Inflammation can hit anytime for numerous causes. If you didn’t already know, inflammation is your body’s way of fighting back against serious dangers that might occur (1). Our body grows the fever so it can destroy potential “enemies” and we can heal. Anyways, inflammation shouldn’t get out of control, like in say, rheumatoid arthritis, which can actually bring damage to your body. Moreover, inflammation is thought to bring negative effects on obesity (2), heart disease (3) or cancer (4).
There are certain foods that can even incite inflammation, such as those high in sugar and saturated fat (5). Why do we feel joint pain and fatigue just after we ate a lot of sugar of foods rich in fat? It’s because these compounds cause our immune system to become overactive (6) and thus produce these effects. Still, if there are foods that can increase inflammation, that doesn’t mean there aren’t foods that can lower it. This is actually, what we are going to discuss here.
Table of Contents
Anti-inflammatory Foods List
We’ll discuss and analyze the best 15 foods that lower inflammation.
Tomatoes are nightshade veggies that can help reduce inflammation in certain circumstances and for certain people (7). What makes tomatoes so special? Well, they contain a compound called lycopene (8) which is known for its capabilities to reduce lung inflammation (9). You can get even more lycopene out of tomatoes by cooking them. This way, even tomato sauce works. A 2013 study showed that tomato juice is beneficial in reducing systemic inflammation (10).
Summary: Lycopene, a compound found in tomatoes, helps reduce inflammation. Cooking tomatoes helps increase lycopene. Add fresh tomatoes to your salad, consume whole grain spaghetti with tomato sauce, or make your own tomato bisque soup to reap the benefits.
2. Nuts (almonds and walnuts)
Another source of inflammation-fighting foods is nuts. As shown by Harvard Medical School, nuts have been associated with reduced markers of inflammation and lower risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes (11). Almonds, Hazelnuts, and Pecans are rich in vitamin E (12); and walnuts contain a high amount of alpha-linolenic acid (13), which is a very important and beneficial omega-3 fatty acid (14). Vitamin E and alpha-linolenic acid are known for their properties of fighting inflammation and helping repair the damage caused by inflammation (15, 16).
Summary: Nuts help reduce inflammation and lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts are great choices. Walnuts are especially high in alpha-linolenic acid, which is an omega-3 fatty acid. All nuts are high in vitamin E, which helps repair damage and fight inflammation. Snack on a handful of nuts, toss into salads or soups, or even make your own trail mix.
Avocado is quite a “star” amongst people passionate about healthy eating. Apart from the fact that it’s a really tasty and versatile fruit that you can eat in numerous ways, it is also very healthy and can help fight splitting headaches (17). Moreover, it’s a very important anti-inflammatory food. Furthermore, avocado contains almost 75% of healthy, unsaturated fats (18). A recent study showed that overweight and obese adults who ate a meal containing at least half an avocado a day would improve their markers of heart health and inflammation compared to those who ate a meal with the same amount of calories, but a lot of low-fats and high in carbs (19).
Summary: Avocados are rich in anti-inflammatory properties, fiber, and healthy fats. Consuming them has been shown to improve heart health, reduce inflammation, and sustain a healthy weight. Avocado goes well in salads, used as a spread on toast, or eaten plain with salt and pepper. 1/4 of an avocado is the perfect serving size.
Coffee is also a product which we consume daily and a little part of our daily routine, actually. Well, it’s good to know that coffee contains a micronutrient called chlorogenic acid (20). This compound fights “inflammation in the gut by inhibiting oxidation and inflammatory markers in intestinal cells” (21). All these health benefits of coffee are present if you drink about 3 cups a day (22). Also, to keep your coffee as healthy as possible, avoid sugar or artificial sweetener and go for non-diary milk like almond or coconut.
Summary: Coffee contains chlorogenic acid, which is a compound that fights inflammation by reducing oxidation and inflammatory markers in the gut. Drink up to 3 cups of coffee per day, preferably without artificial sweeteners or heavy creams.
