With the number of health issues that are triggered by inflammation, people are starting to take steps to maintain a diet that includes foods that fight inflammation. Inflammation is your body’s natural defense response and is a healthy response, but for those of us who suffer from medical conditions where our symptoms are triggered by inflammation, we benefit from a diet that suppresses it. An anti-inflammatory diet is also beneficial for athletes who suffer from joint pain or are looking to speed up recovery time. For those of you suffering from skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis, studies have shown improvements in healing time by following an anti-inflammatory diet. Interested in learning which foods that fight inflammation are the best? Read on to learn about my personal favorites that I have seen the best results with!
Avocados are one of my favorite foods that fight inflammation and for a good reason! Not only does this tasty fruit contain Vitamins K, C, B, and E, but it is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. The combination of phytosterols, carotenoid antioxidants, and Omega-3’s present in Avocados make them an anti-inflammatory super food. Just avoid snacking on guacamole and chips as the refined carbohydrates in the chips will spike an inflammatory response in your body, thereby negating the health benefits of the avocado in the guacamole.
2. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish, or rather fish high in omega- 3 fats, are a great protein source that also aids in reducing inflammation. Stick to fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, or sardines as they are the richest in omega-3's. Not only will the increase of omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, it will also help to keep your heart, brain, and skin functioning in top health. Can’t stomach the taste of fish? Try a fish oil supplement instead!
Walnuts are one of the best sources of alpha-linolenic acid, which has been shown to reduce inflammation and help heal cell damage. When ingested, alpha-linolenic acid is converted to omega-3 fatty acids. Notice a trend yet? A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids is key point in reducing inflammation through proper food selection. Be mindful of proper serving sizes though. Healthy fats are great in moderation but can wreak havoc on your waistline if you are not careful. A small handful as a snack or sprinkled on a salad is plenty to get the great anti-inflammatory benefits of walnuts.
Just like walnuts, almonds provide a great supply of healthy fats that work to lower inflammation and repair cell damage. I love the versatility of food choices that comes with almonds as well. I don’t consume dairy so I will use Almond milk in smoothies or coffee. If I am just looking for a snack I will have some almond butter and fruit or just reach for a handful of raw almonds before running out the door. I prefer almonds in place of walnuts for butters and milks as the almonds are a bit milder in flavor.
Turmeric has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. Most notably, it is used in yurvedic and Chinese medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric that is responsible for lowering the levels of enzymes in the body that cause inflammation. Curcumin also acts as a powerful antioxidant. To get the health benefits, try adding some turmeric to your morning smoothies, to soups, or as a spice rub to meats.
Turmeric is actually in the same plant family as ginger so it is not surprising that it provides many of the same health benefits. Like turmeric, ginger contains nutritional properties that help lower inflammation in the body. It is especially effective at reducing inflammation that occurs in the intestines. My preferred way of reaping ginger’s benefits are by adding it fresh to my morning smoothies or by drinking a cup of ginger tea.
While garlic might not leave you with the freshest breath, it will leave you feeling great! Studies have shown garlic to reduce free radical damage and to fight inflammation much in the same way that over the counter anti-inflammatory pain medications work. Garlic holds the most beneficial properties when it is fresh so try it in a homemade olive oil salad dressing. If stir-frying with it, toss it in towards the end so as not to overcook it.
8. Tart Cherries
Fruit in general is great for you as it is a wonderful source of antioxidants and vitamins. However, in following an anti-inflammatory style diet, tart cherries are my fruit of choice. Tart cherries contain anthocyanin – a property witch is believed to help lower pain levels, reduce inflammation, and speed up recovery time. Eat them fresh and in season if you have the chance, otherwise you can find them either frozen or in juice form in most stores.
9. Dark Leafy Greens
Kale, spinach, collard greens, broccoli...the list can go on and on. Looking back at my younger self I wish I had listened to those who told me to eat my greens. Fortunately as I grew older and wiser I came to love a wide variety greens, and my body much happier and healthier for it. Dark leafy greens are one of the best sources for natural vitamin E, K, and B. They are also a good source of magnesium which helps with muscle function and repair. More importantly, they contain anti-inflammatory properties such as the plant based steroid called phytoecdysteroids.
10. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
There is a reason the people of the Mediterranean region live long, healthy lives and many credit their use of olive oil as main factor. When looking at the nutritional values of olive oil, it is not hard to see why it is a pantry staple for so many. Olive oil is a great source of heart healthy fats that produce an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. It also contains a compound called oleocanthal which works in a similar fashion as NSAID painkillers in the body. When choosing an oil, opt for extra virgin olive oil as it contains the highest concentration of beneficial elements.
11. Green Tea
I am a huge green tea fan because it is such a multi-tasker when it comes to health benefits. It provides antioxidants, hydration, a healthy dose of caffeine, and also certain phytochemicals that help fight inflammation. To see the anti-inflammation benefits you would have dink 3-4 cups per day. This is easy for me to achieve as I drink tea like a camel, but for those of you who don’t a supplement can make up the difference.
While including these items in your diet is a great start at following an anti-inflammatory eating plan, the best results will come when you cut out inflammation triggers as well. Common food tigers included: refined sugars, refined carbohydrate, dairy, and plants of the nightshade family. For those of you who already follow an anti-inflammatory diet, which of these foods do you see the best results with? For those of you who are looking to start following an anti-inflammatory diet, which of these foods are you willing to include in your daily meals?