Anti-inflammatory foods are getting a lot of buzz recently and with good reason; science reveals that one of the best ways to deal with inflammation is through diet rather than medication.  Selecting the right foods can have a powerful and positive effect on your health while eating foods that inflame can vastly accelerate the inflammatory disease process. 

The foods you’d do well to avoid will come as no surprise; they’re the same ones you’ve heard about for years now – those that are high in sugar and saturated fat. Avoid: refined carbohydrates (white bread and pastries), fried foods, soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages, red meat and especially processed meat (e.g., hot dogs, sausage). Meanwhile, here are some foods that contain powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

Anti-inflammatory Champions:

tomatoTomatoes.  Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which has been shown to reduce inflammation in the lungs and throughout the body (note: cooked tomatoes actually contain more lycopene than when eaten raw).  

Beets: Rich in antioxidants, beets (and beetroot juice) have been shown to greatly reduce inflammation as well as to protect against cancer and heart disease, thanks to their high fiber, vitamin C and plant pigments called betalains.

Almonds + Walnuts. Almonds are rich in fiber, calcium, and vitamin E while walnuts contain high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fat.  Most nuts are packed with antioxidants which help your body fight off illness and repair the damage caused by inflammation.

Berries.  All fruits can help fight inflammation because they’re low in fat and calories while being rich in antioxidants; however, berries in particular have anti-inflammatory properties — perhaps due to anthocyanins, the powerful chemicals that gives them their rich color.

raspberries

Olive oil. This healthy plant-based fat has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect.  Extra virgin olive oil contains the compound oleocanthal (responsible for giving olive oil its taste) which has been shown to have a similar effect as painkillers in the body for the treatment of arthritis.

Green Leafy Vegetables. spinach, kale and collards.  Vitamin E may play a key role in protecting the body from inflammatory molecules called cytokines—and one of the best sources of this vitamin is dark green veggies.

salmon

Fatty fish.  Oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation. To get the benefits, however, you need to eat fish several times a week, and it should be cooked in healthy ways.

Turmeric and Ginger. Turmeric has been shown to have exceptional health benefits (check this out).  For one, it helps the body by turning off NF-kappa B, a protein that regulates the immune system and triggers the process of inflammation, according to researchers. Ginger, meanwhile, has been shown to reduce inflammation in the intestines when taken as a supplement.

As Dr. Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health points out, “To reduce levels of inflammation, aim for an overall healthy diet. If you’re looking for an eating plan that closely follows the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating, consider the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and healthy oils.” Dr. Hu concludes by pointing out that eating these foods as part of a healthy diet not only reduces the risk of chronic diseases; it also has been shown to improve mood and overall quality of life.

Sources & Related Links:

“Foods That Fight Inflammation” article in Harvard Medical School website.

“14 Foods That Fight Inflammation” article in Health.com