The Ultimate Anti-Inflammatory Foods List
Is an anti-inflammatory diet the answer to chronic health ailments? Researchers have found that natural anti-inflammatory foods are a critical part of a healthy diet.
March is National Nutrition Month, so it’s the perfect time to consider the healthfulness of what we are putting into our bodies and onto our families’ plates. One of the major dietary concerns is the specter of chronic inflammation. Regular inflammation is part of the immune system’s natural response, mobilizing the body’s resources to fight injury or infection. But when inflammation becomes chronic and persists over a long period of time, it can increase the risk of long-term illness. Diet is one piece of the complex puzzle that we can easily control — making the right nutritional choices can help us minimize inflammation and, with it, the risk of disease.
Why Choose an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
Chronic inflammation has various potential causes, including long-term stress or illness, environmental toxins, lack of exercise, genetic predisposition — as well as too many processed foods or an otherwise poor diet. In fact, some foods are theorized to exacerbate inflammation in the body, like beef, fast food and foods that spike blood sugar, like refined flour or sugary drinks. Meanwhile, recent studies have shown that dieting and fasting may prompt an anti-inflammatory response.
Those who do not eat enough anti-inflammatory foods may be at risk for a number of chronic and long-term ailments, such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and many cancers and autoimmune diseases. Luckily, simple dietary changes that include anti-inflammation foods can help prevent these conditions and boost overall wellness.
20 Best Foods for Fighting Inflammation
Incorporate more of these delicious, natural anti-inflammatory foods into your diet to promote healthy habits in yourself and your family:
1. Whole grains: Eat these to gain more fiber, which has been associated with fewer signs of inflammation. They also have a lower glycemic index, for those watching blood sugar levels.
2. Berries and tart cherries: Fruit in general is high in antioxidants, and berries in particular have anti-inflammatory properties because they contain healthy polyphenols and anthocyanins.
3. Olive oil: This plant-based fat is great for a heart-healthy diet and contains healthy oleic acid. It’s also delicious and fits in well with the Mediterranean diet.
4. Cruciferous vegetables: Vegetables in the cabbage family contain numerous nutrients, including antioxidants, which protect the body from the free radicals which can prompt inflammation.
5. Fatty fish: Cold-water fish like salmon and sardines contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have significant anti-inflammatory properties if eaten a few times a week. Those who don’t like fish may want to consider fish oil supplements instead.
6. Tomatoes: Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that may reduce inflammation in the lungs and elsewhere in the body.
7. Peppers: These, too, contain antioxidants: in this case, vitamin C. They also contain capsaicin, a chemical which reduces inflammation. Those with rheumatoid arthritis may want to be careful, though, with peppers, tomatoes and other members of the nightshade family.
8. Leafy greens: Spinach, kale and other dark leafy greens contain an abundance of healthy compounds including vitamin E, calcium, iron, and phytochemicals that help reduce inflammation.
9. Apples: Apples, like most other fruits, contain healthy phytonutrients that help protect against age-related diseases.
10. Nuts: Walnuts contain omega-3s, almonds and macadamias contain oleic acid, and nearly all nuts contain antioxidants — key ingredients in helping the body fight inflammation. Many nuts and their oils are also considered healthy fats.
11. Garlic and onions: Besides being delicious, garlic and onions contain anti-inflammatory chemicals like the antioxidant quercetin, which naturally inhibits histamine.
12. Soy and soybeans: Soy-based foods contain a high amount of vegetable-based protein, as well as isoflavones, which may help reduce inflammation in women. Avoid highly processed soy that may contain additives, and go for tofu, soymilk, and edamame.
13. Ginger and turmeric: These two spices often found in Indian food have anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric contains curcumin, a particularly potent anti-inflammatory compound. If these flavors don’t appeal to you, try supplements.
14. Carrots: Carrots are rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene, which helps reduce free radicals in the body.
15. Low-fat dairy: Dairy can prompt inflammation in certain sensitive people, but high-quality and low-fat dairy products like good cheese and yogurt are an excellent source of protein, probiotics, and calcium.
16. Beets: Beets are one of those colorful vegetables with ample fiber, vitamin C, and phytonutrients. If you hate canned beets, make sure you give fresh beets a try — they are completely different.
17. Orange winter squash: Like carrots, orange winter squashes like the sweet butternut squash contain plenty of the antioxidant beta carotene.
18. Beans: Particularly important for those who eat little or no animal protein, beans contain lots of vegetable protein as well as fiber.
19: Sweet Potatoes: Another healthy carbohydrate, sweet potatoes also contain fiber, antioxidants, and the phytonutrient beta carotene.
20: Tea: White, green, and oolong tea in particular contain phytonutrients and flavonoids which help reduce inflammation.
For those at risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s — and for those of us who want to age as well as possible — a healthy diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help ward off illnesses related to chronic inflammation. Even if you aren’t worried about inflammation, a diet that contains enough anti-inflammatory nutrients will also generally be heart healthy and delicious. What more can we ask for as we get older?
Have you or a loved one followed a diet that is specifically focused on reducing inflammation? Has it been successful in improving your health? Let us know in the comments below.
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