Inflammation can be both good and bad. On one hand, it helps your body defend itself from infection and injury. On the other hand, chronic inflammation can lead to weight gain and disease. Stress, inflammatory foods, and low activity levels can make this risk even greater. However, studies demonstrate that some foods can fight inflammation.
Here are the best and most accessible at the supermarket:
Berries are small fruits that are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Although dozens of varieties exist, some of the most common include:
Berries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins. These compounds have anti-inflammatory effects that may reduce your risk of disease.
Your body produces natural killer cells (NK cells), which help keep your immune system functioning properly. In one study, men who consumed blueberries every day produced significantly more NK cells than men who did not.
Berries provide antioxidants known as anthocyanins. These compounds may reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Fatty fish are a great source of protein and the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
Although all types of fish contain some omega-3 fatty acids, these fatty fish are among the best sources:
EPA and DHA reduce inflammation that can lead to metabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease. Your body metabolizes these fatty acids into compounds called resolvins and protectins, which have anti-inflammatory effects.
In clinical studies, people consuming salmon or EPA and DHA supplements experienced reductions in the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP).
However, in another study, people with an irregular heartbeat who took EPA and DHA daily experienced no difference in inflammatory markers, compared with those who received a placebo.
It's a cruciferous vegetable, along with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale. Research has shown that eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer.
This may be related to the anti-inflammatory effects of the antioxidants they contain. Broccoli is rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that fights inflammation by reducing your levels of cytokines and NF-kB, which drive inflammation.
They also contain carotenoids and tocopherols, which are linked to reduced cancer risk. In addition, one compound in avocados may reduce inflammation in young skin cells.
In one study, when people consumed a slice of avocado with a hamburger, they had lower levels of the inflammatory markers NF-kB and IL-6 than participants who ate the hamburger alone.
Bell peppers and chili peppers are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants that have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Bell peppers provide the antioxidant quercetin, which may reduce one marker of oxidative damage in people with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease.
Chili peppers contain sinapic acid and ferulic acid, which may reduce inflammation and lead to healthier aging. Chili peppers and bell peppers are rich in quercetin, sinapic acid, ferulic acid, and other antioxidants with strong anti-inflammatory effects.
Turmeric is a spice with a strong, earthy flavor that's often used in curries and other Indian dishes. It has received a lot of attention for its content of curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient.
Turmeric reduces inflammation related to arthritis, diabetes, and other diseases.
In fact, consuming 1 gram of curcumin daily combined with piperine from black pepper caused a significant decrease in the inflammatory marker CRP in people with metabolic syndrome.
However, it may be hard to get enough curcumin to experience a noticeable effect from turmeric alone. In one study, MEN with excess weight who took 2.8 grams of turmeric per day showed no improvement in inflammatory markers.
Taking supplements containing isolated curcumin is much more effective. Curcumin supplements are often combined with piperine, which can boost curcumin absorption by 2,000%.
If you're interested in using turmeric in cooking, you can find it in most grocery stores or online. JUST REMEMBER: Turmeric contains a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin. Eating black pepper with turmeric can significantly enhance the absorption of curcumin.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Studies link extra virgin olive oil to a reduced risk of heart disease, brain cancer, and other serious health conditions.
In one study on the Mediterranean diet, CRP and several other inflammatory markers significantly decreased in those who consumed 1.7 ounces (50 ml) of olive oil daily.
The effect of oleocanthal, an antioxidant found in olive oil, has been compared to anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.
Keep in mind that extra virgin olive oil offers greater anti-inflammatory benefits than those provided by more refined olive oils.
Dark Chocolate and Cocoa
Dark chocolate is delicious, rich, and satisfying. It's also packed with antioxidants that reduce inflammation. These may reduce your risk of disease and lead to healthier aging.
Flavanols are responsible for chocolate's anti-inflammatory effects and keep the endothelial cells that line your arteries healthy.
In one study, smokers experienced significant improvements in endothelial function within 2 hours of eating high-flavonol chocolate. However, make sure to choose dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa — a greater percentage is even better — to reap the anti-inflammatory benefits.
Cherries are delicious and rich in antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and catechins, which fight inflammation. Although the health-promoting properties of tart cherries have been studied more than other varieties, sweet cherries also provide benefits.
In one study, when people consumed 280 grams of cherries per day for 1 month, their levels of the inflammatory marker CRP decreased and stayed low for 28 days after they stopped eating cherries.