Step away from the medicine cabinet (who are we kidding, its 2023 medicine box/drawer), it’s official: Anti-inflammatory foods are the best route to reducing inflammation in the body.
What are the benefits of anti-inflammatory foods?
An anti-inflammatory diet calms your immune system when it reacts to something it perceives as foreign, like pollen (oh hello, hay fever!). Or perhaps you notice that your finger swells or turns red when you cut it while practicing your best Masterchef knife skills, which is the body sending white blood cells to the area to prevent bacteria from entering and infection. This is acute inflammation.
While inflammation works to protect your body from these pesky invaders, it can also linger much longer, even when your health isn’t immediately threatened. This can be triggered when the body is trying to get rid of something, like toxins from alcohol or smoking. Basically, the body starts attacking its own cells which, as you can probably imagine, is not something we want.
Long-term or chronic inflammation has been linked to many major diseases, from cancer and arthritis to depression and diabetes. Also to excess fat, especially around the abdomen.
Even low-grade, it can cause damage to your arteries, nerves, and intestines.
Recent studies have shown that a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can make a difference to healthy aging. As researchers say: we can use diet not only as nourishment, but also as medicine. Preach.
What are anti-inflammatory foods?
They’re predominantly whole foods, minimally processed and containing a lot of the good stuff, your nutrients, your antioxidants, that take on the inflammation in the body (and win). Adding these to your diet involves small changes and swaps, rather than big overhauls or trimmings.
Omega-3 is associated with lower levels of inflammation, but our bodies don’t produce it, so it’s important to get it in your diet. Luckily, delicious fish like tuna, salmon and mackerel. Increase your intake with a sushi lunch or a healthy salad.
Dark green leafy vegetables and salad
Vitamin K, found in spinach, kale, broccoli, collard greens, kale, lettuce and asparagus, is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Be aware that you need to take a good dose each day as a loading day every once in a while doesn’t have the same effects.
Notoriously high in antioxidants, berries also bring their A-game up when fighting inflammation. They’re all good, but blueberries are especially high in flavonoids.
Nuh-uh, cherries are drupes, not berries on this list for their proven dose of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory polyphenols and vitamin C.
These little fruits of salad another shocker pack a serious antioxidant punch, research suggests, with high levels of vitamin C, potassium and the antioxidant lycopene.
The walnut is the champion, studies show, with the most omega-3s and also alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), both known anti-inflammatories.
Chia and flaxseed
Also high in the anti-inflammatory ALA, as well as flavonoids, but arguably low in flavor, chia and flaxseed can be a healthy addition to anything from smoothies to salads.
Think of the supplement, rather than the suggestion of serving the omelet. Mushrooms like Chaga, Cordyceps, Reishi and Lions Mane have been found to reduce inflammation in the body.
Although studies prove turmeric’s inflammatory properties, its superpowers have been praised for centuries, being featured in traditional Ayurvedic medicine.
Recent research has shown that coffee may have anti-inflammatory properties, with regular drinkers seeing increased levels of inflammatory markers when asked to stop for a month. However, others have shown signs of increased inflammation, so whether it’s related to genetics or other factors, more research is needed. Meanwhile, the juries on this one.
The reigning monarch of the widely lauded Mediterranean diet, olive oil is rich in antioxidants, particularly oleocanthal, which studies show has similar effects to ibuprofen.
Green tea is especially high in EGCG, the most potent type of catechins, an antioxidant that has been shown to be effective at cooling down inflammation.
While not squeaky clean when it comes to sustainability, avocados are punchy at calming the body’s inflammatory response due to high levels of monounsaturated fat, a healthy type of fat, and antioxidants that can potentially even correct less healthy food choices.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and watercress, contain sulforaphane (SFN), an isothiocyanate compound that protects against inflammation and oxidative stress.
And last but not least, don’t forget to stay hydrated. That’s right: good ol’ H20 keeps things running smoothly by flushing toxins out of your body.
And what to avoid?
Most inflammatory foods probably won’t surprise you, they’re the types you’ve been told to eat in moderation (or, basically, avoid): refined grains, such as white bread and pasta, refined sugar, salt, red and processed meat , such as hot dogs, deli meats and bacon, alcohol and junk snacks that contain trans fat chips, biscuits, margarine, frozen pizza and donuts. We know, shocking right.
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