Inflammation can be both good and bad. For one thing, it helps your body defend itself against infection and injury. On the other hand, chronic inflammation can lead to weight gain and disease. Stress, inflammatory foods, and low activity levels can make this risk even greater. However, studies show that certain foods can fight inflammation.
Here are 13 anti-inflammatory foods.
Berries are small fruits that are packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Although there are dozens of varieties, some of the most common are berries:
– the strawberries
The berries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins. These compounds have anti-inflammatory effects that can reduce the risk of disease.
Your body produces natural killer cells (NK cells), which help keep your immune system working properly.
In a study in men, those who ate blueberries every day produced significantly more NK cells than those who did not. In another study, overweight adults who ate strawberries had lower levels of certain inflammatory markers associated with heart disease.
2. Oily fish
Fatty fish are a great source of protein and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Although all types of fish contain some omega-3 fatty acids, these fatty fish are among the best sources:
EPA and DHA reduce inflammation which can lead to metabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.
Your body metabolizes these fatty acids into compounds called resolvins and protectins, which have anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have shown that people who consumed salmon or EPA and DHA supplements saw a reduction in the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP.
Broccoli is extremely nutritious. It is a cruciferous vegetable, like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kale.
Research has shown that eating plenty of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and cancer.
This could be related to the anti-inflammatory effects of the antioxidants they contain. Broccoli is high in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that fights inflammation by reducing levels of cytokines and NF-kB, which cause inflammation.
Avocado is perhaps one of the few superfoods supposed to deserve this title. They’re packed with potassium, magnesium, fiber, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. They also contain carotenoids and tocopherols, which are linked to reduced risk of cancer.
Additionally, a compound found in avocados may reduce inflammation in young skin cells. In one study, when people ate a slice of avocado with a burger, they had lower levels of the inflammatory markers NF-kB and IL-6, compared to participants who ate the burger alone.
5. Green tea
You’ve probably heard that green tea is one of the healthiest beverages you can drink. It lowers your risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, and other illnesses. Many of its benefits are due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, including a substance called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). EGCG inhibits inflammation by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and fatty acid damage in your cells.
6. Peppers and chillies
Bell peppers and chilies are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants that have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Bell peppers provide the antioxidant quercetin, which may reduce a marker of oxidative damage in people with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease. Chili peppers contain sinapic acid and ferulic acid, which can reduce inflammation and promote healthy aging.
There are thousands of varieties of mushrooms in the world, but only a few are edible and grown commercially.
These include truffles, portobello mushrooms and shiitake. Mushrooms are very low in calories and high in selenium, copper and all the B vitamins. They also contain phenols and other antioxidants which provide anti-inflammatory protection. A special type of mushroom called lion’s mane can potentially reduce obesity-related low-grade inflammation (36Trusted Source).
However, one study showed that cooking mushrooms significantly reduced their anti-inflammatory compounds. It is therefore best to eat them raw or lightly cooked.
Grapes contain anthocyanins, which reduce inflammation. Additionally, they may reduce the risk of several diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and eye disorders. Grapes are also one of the best sources of resveratrol, another compound with many health benefits. In one study, people with heart disease who consumed grape extract daily saw a decrease in inflammatory genetic markers.
In addition, their adiponectin levels increased. Low levels of this hormone are associated with weight gain and an increased risk of cancer
Turmeric is a strong, earthy flavored spice that is often used in curries and other Indian dishes. It has received a lot of attention due to its content of curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient. Turmeric reduces inflammation linked to arthritis, diabetes and other diseases.
In fact, daily consumption of one gram of curcumin combined with piperine from black pepper resulted in a significant decrease in the inflammatory marker CRP in people with metabolic syndrome. However, it can be difficult to get enough curcumin for turmeric alone to have a noticeable effect. In one study, overweight women who took 2.8 grams of turmeric daily showed no improvement in inflammatory markers.
Taking supplements containing isolated curcumin is much more effective. Curcumin supplements are often combined with piperine, which can increase curcumin absorption by 2,000%.
10. Extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest fats you can eat.
It is high in monounsaturated fats and is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, which offers many health benefits.
Studies link extra virgin olive oil to a reduced risk of heart disease, brain cancer, and other serious health problems. On the Mediterranean diet, CRP and several other inflammatory markers decreased significantly in people who consumed 50ml of olive oil daily (57Trusted Source).
The effect of oleocanthal, an antioxidant found in olive oil, has been compared to that of anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.
Keep in mind that extra virgin olive oil provides greater anti-inflammatory benefits than those provided by more refined olive oils.
11. Dark chocolate and cocoa
Dark chocolate is delicious, rich and satisfying. It is also rich in antioxidants which reduce inflammation. These can reduce the risk of disease and allow you to age healthier. Flavanols are responsible for the anti-inflammatory effects of chocolate and keep the endothelial cells that line your arteries healthy.
In one study, smokers saw significant improvement in endothelial function within two hours of consuming high-flavonol chocolate. However, be sure to choose dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa, a higher percentage is even better, to reap those anti-inflammatory benefits.
Tomato is a very nutritious food. Tomato is rich in vitamin C, potassium and lycopene, an antioxidant with impressive anti-inflammatory properties. Lycopene may be particularly beneficial for reducing pro-inflammatory compounds linked to several types of cancer.
Note that cooking tomatoes in olive oil can maximize the amount of lycopene you absorb (70Trusted Source). This is because lycopene is a carotenoid, a nutrient that is best absorbed with a fat source.
Cherries are delicious and rich in antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and catechins, which fight inflammation. Although the health-promoting properties of sour cherries have been studied more than other varieties, sweet cherries also have benefits.
In one study, when people ate 280 grams of cherries daily for a month, their levels of the inflammatory marker CRP decreased and remained low for 28 days after they stopped eating cherries (75Trusted Source).
Pro-inflammatory foods to avoid
In addition to filling your diet with nutritious anti-inflammatory ingredients, it’s important to limit your intake of foods that can promote inflammation. For example, processed foods like fast meals, frozen meals, and processed meats have been linked to higher levels of inflammatory markers like CRP. Additionally, fried foods and partially hydrogenated oils contain trans fat, a type of unsaturated fatty acid that has also been linked to increased levels of inflammation (79Trusted Source.
Other foods, like sugary drinks and refined carbs, have also been shown to promote inflammation.
Here are some examples of foods that have been linked to increased levels of inflammation:
– Junk food: fast food, ready meals, crisps, pretzels
– Refined carbohydrates: white bread, pasta, white rice, flour tortillas, cookies
– Fried foods: fries, donuts, fried chicken, spring rolls
– Sweet drinks: soda, sweet tea, energy drinks, sports drinks
– Processed meats: bacon, beef jerky, canned meat, salami, smoked meat
– Trans fats: partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, margarine
Do your best to keep inflammation under control by choosing a wide variety of delicious, antioxidant-rich foods. Bell peppers, dark chocolate, fish, and extra virgin olive oil are just a few of the foods that can help you fight inflammation and lower your risk of disease.
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