Ah, inflammation. We know you too well. Or, at least, we knew you! If you’re someone who crosses paths with inflammation often, you know better than anyone the discomfort and interruption to your daily life.
And, as the Internet will have you believe, there are many tips and tricks for decreasing inflammation and feeling better quickly. In some cases over-the-counter medications can be useful, sometimes it’s stretching, or lifestyle or some type of restorative meditation practice.
And in many cases, foods with anti-inflammatory properties may be just what you’re looking for.
What Are the Main Causes of Inflammation?
Inflammation, by and large, is a protective process. Your body swells to cushion or protect a joint or area that may have been injured or chronically irritated. Despite the good intentions of this biological white knight, the chemicals it releases into the blood and tissues come with some painful consequences, like swelling and joint sensitivity.1 Sometimes, inflammation is a result of one of several factors:2
- External injuries
Other times, it is a result of poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle. Don’t get it twisted, there is nothing wrong with a bit of relaxation and the occasional cronut — if you haven’t tried one, you should — but when your body responds in unkind ways, add these yummy foods to your grocery store list:
A strong category for anti-inflammatory compounds is fruit, specifically berries, grapes, tomatoes, avocados, and cherries.3 Strawberries, blueberries, and grapes contain a healthy dose of anthocyanins, an antioxidant, and tomatoes contain lycopene. Avocados are the genuine article, with strong evidence suggesting a reduction of inflammatory markers when included in a regular diet. Finally, cherries combine the antioxidants catechins and anthocyanins to create a sweet and tart inflammation warrior.
2. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish are a rich source of EPA and DHA, omega-3 fatty acids known to reduce inflammation. Salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel are all excellent options.
Broccoli, mushrooms, and peppers provide significant anti-inflammatory properties. Sulforaphane, the antioxidant found in broccoli, reduces cytokines and MF-kB, common attributes of inflammation. Mushrooms contain phenols and antioxidants, helping to reduce inflammation, and peppers, chili and bell, are loaded with beneficial ferulic and sinapic acids.
4. Spices & Oils
Extra virgin olive oil has shown the capability of decreasing the inflammatory marker CRP and others in recent studies.4 It is also believed the oleocanthal, an antioxidant present in the oil, carries significant benefits similar to anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen.5
Turmeric, a spice with strong ties to Indian cuisine and curries, contains curcumin, an anti-inflammatory nutrient. While turmeric alone might not offer enough curcumin to reduce inflammation significantly, it can help when combined with other foods on this list.
Whenever you can point to a dessert that is beneficial to your health, it’s a win. Dark chocolates, but specifically bars containing at least 70% cocoa, contain significant anti-inflammatory properties. The main reason for the benefits is the antioxidants promote health in endothelial cells.
Inflammatory Foods To Avoid
If you suffer from acute or chronic inflammation and are concerned your diet plays a role, you'll want to avoid trigger foods. Some of the unfavorable foods and ingredients you can consume when it comes to inflammation include:6
- Processed meats
- Refined carbohydrates
- Vegetable and seed oils
- Trans fats
- Saturated fats
- Refined sugar and artificial sweeteners
- Artificial preservatives and additives
We can all agree inflammation can be a drag to deal with. Luckily, there are delicious solutions to the problem so keep your head up high! The next time you're out shopping, consider these five inflammation-fighting food groups and begin implementing them into your diet. Your body will be happy and your stomach will thank you.