Let’s first name a few mushrooms so you get what we’re talking about: button, shiitake, portobello. All of these mushrooms contain a compound called polysaccharide (23), which is proven to have very important anti-inflammatory properties (24). Moreover, mushrooms are rich in beta-glucans, a special kind of glucose that is also good at reducing inflammation (25).
Summary: Mushrooms, such as button, shiitake, or portobello mushrooms, contain polysaccharide. This compound has proven to be anti-inflammatory. Mushrooms also have beta-glucans that help with reducing inflammation as well. Mushrooms are tasty and perfect for stir-fry, salads, pasta, soups, or even sautéed with olive oil and other vegetables.
Turmeric is well-known for its bright orange flesh and “cute” shape. It is a very healthy spice due to its curcumin content, an active ingredient very effective at reducing inflammation (26). Unfortunately, not most of us know how to properly make turmeric part of our daily diet. Some ideas are:
- Add it to lattes or broth
- Use it as a dried spice to add to your homemade veggie chili
- Add it in your pre-workout smoothie.
It will do wonders!
Summary: Turmeric contains an important active ingredient called curcumin, which is highly effective at reducing inflammation. It can be easily added to smoothies, lattes, vegetable dishes, potatoes, eggs, lentil dishes, or even chili.
6. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds contain a unique and beneficial type of omega-6 fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid, which is known for having anti-inflammatory effects (27). So, for your next oatmeal, don’t forget to sprinkle a generous amount of hemp seeds. You can also add them to smoothies.
Summary: Hemp seeds contain an omega-6 fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid, which reduces inflammation. Sprinkle hemp seeds onto oatmeal and breakfast cereal, or mix in with smoothies and pancakes.
Blueberries contain a considerable amount of vitamin C (28). Vitamin C is probably the most-known antioxidant that fights to protect your cells from free radical damage (29) and can also keep colds away during the winter seasons and do some other great things for your immune system (30). What is more, blueberries are very good when it comes to fighting inflammation. One study shows that consuming around ¼ cup of blueberry juice along with the necessary medication can help improve your inflammatory markers and ease any symptoms associated with inflammation (31)
Summary: Blueberries are very high in vitamin C, one of the best antioxidants out there. Antioxidants protect cells from free radical damage, boost immunity, and fight inflammation. Eating a bowl of berries as a snack or even as a dessert option is perfect for your health.
Apart from fighting away demons in movies, garlic is also a very healthy ingredient which you should incorporate into your diet as often as possible. “Garlic contains prebiotics, a type of fiber that fuels the good bacteria in your digestive system. Prebiotics could help lower your risk of colon cancer and support a healthy immune system,” says Christy Brissette, MS, RD, of 80 Twenty Nutrition in Chicago. Moreover, garlic helps fight against inflammatory diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (32) or even ulcerative colitis (33). One study showed that you should eat raw crushed garlic to enhance the functioning of your immune system (34).
Summary: Garlic is a highly nutritious ingredient that contains prebiotic fiber, fueling the good bacteria in the digestive system. It also helps to lower risk of colon cancer and support a healthy immune system. Garlic has also shown to help with inflammatory diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome or ulcerative colitis. Garlic can be added to just about any dish and contains the most nutrients when eaten fresh.
9. Dark chocolate
This might sound like a beautiful, delicious surprise to your ears. What’s not to love when it comes to chocolate? Well, you should also find that dark chocolate can fight back your stress-induced inflammatory response (35) So, yes, eating chocolate two hours before a really stressful situation or client meeting, can really work wonders. Have you tried it yet?
Summary: Dark chocolate, especially 70% dark cacao or chocolate, contains anti-inflammatory properties. This tasty treat can work wonders on relaxation and reducing stress, too.
10. Whole grains
Giving up white bread, cereal, rice and pasta and replacing that with whole grains can really keep the perilous inflammations at bay. The cause of this is the big amount of fiber that whole grains contain, which are good in fighting against high levels of C-reactive protein (36), the marker of inflammation in the blood. Nevertheless, to make sure you’re consuming the right, healthy kind of whole grains, you should look for the ones that contain a higher fiber content.
