10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Add to Your Diet
Anti-inflammatory diets are all the rage right now, and for good reason. We live with inflammation bombarding us from all directions – from the foods we eat, to the products we use and the environment around us. Now, not all inflammation is a bad thing. In an acute situation, like if you twist your ankle or cut your finger, the immediate inflammation is a good thing. Your body responds by increasing the blood flow to the area in an attempt to heal the injury. That’s what you want.
Chronic inflammation, however, is not something you want to live with. That is when your body is in a constant, heightened state of fighting off whatever is causing the inflammation. Your immune system is responding to something it sees as foreign and working hard to remove it. Chronic inflammation can tax your system and has been linked to many diseases such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and depression.
One of the best ways to combat chronic inflammation is through your diet. The foods you eat can work to help or harm the state of inflammation in your body.
Foods that lead to inflammation are found mostly in processed, refined, fried, packaged, sweetened foods and beverages with non-food-like additives, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. These “foods” have come a long way from a natural state and have been processed, stripped of their naturally occurring nutrients, and combined with non-food-like ingredients to make them visually appealing, taste good, and live a long time on the shelf. Some of those components, foods, and beverages are:
- Added sugar and artificial sweeteners.
- Processed foods. Such as packaged snacks and meals, deli meats and cheeses, cereals, candy, pre-packaged baked goods, etc.
- Artificial colors, additives and preservatives. When something is called “artificial” it means that it’s not real, as in not actually food, and something our bodies see these as foreign. This can trigger inflammation as our bodies try to get rid of the foreign invaders.
- Refined grains. In desserts, cereals, pasta, bread, fried foods, etc.
- Refined oils, hydrogenated oils and fried foods.
- Alcohol. Alcohol is a toxin, the breakdown of alcohol in our bodies releases free radicals which cause an inflammatory response to get rid of them, thus leading to inflammation.
In general, choose foods that are full of color (naturally occurring, that is), eat a diet full of vegetables and fruit, protein, and healthy fats, and choose organic produce and grass-fed/wild caught proteins when possible. Pack your diet with nutrients and antioxidants to help combat inflammation.
A note on antioxidants: You’ve heard the term, but do you really know what it means and how it relates to inflammation? Here’s a quick explanation as it relates to food - When we break down food there are many, many chemical reactions going on. The product of some of those reactions are free radicals, which cause oxidation or stress to the system. Poor quality foods, like those listed above, tend to put off more free radicals, causing more oxidation or stress on our bodies. As a result, our bodies go into an inflammatory response in order to fight off the free radicals and oxidation – aka, inflammation.
Anti-oxidants are vitamins and minerals found in foods (our bodies make some too) that fight off oxidation. The more antioxidants we eat, the more our diets can help combat inflammation. Antioxidants are found in the greatest, most natural state in colorful fruits and veggies, healthy fats, and good quality protein.
Here’s a list of inflammation-fighting foods and beverages
1. Berries: Full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
2. Leafy greens: Kale, swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, the greener, the better!
3. Cruciferous veggies: Broccoli and cauliflower are part of the cruciferous family and packed with inflammation fighting vitamins and minerals
4. Nuts: Full of omega-3 fatty acids. Try adding Brazil nuts for extra selenium and magnesium.
5. Fatty fish: Such as salmon. Full of omega-3 fatty acids.
6. Spices: Ginger, turmeric and cinnamon are packed with anti-inflammatory components and are a great addition to smoothies and tea and a healthy way to spice up any meal or snack.
7. Green tea: Packed with anti-oxidants. Brew your own or get unsweetened tea to make sure you are getting the most benefits.
8. Kombucha: A fermented tea, Kombucha is full of probiotics which help heal the gut.
9. Bone broth/collagen: Collagen, which is found in bone broth, has great anti-inflammatory properties and is good for joint health, an easy way to get added protein, and promotes gut healing.
10. Water: Drinking water keeps you hydrated and helps flush out your system. It helps support your body as it naturally detoxifies every moment of the day.