Have you ever heard the term, “you are what you eat”? This statement couldn’t be more accurate, especially when it comes to anti-inflammatory superfoods.
This article takes you through the various anti-inflammatory superfoods to start adding to your diet today!
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a natural immune response to infection, irritation, or injury. It’s your body’s way of communicating that something isn’t right—and it can help protect you against more serious illnesses and disorders.
However, when our inflammatory responses are out of whack, they can cause pain, fatigue, and even destroy tissues. This can fuel various diseases including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and even autoimmune conditions.
That’s why anti-inflammatory foods are so important: They can help calm down chronic inflammation and keep your body healthy.
Top 10 Plant-Based Anti-Inflammatory Superfoods:
By consuming these types of food regularly, you can keep your inflammation levels low and reduce your risk of inflammatory diseases like heart disease and arthritis, plus lower your risk of obesity and even certain cancers.
Here are the best anti-inflammatory foods you can consume that rapidly lower inflammation in the body:
Blueberries are the healthiest food on the planet. They are highly anti-inflammatory due to their high content of resveratrol and anthocyanins, a group of polyphenols that are powerful antioxidants.
Anthocyanins have been shown to reduce inflammation by inhibiting molecules involved in inflammatory responses.
The anti-inflammatory action of anthocyanins may also reduce symptoms associated with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic inflammatory diseases.
Also, anthocyanins are highly associated with improved visual acuity, reduced blood pressure, and reduced cancer cell proliferation. Read More.
Wild blueberries (those found growing naturally) contain higher amounts of anthocyanins than cultivated varieties.
While most fruits are considered safe on an anti-inflammatory diet, incorporating blueberries more often provides more anti-inflammatory benefits.
Broccoli is a nutrient powerhouse. It’s packed with phytochemicals and antioxidants, including vitamin C, which helps fight inflammation.
Broccoli also has significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are well known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Along with this, broccoli contains sulforaphane, a phytochemical that blocks the enzyme that can cause joint destruction and lead to inflammation. This makes broccoli beneficial in people who have arthritis.
Broccoli is high in other nutrients, including potassium, vitamin A, Vitamin K, and a decent amount of protein. In addition, broccoli is high in soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol. It also contains other vital elements like choline which helps boost cognition and memory.
Broccoli can be eaten cooked or raw. Both are perfectly healthy but provide different nutrient profiles.
Different cooking methods such as boiling, stir-frying, and steaming alter the vegetable nutrient composition, particularly reducing vitamin C. Steaming has the fewest negative effects.
Turmeric is a spice that gives curry its yellow color. It has been used for over 4000 years and is well known for reducing pain, swelling, and inflammation due to its active compound curcumin.
It contains curcumin, an active compound that gives turmeric its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.
In a 2015 study of 24 people with an existing inflammatory condition (such as rheumatoid arthritis), participants were given either 750 mg of curcumin or a placebo three times daily for eight weeks.
The group that took curcumin experienced significantly lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin 6 (IL6)—both markers of inflammation—than those in the control group.
The researchers concluded that curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory activity in patients with active RA [rheumatoid arthritis].
While curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, studies have shown that our bodies do not easily absorb it as other compounds found in turmeric.
Combining curcumin with piperine, high in black pepper, has been shown to increase this absorption. Therefore, always pair your turmeric with black pepper to experience the benefits.
Research shows that piperine can increase the absorption of curcumin by 2000 percent.
Other benefits of turmeric:
- Control blood glucose levels
- Aid digestion
- Improve heart health
- Promote skin health
- Help with depression
But due to the slow solubility of curcumin in water, its absorption is minimal. On the other hand, black pepper contains piperine, a compound that increases the absorption of curcumin. So, always combine the two.
Also, curcumin is fat-soluble. This means taking it with fatty foods like olive oil or sprinkling it on avocado will provide better absorption.
Tomatoes contain lycopene, a carotenoid nutrient that can fight inflammation.
Additionally, tomatoes are high in vitamin C, another powerful antioxidant that can fight inflammation.
Lycopene is present in high concentrations in both fresh and cooked tomatoes. The good news is that you don’t have to wolf down a tomato salad every day (in fact, too much lycopene can cause kidney stones), but you can add some diced red tomatoes to your sandwich or add some homemade tomato paste in your favorite soup recipes.
While at that, remember to sprinkle some olive oil on your tomatoes to enhance lycopene absorption since it’s a fat-soluble nutrient.