Summary: Whole grains contain a lot of fiber that help to reduce C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker in the blood. Oats, barley, brown or wild rice, couscous, rye, and whole grain bread are a few to name. Swap white bread and pastas for whole grain varieties often.
Soy is rich in isoflavones (37)- a compound that is turned into estrogen-like chemicals by our bodies and which helps lowering inflammation levels and CRP in women (38). It is also believed that soy isoflavones could also reduce the negative effects that inflammation has on bone and heart health (39, 40). A similar study was conducted on mice and the results were positive. Nevertheless, you should avoid heavily-processed soy, because the usual additives and preservatives in it could mess with soy’s overall benefits.
Summary: Soy is high in isoflavones which helps reduce C-reactive protein (CRP) and lower inflammation. Soy beans, tofu, soy milk or yogurt, tempeh, and roasted soy beans are great to add to your daily diet to help combat inflammation.
Beets and beetroot juice are really brilliant antioxidant foods (41). They can not only reduce inflammation but also protect you against various forms of cancer (42) or heart diseases (43), due to their incredible composition of fiber, folate and powerful plant pigments called betalains (44).
Summary: Beets are rich in fiber, folate, and powerful plant pigments called betalains. This high antioxidant food helps combat inflammation, cancer, and heart disease. Beets are very tasty and easy to enjoy when roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper in the oven.
13. Olive oil
Oleocanthal, the source of olive oil’s characteristic aftertaste is believed to have a similar effect to ibuprofen, which means fighting inflammation (45). Moreover, olive oil contains alpha-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E which is believed to lead to better lung functioning (46).
Summary: Olive oil contains oleocanthal and alpha-tocopherol, which helps combat inflammation and improve lung health. Use olive oil with vinegar as a dressing for salads, mix with herbs and spices for a tasty bread dip, or use it to lightly sauté or roast your favorite vegetables.
14. Tart cherries
Tart cherries are thought of as “the highest anti-inflammatory kind of food”. This is half a popular belief and half-proved through various studies. There have been several pieces of research on the subject showing that tart cherry juice powder can reduce the inflammation in rats’ blood by up to 50% (47). For us humans, tart cherries are known as very good post-workout food which helps athletes recover faster and also suffer less post-exertion muscle pain (48).
Specialists believe that 1.5 cups of tart cherries a day or 1 to 1.5 cups of tart cherry juice a day can bring a lot of anti-inflammatory benefits. Nevertheless, the cherries have to be tart; the over-the-top sweet ones don’t count as having the same wonderful benefits.
Summary: Tart cherries are very nutritious and beneficial for overall health. It helps to reduce inflammation, improve post-workout recovery, and even improve sleep. Mix tart cherries into your favorite smoothie or drink some tart cherry juice to fight inflammation.
15. Fatty Fish
And now, we arrive at fish, the fatty kind of fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines which contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, known for their inflammatory-reducing properties (49). The bottom line is, you should actually eat fish several times a week, as studies show that people who consume a considerable quantity of omega-3s each day cut their risk of heart diseases by 23 percent. Great, isn’t it?
Summary: High intake of omega-3 fatty acids helps to reduce inflammation. Salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines are great choices. Fish can be easily roasted in the oven and tossed into pasta, on taco shells, or paired with roasted vegetables and wild rice. Flavor with lemon, dill, garlic, basil, oregano, or rosemary.
Inflammation should not be messed with. Even low levels of chronic inflammation can lead to serious diseases. So, you should make it your mission to eat clean, eat healthily and keep your inflammation levels in check. The best choices are antioxidant-rich foods and the good news is they’re all delicious. From dark chocolate to fish or extra virgin olive oil, you have a rich variety of healthy foods to choose from. Now, you should let your imagination free and find new ways of combining these foods in a seriously healthy diet.
What’s your take on these 15 Foods that lower inflammation from above? Which ones will you include in your diet more often from now on? Let us know!