10 Foods to Fight Inflammation
Inflammation is one of the more insidious and chronic diseases in our life. As opposed to something that causes a health emergency like an infection or an injury, inflammation is a slow, chronic disease.
Inflammation in the body can cause everything from joint pain to cancer, and also puts you at higher risk of developing metabolic disorders, diabetes type 2, cardiovacular disease, Alzheimer’s and a host of other major issues. You want to reduce your inflammation as much as possible to reduce your risk of developing these painful and sometimes deadly diseases.
The good news is that there are a lot of foods out there that can help you reduce inflammation by including them in your diet. The best part? They’re all natural and they also taste great. Here are some of my favorites.
Turmeric is all the rage right now as far as reducing inflammation - I have many friends who drink turmeric tea, take turmeric pills, and even just eat spoonfuls of it. I prefer mine in a curry, but to each their own. More than likely turmeric works by inhibiting the pathways that lead to inflammation, preventing the body from creating inflammation.
The research on the health benefits of turmeric is very promising! Turmeric has strong anti oxidant and strong anti inflammatory properties and can help with reducing the diseases associated with inflammation including diabetes, cancer, obesity, atherosclerosis and insulin resistance.
Ginger is, similar to turmeric, a tropical root (more accurately named a rhizome) that has many similar health properties to turmeric in dealing with inflammation.
Raw ginger, ginger oil and ginger isolates were found to reduce the creation of granulomas (inflammatory tissue) as well as reduce joint pain . Ginger was also found to suppress the pathways by which inflammation occurs, making it a powerful anti inflammatory agent.
3. Wild-Caught Salmon
We all have heard about taking fish-oil pills to reduce inflammation because of the high levels of omega 3 fatty acids.
Well, wild-caught salmon is just the naturally occurring food form of all that omega 3 fatty acid goodness. Salmon naturally live in the ocean, eating lots of omega 3 containing foods and storing it in their bodies.
You have to get wild-caught of course - farm-raised is much more similar to a grain fed piece of meat with higher levels of omega 6 fatty acids, and that will actually increase your inflammation as opposed to decreasing it.
We enjoy salmon a ton - from broiled to steamed to salmon cakes, and it is all delicious. The only thing I have to warn you about is the fact that it is fishy - which sounds silly, I know, but is a major objection of people who want to eat healthy but can’t eat fish. Don’t worry, there are other sources of healthy fatty acids coming up that are from non-fish sources. For those of you who love fish, then have at it.
4. Bone broth
If you haven’t had bone broth, you’re in for a treat. Bone broth is exactly what it sounds like, which may sound a bit weird but I assure you that it is the best broth you will have ever tasted - deep and rich flavor with a wonderfully silky smooth mouthfeel.
Bone broth is excellent for combating inflammation - especially in the gut - because of a molecule it contains called glycine - an amino acid that is very important for fighting inflammation, especially muscle aches and pains after exercise or injury.
Most people don’t get enough glycine in the diet because it comes from bones, cartilage, tendons and other parts of the body that we don’t usually eat. Since we usually eat muscle meats - chicken breasts, steaks, tenderloins and so on - our diets are severely lacking glycine and are unable to recover easily from inflammation.
5. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is of course the darling of pretty much every diet out there - vegetarian, vegan, paleo, primal and keto to name a few - and there’s a reason why. Being a sort of miracle food, coconut contains a particular fat called lauric acid that is very anti-inflammatory.
In particular, coconut oil has been known to help with arthritis to reduce pain, swelling and loosen up the muscles to allow blood flow to the areas of inflammation.
Although lauric acid isn’t an omega 3 fatty acid, it is a healthy fat called a medium chain triglyceride which is anti inflammatory like the fats found in salmon and fish.
Avocados are kind of a magical fruit - a living fossil from when wooly mammoths and giant horses roamed North America, and are one of the last remaining plants of it’s kind. In addition, it is a delicious food that lends itself equally well to savory and sweet, and is just visually stunning.
Interestingly enough it isn’t necessarily one of the foods that I advocate as far as its fats (the linoleic acid that constitutes most of its fat makeup isn’t a good fat in and of itself), but it does in practice contain a lot of anti inflammatory properties that aren’t as of yet well understood.
For instance, there’s a study that shows that eating an avocado with a hamburger actually decreases the level of inflammation compared to just eating the hamburger sans avocado (in addition to making the hamburger more gloriously delicious of course!)
In addition, avocado does lower the “bad” cholesterol in the blood (LDL) in the blood and lower the risk of heart disease in overweight and obese individuals.
Magical, right? One day we may crack the mystical properties of the avocado. In the meantime, it’s an excuse to keep eating guacamole and slicing avocado onto your burger.
7. Olive oil
Olive oil contains a particular substances called oleocanthol which actually acts as sort of mild-form of ibuprofen, reducing pain and inflammation. In addition, it may also downregulate the pathways that cause pain and inflammation, acting more like acetaminophen (Tylenol) in that respect. As if that weren’t enough, another compound in olive oil called oleic acid also may reduce inflammation in the body as well.
It’s important however, to ensure that you’re getting actual extra virgin olive oil given the 2008 scandal in which it was discovered 70% of all olive oils were actually fake! The olive oils were being mixed with inflammatory seed oils like canola, creating an inferior product. Italian police arrested 23 people for creating fraudulent olive oil - isn’t that crazy? But it also means most likely the olive oil you’re using isn’t extra virgin or even olive oil!
I’ve heard good things about the Kirkland brand of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but we also like using Olio Santo - a California extra virgin olive oil (famous for being the “good olive oil” per Ina Garten).
Berries are chock-full of many antioxidant compounds that help to reduce inflammation in the body. In particular, the polyphenols and anthocyanins are powerful compounds that are anti-inflammatory - these are also interestingly enough, the compounds responsible for the red, blue and purple coloration of berries.
In this study, strawberries were found to reduce inflammation in obese adults with osteoarthritis causing knee pain, while in another study extracts from goji berries, cranberries and blueberries were able to reduce the amount of inflammatory products.
9. Dark chocolate
Similar to berries, chocolate surprisingly contains a lot of polyphenols (it is a fermented berry to be fair) that have a lot of positive effects on the body.
One particularly interesting effect is that chocolate causes the body to produce a substance called nitric oxide, a naturally occurring substance that causes the blood vessels to relax and prevents heart disease as well as reducing oxidative stress and reducing inflammation.
In addition, chocolate may also improve the gut flora by encouraging the good bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in the gut, which further helps to reduce inflammation in the gut and nervous system.
Cinnamon has long been known to have good health properties including antifungal activity as well as regulating blood sugar. However more recently its anti inflammatory properties have come to light.
In this study cinnamon was found to have a very powerful effect on inhibiting the markers of inflammation and tissue remodeling, while in another study cinnamon was found to improve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and markers in women.