Despite having seemingly little in common, Crohn’s disease, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and asthma all share one common trait: they may be caused or worsened by inflammation.
And while inflammation can sometimes be good – like when it’s helping your body fight an infection, for example – chronic inflammation can lead to long-term health problems, including the ones I just mentioned. In fact, research has shown that inflammation is at the root of most diseases.
A sedentary lifestyle, stress, and environmental factors can all contribute to inflammation, but one of the worst offenders is a poor diet. Luckily, certain foods are naturally anti-inflammatory, and eating them can help reduce previous damage.
So what foods should you add to your shopping list? Check ‘em out!
Top 6 Anti-Inflammatory Foods
1. Green leafy veggies
There’s a reason these powerful foods are on nearly every healthy eating list. Leafy greens are packed with antioxidants that can help restore health at the cellular level, an array of vitamins, and powerful anti-inflammatory flavonoids. One cup of spinach, for example, is loaded with double your daily recommended dose of vitamin K, which helps protect cells against oxidative stress.
The beauty of leafy greens is that there are so many! There are the usual suspects, like spinach and kale, but less common greens, like Swiss chard, arugula, collard greens, and mustard greens are just as healthy and delicious. You’re bound to find one you like!
Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight inflammation, and it’s prominent in blueberries. In fact, blueberries are full of antioxidants. One study found that the bright little fruit not only beat out blackberries and strawberries for having the most antioxidants, but it also had more types of antioxidants, thus providing a wide range of anti-inflammatory protection each time you eat a handful. (1)
Combine both #1 and #2 by whipping up this Blueberry & Kale Smoothie for breakfast or midday snack.
Pineapples are full of bromelain, a digestive enzyme that helps regulate your body’s immune response, so that it doesn’t react with unnecessary inflammation. Bromelain also contributes to heart health by fighting blood clots and keeping blood platelets from building up along walls of blood vessels, which are known to cause heart attacks and stroke. The tropical fruit is also chock-full of minerals and vitamins, including vitamin C, manganese, and potassium plus a variety of antioxidants.
4. Wild-caught salmon
Salmon is another food that always makes my “best of” lists. Wild-caught salmon is a terrific source of omega-3, a type of healthy fat that benefits heart, skin, and brain health. Omega-3s are loaded with anti-inflammatory substances and can provide consistent relief for inflammation and even reduce the need for anti-inflammatory meds. (2) And because they reduce inflammation, omega-3s are known to help reduce chronic diseases like arthritis and heart disease.
It’s important to know that wild-caught salmon differs widely from farmed salmon, however. In fact, I recommend avoiding farmed fish altogether.
5. Chia seeds and flaxseeds
These little seeds really pack a punch. Not only are they loaded with vitamins and minerals, but they’re also a healthy source of essential fatty acids like omega-3s – a helpful alternative source if you don’t eat meat.
Chia seeds help reverse inflammation, regulate cholesterol levels, and lower blood pressure, making them excellent for your heart. They’re also high in linoleic acid, a fatty acid that helps the body better absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
And flaxseeds’ benefits are just as impressive. They’re full of polyphenols, which help keep probiotics (good bacteria) growing in the gut while eliminating yeast in the body. Flaxseeds are also a good source of lignans – the antioxidants that are known for promoting cellular health and their anti-aging properties.
Turmeric isn’t exactly a food, but it may just become your new go-to spice. The bright orange spice has been used for thousands of years, and current research shows that the health benefits of turmeric can actually rival medications.
Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, is a strong anti-inflammatory agent. It’s been found to be more effective than aspirin and ibuprofen at reducing inflammation without the health risks the over-the-counter meds carry. (3) It’s also effective at slowing and preventing blood clots, and turmeric is even being researched as a way to combat Alzheimer’s disease.
Hope you learned a thing or two about the benefits of these anti-inflammatory foods and what a powerful punch they provide, whether you’re dealing with an inflammatory condition or not. Now go ahead and start incorporating more of these foods into your diet on a regular basis.