- Inflammation plays a critical part in our health
- Chronic inflammation leads to disease
- Stress, a sedentary lifestyle, and poor nutrition contribute to inflammation
- Many foods are full of antioxidants that naturally fight inflammation and support healthy body systems
Inflammation is crucial – we would be in big trouble without it. It’s a line of defense against injuries and infection. It comes charging to the rescue and signals the activation of the immune system when an invader, such as pollen, chemicals, or germs, enters the body.
Chronic inflammation, conversely, can cause disease. Add in stress, a sedentary lifestyle, and a diet full of inflammatory foods, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Stress isn’t always avoidable, but you do have power over what you put in your body, and your diet dramatically impacts your health. Eating anti-inflammatory foods provides many benefits, including counteracting any existing inflammatory risk factors.
This article explores why anti-inflammatory diets are so helpful, what fats have to do with them, and an extensive list of the most anti-inflammatory foods.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods and Healthy Fats
Chronic inflammation is linked to cancer, arthritis, diabetes, depression, and more. It can be challenging to control because it occurs naturally as a way for our body to protect itself. So many foods, drinks, and general life circumstances trigger it, making it seem even more difficult to control.
The truth is, though, that there are many things we can do to control it, including eating healthy fats and foods that naturally fight inflammation. The variety and diversity of anti-inflammatory foods can come as a surprise for many people. What surprises people even more, though, is that eating healthy fatty foods is a wonderfully effective way to battle inflammation.
Highly saturated fats and refined oils trigger inflammation, eventually leading to disease. Trans fats found in junk food, margarine, and vegetable shortening are some of the worst culprits. Even saturated fats, like those in fatty red meat and unskinned poultry, are risk factors for harmful inflammation.
There’s even a (highly appropriate) name for the type of diet that includes unhealthy foods: The CRAP Diet. CRAP stands for Chemicals, Refined sugar, Artificial sweeteners, and Processed foods – all the foods that should largely be avoided when you’re trying to eat for your health.
The best diet to fight inflammation includes plenty of healthy fats that fight against inflammation, such as avocado, raw nuts, olives, flaxseed, walnuts, and cold-water fish, such as salmon, sardines, and anchovies.
Combine these healthy monounsaturated and omega-3 fats with a selection of anti-inflammatory foods to create a diet with inflammation-fighting superpowers.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods Grocery List
Many foods common in the average American diet fight inflammation naturally. Diets full of these foods have a better chance of keeping unhealthy inflammation at bay. The Mediterranean diet is typically recommended because it consists mainly of fatty fish and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Some of the most anti-inflammatory foods include:
These small, pulpy fruits with seeds are typically edible and packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. There are dozens of varieties, including:
- Acai berries
- Currants – black, red, and white
Berries have anthocyanins, antioxidants that fight infection, inflammation, and other diseases.
Thought to be poisonous a mere 200 years ago, these glossy red fruits with a pulpy, seeded middle are now quite popular worldwide. They are nutrient-rich superfoods that benefit almost every body system. They contribute to healthy skin, heart health, and weight loss.
Tomatoes contain vitamin C and other antioxidants that protect against certain diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure. The powerful carotenoids lutein and lycopene help tomatoes protect the eyes from light damage.
Bell peppers, jalapeños, serranos, and other peppers contain lots of vitamin C, B6, potassium, K1, and folate. Bell peppers can be picked in various colors, such as red, yellow, and green, before they’re fully ripe to vary flavor and visual effect.
Peppers are rich in the antioxidants carotenoid, capsanthin, violaxanthin, lutein, and quercetin, making them perfect for fighting against cancer, diabetes, eye disease, and heart disease.
There are thousands of species of mushrooms around the world, but only a few are edible. Portobello, shiitake, and truffles are the most popular. They are teeming with copper, selenium, and all the B vitamins. Add to that all the phenols and antioxidants, and they make powerful anti-inflammatory salad fixings since they lose some of their power when cooked.
Green tea contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), making it one of the healthiest beverages available. EGCG restricts inflammation by decreasing pro-inflammatory cytokine production and damaging fatty acids in the cells.
Green tea is proven to reduce cancer risks, obesity, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases due to its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Broccoli has a lot going on for it nutritionally. Broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are cruciferous vegetables. Diets with a lot of cruciferous vegetables can lower the risks of heart disease and cancer.
Broccoli has high levels of sulforaphane, an antioxidant that lowers inflammation by reducing levels of the molecules that drive inflammation: cytokines and nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB).
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is one of the most nutritious and healthy foods available. It’s chock full of monounsaturated fats such as oleocanthal, the positive effects of which are comparable to Ibuprofen. It effectively fights inflammation associated with heart disease, brain cancer, and other conditions.
Eating these foods raw is the best way to get their most inflammation-fighting benefits. A more organic, less processed diet can affect your mental, physical, and emotional health, in addition to lowering inflammation.
Fighting inflammation means more than improving your diet, however. Proper physical and mental exercise also plays a key role. Holistic approaches such as massage therapy, energy therapies, and organic supplements can also help.
Controlling inflammation takes some work, but your health is worth it.
The Fight Against Inflammation Starts with Education
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to be tested for food allergies. A nutritionist, allergist, or other clinician can work with you to determine which foods you’re sensitive to that cause increased inflammation and discover which healthy anti-inflammatory foods are safe to include in your diet. This is especially critical for those who tend to be highly sensitive to certain foods.
Controlling inflammation is challenging, but the consequences of inflammation can be deadly. Dr. Karen Threlkel, is a naturopathic doctor serving women (and women’s health concerns) primarily in the greater D.C. area. She provides a holistic approach to medicine (mind-body-spirit) and natural-focused remedies for treating symptoms and underlying conditions. Contact our offices today to see everything we can do for you.