Has your gut health felt a little bit out of whack? Are you interested in preventing chronic disease and feeling better overall? A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods may be just what you need!Jump to Recipe
How Does Food Cause Inflammation?
Inflammation isn’t always bad. In fact, it’s our body’s response to repairing itself. Every time you stub your toe, get the flu or cut your finger, you experience the healing effects of acute inflammation, as the white blood cells rush to heal the infection.
But if your body is in a constant state of chronic inflammation, it could mean that there may be some underlying issues, like too many toxins or fatty tissue. Too much inflammation can then lead to conditions like heart disease or stroke.
The good news is that we already have the tools you need to reduce inflammation and improve our health! By improving our diets, we can alter the bacteria that live in our gut. If we improve our gut bacteria, we can trigger our immune system to reduce the causes of chronic inflammation.
*Of course, if you’re experiencing prolonged or intense inflammation, talk to a doctor and/or dietitian.
What Are the Benefits of Anti-Inflammatory Foods?
When combined with exercise and good sleep, an anti-inflammatory diet can help maintain a healthy weight. But there are so many other health benefits of eating these high-quality foods that go way beyond numbers on a scale.
With a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, you can lower the risk of other health problems. These include heart disease, IBD (irritable bowel disorder), arthritis, obesity, and psoriasis. It may also prove to boost your immune system.
An Anti-Inflammatory Food List
What are some of the best foods to eat that will decrease inflammation? Here are a few great options:
- Leafy greens: (spinach, kale, and collards): These are excellent vitamin B and fiber sources.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, which fights inflammation.
- Olive oil: It’s full of beneficial antioxidants- look for extra virgin olive oil for an extra boost!
- Nuts (especially walnuts and almonds): Nuts can reduce inflammation markers like CR-P (C-reactive protein).
- Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines): These have high amounts of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have anti-inflammatory effects.
- Fruits (strawberries, cherries, blueberries, oranges): Berries especially provide antioxidants called anthocyanins (source of the red, blue, and purple color). These may reduce inflammation and your risk of heart disease and boost immunity.
- Whole grains: These are a good source of fiber and antioxidants.
- Avocados: They’re packed with potassium, magnesium, fiber, and monounsaturated fats that are good for your heart.
- Green tea: This beverage has high EGCG content.
- Bell peppers: Peppers are high in flavanols, healthy acids, and other antioxidants with anti-inflammatory effects.
- Mushrooms: Eaten raw or slightly cooked, mushrooms have polysaccharides, fatty acids, and vitamins, all of which reduce inflammation.
- Turmeric: Turmeric contains a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin. Eaten with black pepper, it can significantly increase the absorption of this compound.
- Dark chocolate and (at least 70%) Cocoa: Flavanols in dark chocolate are excellent for reducing inflammation.
- Chia seeds and flax seeds: Chia seeds are an excellent source of anti–inflammatory ALA, and flax seeds have omega-3 fatty acids and lignans. Both have plenty of fiber, too!
What Are Some Foods That Cause Inflammation?
When you’re on an anti-inflammatory diet, reducing or eliminating these foods might benefit your overall health:
- Sugar and high fructose corn syrup: Not only do these sugars cause inflammation, but high-sugar diets have been linked to all kinds of chronic disease. These include obesity, diabetes, fatty liver disease, cancer, and chronic kidney disease.
- Artificial Trans Fats: These kinds of fats will lower good cholesterol. Trans fats are also linked to higher inflammatory markers in the body, such as C-reactive protein, so eat them sparingly.
- Refined carbohydrates: The refinery process removes most fiber and nutrients that help feed beneficial gut bacteria. Researchers also suggest that refined carbs may encourage the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria. These can increase your risk of obesity and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease).
- Excessive alcohol: Heavy alcohol consumption may increase inflammation and lead to what some call a “leaky gut.” This drives inflammation throughout your body.
- Deep-fried foods: Fried foods cause inflammatory-inducing AGEs within the body.
- Processed meat: Processed meat is also high in inflammatory compounds like AGEs.
- Red meat: These can have many saturated fats, which can cause inflammation if the recommended daily serving is exceeded.
A Recipe for Anti-Inflammation
Overall, lifestyle and dietary changes are the most effective remedy when it comes to reducing inflammation. But sometimes, the key to sticking with it is finding recipes that keep the food tasty and interesting! Here’s one of our favorite recipes filled with anti-inflammatory foods that will keep you full.
- 1 cup baby kale
- 1/2 small beet chopped
- 1/2 cup cup water or 100% juice
- 1/2 orange peeled
- 1 cup frozen berries
- 1 cup mango
- 1 tsp fresh ginger grated
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- Place baby kale, beet, juice (or water), and orange into a blender and pulse until smooth.
- Add the remaining ingredients and blend again until smooth.
The Bottom Line With Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Our culture has trained us to look for a set list of foods to eat and avoid. Sometimes the idea of a meal plan can provide a sense of structure and comfort. But the truth is that it’s so much simpler. To fight inflammation, eat more plant-based foods with lots of colors, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Incorporating more of these every day will prove to be the most effective and sustainable way to reduce inflammation. You’ll feel better and reap the most health benefits.