited plenty of studies that support the claim that eating anti-inflammatory foods will help reduce your risk for various chronic inflammation-related diseases (4-30).
Better mood and energy
Eating healthy not only lowers chronic inflammation but you also get to experience a mental boost! Research suggests that there is a positive correlation between happiness and a healthy diet comprised primarily of fruits and veggies (eat at least 3 portions per day for max happiness) (31)!
Ready to switch to an anti-inflammatory diet?
Eating nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods such as the ones we shared in our anti-inflammatory food list above can do wonders for your health. You not only get to keep your chronic inflammation in check and lower your risk of all the harm it can bring, but it also contributes to a fit and happy you!
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