Inflammation is a vital defense mechanism of your immune system.
It allows your body to rapidly respond to illness or injury, and in this context, it works great!
The problem is that your immune system is a little trigger-happy.
There are countless irritants in the modern environment such as food, air/water pollutants, and the stress of constant overstimulation that all conspire to put your body in a pro-inflammatory state.
This type of long-term, non-specific inflammation is damaging to your body overtime, and has been linked to inflammatory diseases like arthritis, Alzhiemer’s, diabetes, and heart disease.
But don’t worry!
Nature has provided you with a powerful shield to protect you from the dangers of the modern living: Food!
Many fruits and vegetables contain powerful compounds called phytonutrients.
These incredible chemicals are primarily responsible for the bright colors of different plants, and have demonstrated impressible anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and analgesic effects.
All plant foods contains different levels of various phytonutrients, of which there are hundreds.
This is one reason why it is so important to eat a wide variety of foods.
Certain foods are considered “pro-inflammatory”, meaning they tend to trigger inflammation in the body.
Pro-inflammatory foods probably look familiar:
Refined carbohydrates, deep-fried foods like fries, soda, red and processed meats, and margarine.
These foods should be limited when possible.
I have reviewed the current literature, and identified 7 of the most powerful anti-inflammatory foods.
These foods are packed with a variety of phytonutrients that have been shown to protect your body from inflammation.
Read on to learn more about these powerful plant-medicines!
Delicious and nutritious, berries top my list primarily because they are so readily available to most of us.
Notable phytonutrient-full berries include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and pomegranates (technically a big berry, who knew?!).
Each of these are packed with a type of phytonutrient called phenolic compounds.
The phenolics in berries have exhibited powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Recently, scientists demonstrated in rats that berries are effective in reversing the underlying pathology of the arthritis.
A raspberry extract was administered to arthritic rats, who then showed a significant reduction in joint swelling, bone-spur formation, and cartilage destruction.
There are currently no drugs available that actually treat arthritis, rather than just it’s symptoms. Very exciting!
Is there anything Avocados can’t do?
This fruit has it all: heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, vitamins, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, and it’s delicious on toast!
In this study participants who consumed avocado with their meal showed a significant reduction in key inflammatory markers.
In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, avocados contain carotenoids and tocopherols that may help reduce risk for cancer.
3: Green Leafy Vegetables
Mama always told me to eat my greens, and I think she may have been onto something!
Green leafy vegetables are extremely nutrient dense, packed with vitamins, minerals, and powerful phytonutrients such as alpha-linolenic acid, an anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acid.
Vegetables in this category include kale, spinach, collard greens, cabbage, beet greens, and romaine lettuce.
They can be eaten in salads, chopped up and added to soup, or sauteed with a little olive oil.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage are wonderfully healthy.
They have high levels of vitamins A, C, E, and K, along with potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron.
Cruciferous vegetables contain a phytonutrient called sulforaphane, which has exhibited powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
This compound helps your body produce more than a hundred protective proteins, including antioxidants and detoxifying enzymes.
These, in turn,block the effects of oxidizing free-radicals and reduce inflammation.
5: Fatty Fish
You’ve probably heard about how healthy fish-oil is.
You may have even tried these burp-inducing capsules. But are these fish oils really that good for you?
Or is it just snake-oil 2.0?
It’s time to put your skepticism to the side, because in this case, the science is there to back it up.
Fatty fish (and fish oil supplements) have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
Unlike the omega-6 fatty acids that are plentiful in the standard American diet (SAD), omega-3s breakdown into 2 beneficial acids: EPA and DHA.
These compounds are responsible for producing several anti-inflammatory and inflammation-resolving proteins.
In a 2019 study researchers administered fish oil supplements to rats, and measured both their inflammatory markers and response to pain.
Rats that received fish oils showed a significant reduction in both categories, indicating that fish oil supplements may reduce both acute pain and inflammation.
Examples of fatty fish include salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, trout, and shrimp.
Fish oil supplements also provide omega-3s, but eating the whole fish gives you the biggest nutritional boost.
6: Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil is the superstar of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet.
This oil, and the phenolic compounds within it, have been studied extensively due to their incredible antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-cancer effects.
Extra-virgin olive oil contains roughly 36 phenolics, including a truly incredible compound called oleocanthal.
Oleocanthal has been referenced as the “elixir of life”.
Dozens of studies have validated the clinical benefit of this phytonutrient.
In fact, oleocanthal’s anti-inflammatory properties are so pronounced, that scientists now refer to it as a “natural NSAID” (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug).
Experts suggest that daily ingestion of an NSAID like oleocanthal may decrease the effects of chronic inflammation, and reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
7: Dark Chocolate
I saved the tastiest for last! Decadent and delicious, dark chocolate is not just a tasty treat, but is also a phytonutrient powerhouse.
The true hero here is cocoa, a black powder derived from the cacao bean.
Dark chocolate has much higher percentages of cocoa than milk chocolate.
Cocoa contains significant levels of 3 flavonoids, catechin, epicatechin, and procyanidins that act as antioxidants and also exert anti-inflammatory effects.
These compounds interfere with the inflammation signally pathway.
Recently, scientists showed that eating cocoa promotes the growth of specific healthy gut bacteria that stick around and help maintain anti-inflammatory effects long after the cocoa has left your system.
Modern scientific inquiry is finally starting to catch up with the ancient wisdom that herbalists and medicine-men have known for generations:
Food Is Medicine.
This lists exhibits only a few of my favorite anti-inflammatory foods.
However, it is pretty easy to determine what other foods fall within this category:
Eat a rainbow!
If you want to decrease damaging inflammation in your body, and reduce your chances of developing chronic diseases like heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease, then an anti-inflammatory diet may be just what you need.
This diet includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and lean meats.
Avoid highly processed foods, red meats, refined carbohydrates, deep-fried foods, and excessive sugar.
Choosing anti-inflammatory foods is a fantastic way to improve your health.
These foods not only help your body fight off the dangerous effects of chronic inflammation, but they are also packed with beneficial vitamins and minerals that keep your body operating at maximum efficiency.
Long-story short: Eat Real Food. Thank you for reading, Be Well!