Other benefits of tomatoes:
- They may lower your risk of cancer
- May promote body detoxification
- They may lower your risk of osteoporosis
- Tomatoes can promote skin health and prevent UV damage
- They may lower your risk of cognitive impairment
- They may lower the risk of macular degeneration
- Tomatoes can promote weight loss
- Can help control blood sugar levels
- Prevents gallstones
- Improves digestive health
- Can lower the risk of high blood pressure
Grapes are rich in a variety of antioxidants, such as resveratrol and flavonoids, which are rich in anti-inflammatory properties.
In one study, consuming grape extract daily showed a decrease in inflammatory markers in individuals with heart disease.
Regular consumption of grapes may provide other major benefits, including:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing cholesterol
- Protecting against diabetes
- Maintaining brain health
- Improving bone health
- Slowing aging
- Maintaining long and healthy hair
- Maintaining healthy and youthful skin
- Relieving constipation and indigestion
- Enhancing weight loss
- Protecting the eyes
Kale is a cruciferous vegetable high in phytonutrients and vitamins A, C, and K which contain a wide variety of antioxidant properties that can help lower inflammation throughout your body.
Anti-inflammatory compounds in kale also help reduce the risk for chronic illnesses, including arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune conditions.
This vegetable is also high in calcium, so if you’re looking for ways to prevent osteoporosis as well as reduce inflammation, kale is a great choice.
Additionally, kale is a good source of manganese and magnesium, which can help lower blood pressure and improve heart health.
It’s also rich in indoles, compounds that help protect against certain types of cancer. For example, research shows that eating two servings per week of cruciferous vegetables like kale may significantly reduce your risk for lung cancer.
To add more kale to your diet, try adding it to smoothies or salads.
Other benefits of kale:
- Body detoxification
- Building strong bones
- Enhancing liver functions
- Improving brain health.
Other cruciferous vegetables with anti-inflammatory properties include:
- Swiss chard
- Garden cress
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens.
Incorporating vegetable salads into your daily diet is an essential part of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
Pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme that fights inflammation.
Bromelain activates the body’s ability to combat pain and reduce swelling, which makes it suitable for managing chronic inflammation such as sinusitis, allergies, ulcerative colitis, and osteoarthritis.
Bromelain is also effective in aiding digestion, soothing soreness in aching muscles, and boosting overall immunity.
When used topically as a gel, bromelain has also been shown to heal muscle damage quicker and reduce swelling.
In addition, pineapple is rich in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that fights inflammation and neutralizes free radicles in the body. This prevents oxidative stress, which may cause cell damage and disease.
Other benefits of eating pineapple:
- Promotes healthy eyes
- Its high vitamin B levels can lower stress levels
- May help treat colds and coughs
- May tighten up gum tissue and fight oral cancer
- May improve digestion
- Pineapples can help relieve nausea, like morning sickness in pregnant women
- It may improve skin conditions, including acne
- It prevents hair loss and enhances thick hair
- Improves fertility
- Can lower the risk of cancer
- Promotes mental health
You can add pineapple to your fruit salad, green juices, or smoothies.
Almonds contain numerous nutrients, including healthy fats and minerals. They are high in monosaturated fats, which help reduce inflammatory markers.
They are also high in vitamin E, an antioxidant that fights heart disease and protects the body against oxidative stress and cellular damage.
Almonds are also high in prebiotics, a type of fiber that feeds good gut bacteria, promoting gut health. A healthy gut will improve digestion, promote blood glucose regulation, aid weight loss, and boost immunity.
Other nutrients found in almonds are:
- Vitamin K
- B vitamins
Almonds can be eaten as a snack but do not overdo them. 8-10 almonds per day are enough to offer the needed nutrients.
Crushed almonds can be sprinkled on salads or used as a garnish for different foods. You can also add them to your smoothie for a protein boost.
Due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties, ginger acts as an overall immune booster.
It contains an active ingredient called gingerol, which gives ginger all its exceptional properties.
Ginger has been shown to offer relief from respiratory infections such as the common cold and flu.
Moreover, ginger has been shown to help relieve chronic inflammation, such as in rheumatoid arthritis.
Other health benefits of ginger:
- Aids digestion
- Controls blood sugar levels
- It’s a good remedy for migraines
- Eases muscle pain
- It helps fight Alzheimer’s disease
- Prevents colon cancer
- Reduces menstrual pain
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves cholesterol levels
- Relieves nausea
- Treats hair loss
Ginger can be used as a spice in soups and stir-fries, in hot tea, or smoothies.
Oregano is one of the best anti-inflammatory superfoods to include in your diet. It contains a number of anti-inflammatory compounds, including rosmarinic acid, carnosol, and carvacrol.
It’s also been shown to have strong antioxidant activity that slows free radical formation in the body. Like many anti-inflammatory foods, oregano helps reduce pain and swelling associated with inflammation.
Other benefits of oregano:
- It treats respiratory infections
- It’s good for digestion
- It’s a powerful anti-parasitic
- It lowers the risk of cancer
- It’s anti-allergenic
- Speeds up metabolism
- Protects against bacterial infections of the gut and skin
- Beneficial in detoxifying the body
- Promotes cardiovascular health and lowers the risk of atherosclerosis, strokes, and heart attack
If you’re looking for a more savory option, try cooking your meals with oregano or sprinkling it on salads.
Of all the anti-inflammatory foods, garlic is perhaps one of the most well-known for its ability to provide massive amounts of health benefits.
Garlic has been known for years as a powerful immune booster and natural infection fighter but can also offer anti-inflammatory benefits. It is rich in sulfur, an immune booster that triggers an anti-inflammatory response in the body.
However, raw garlic may be more beneficial than cooked one. In a 2013 study published in The Journal of Biochemistry, Chinese researchers discovered that participants who consumed raw garlic had significantly lower blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker, than those who consumed cooked garlic or no garlic at all.
Raw garlic is full of the anti-inflammatory compound Allicin. When your body senses harmful bacteria or potential threats to your health, these compounds activate inflammation as a defense mechanism.
Other benefits of garlic:
- Reduced blood pressure
- Improves cholesterol levels
- Improved brain function
- Improve digestion
- Promote skincare
- Balance blood sugars.
12. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes contain plant compounds and vitamins that contain powerful anti-inflammatory properties. They are rich in an oxidant called betacarotene, a carotenoid that the body uses to convert to Vitamin A.
Sweet potatoes also contain Vitamins B, C, and D. Sweet potato also contains choline which reduces inflammatory responses in the body.
13. Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are rich in vitamin C, which offers numerous health benefits, including fighting inflammation and protecting body cells against free radical damage.
They are also high in quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to fight inflammation in obesity and chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes.
Other benefits of bell peppers:
- Reduces bad cholesterol
- Promotes eye health
- Enhances youthful skin
- Lowers the risk of cancer
- Regulates blood pressure
- Improves anemia
- Promotes cardiovascular health
- May improve symptoms associated with peptic ulcer disease
14. Olive Oil
The power of olive oil comes from its anti-inflammatory properties. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil fight inflammation and help keep your body’s inflammatory responses in check.
These healthy fats even help lower bad cholesterol, protect against heart disease, and reduce your risk of stroke and heart attack.
The anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil can also be attributed to oleocanthal, a naturally occurring compound that acts as an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug).
Recent research shows that oleocanthal effectively reduces pain in arthritis and reduces inflammation overall.
Research has also shown that consuming just two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day reduces symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis by nearly 30 percent.
There are several ways you can incorporate more olive oil into your diet:
- Drizzle it over salad greens or cooked vegetables.
- Use it instead of butter on bread or toast.
- Toss it with pasta.
- Add it to soups and stews.
Inflammatory Foods to Avoid:
While the anti-inflammatory superfoods above can help your body fight inflammation, it’s good to know that certain foods and habits can accelerate inflammation in the body.
Unfortunately, these may include common foods most people are likely to consume daily. And until you eliminate them, any anti-inflammatory nutrient you consume will be canceled out.
Common triggers for chronic inflammation include artificial trans fats, dairy, vegetable oil, refined sugars, processed and fried foods. Read more here.
Other elements that can trigger inflammation include alcohol, poor sleep, lack of exercise, and stress.
Adopting an anti-inflammatory lifestyle and incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet can help prevent further inflammation and reverse chronic inflammation and its complications.
Acute inflammation is your body’s response to an attack, and although it’s beneficial, chronic inflammation can be quite damaging to your body and well-being.
Fortunately, with a change in diet and lifestyle, one can reverse inflammation and all its symptoms. Consuming anti-inflammatory superfoods while eliminating inflammatory foods such as processed foods can help keep your inflammatory markers low.
Also, reduce your alcohol consumption, manage your stress effectively, and get enough sleep.
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