Inflammation is characterized by redness, swelling, warmth, and sometimes pain or immobility. It can be bothersome, but inflammation is actually a natural and necessary immune response. Your body uses inflammation as a means of healing itself after an injury, repairing any damaged tissues, and defending itself against viruses, bacteria, and other foreign invaders that may cause a disease. Without inflammation, your body would have trouble recovering from the most basic wounds and infections could quickly turn fatal.1
However, chronic inflammation, sometimes called persistent inflammation, is responsible for several serious diseases and disorders. With chronic inflammation, the body sends white blood cells to a perceived internal threat that doesn’t actually require an inflammatory response. Without anything to do, the white blood cells sometimes start attacking perfectly healthy organs or tissues. In other cases, the inflammatory response may be necessary, but you may not notice until it leads to serious problems.
The good news is that inflammation can be managed with some simple changes or additions to your diet. Let’s take a look at some of the best anti-inflammatory foods you should consider.
1. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish, which includes salmon, anchovies, carp, and mackerel, is packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acid are a type of essential fat that comes in three main forms:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
Your body has no way of synthesizing ALA naturally, and DHA and EPA can only be converted in small amounts from ALA. That ultimately means that the best way to get all three omega-3 fatty acids is through food or supplements.
In your body, omega-3 fatty acids are a key component in the membranes surrounding every cell in your body, ensuring proper protection and communication between cells. Omega-3 fatty acids are most well known for their potent anti-inflammatory properties. Studies on omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil suggest that it can help to reduce the production and effectiveness of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins.
Fatty fish are packed with omega-3 fatty acids along with lean protein and a wide range of vitamins and minerals that can support good health.2
One cause of inflammatory damage is free radicals, which are a product of cellular oxidation. Free radicals can damage and destabilize cells, proteins, and your very DNA. Free radicals are one key cause of inflammation, and they are present in food, water, and the air you breathe. Thankfully, they can easily be neutralized with help from antioxidants.3
Blueberries are delicious and happen to be packed with several antioxidants. Anthocyanins are one of the main types of antioxidants found in blueberries. Anthocyanins belong to a large family of polyphenols known as flavonoids. They are a plant pigment responsible for giving blueberry skins their characteristic dark blue-purple hue. Studies have identified over 15 different types of anthocyanins in blueberries, though malvidin and delphinidin appear to be the most common.4 Anthocyanins have been found to be powerful antioxidants with powerful anti-inflammatory properties.5
Broccoli is the poster child of health foods for a reason. Each floret is packed with a variety of vitamins and minerals, along with a good amount of dietary fiber to feed your gut bacteria and promote better digestive health. Broccoli is high in both potassium and magnesium. Several studies have found evidence linking low potassium levels with rheumatoid arthritis, a disorder noted by inflammation in joints.6 Other studies suggest that magnesium works at the cellular level to reduce inflammation.7
Along with its direct anti-inflammatory compounds, broccoli is rich with a wide variety of antioxidant flavonoids and carotenoids. These can help combat oxidative stress from free radicals, which ultimately helps to reduce inflammation.8
4. Green tea
Green tea is one of the healthiest beverages you can drink. Green, black, and oolong teas all come from the same plant: Camellia sinensis. Green tea leaves do not undergo a long oxidation process, which ultimately gives them a higher antioxidant content. In fact, about 30 percent of the dry weight of green tea leaves comprises flavonoid antioxidants. Some of the most prominent antioxidants in green tea include catechins and polyphenols.9
One of the key antioxidant and-anti-inflammatory components in green tea is a compound called epigallocatechin gallate (or simply EGCG). EGCG presents a variety of potential benefits. Initial studies suggest that it may even help to promote weight loss and fat burning. In terms of inflammation, EGCG may help to inhibit damage to fatty acids in cells and production of cytokines, the compound responsible for promoting inflammation.10
Turmeric is a spice that comes from the dried roots of the Curcuma longa plant. It’s commonly used to provide some spicy heat to foods along with a vibrant yellow color. Along with its flavor-enhancing properties, turmeric is packed with helpful chemical compounds known as curcuminoids. The most prominent and active of these is curcumin, which offers a wide range of potential health benefits, including assisting skin health and helping to reduce symptoms of depression.11
Numerous studies have also found that curcumin may help to reduce inflammation. In one randomized, controlled trial, subjects with a metabolic syndrome who took a curcumin supplement had significantly reduced levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and malondialdehyde (MDA) compared to subjects who took a placebo. CRP and MDA are two common chemical markers for inflammation.12 In another study, subjects with cancerous tumors were given either 150 mg of curcumin or a placebo. Those given the curcumin supplement showed a decrease in inflammatory markers and a general increase in quality of life.13
Curcumin can be difficult for your body to absorb on its own, though you can increase its absorption potential by combining curcumin with piperine, a compound found in black pepper.14
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that belongs to the non-toxic species of bacteria known as Arthrospira. It is easy to grow and often used as a source of protein and vitamin B12 for vegans and vegetarians. In fact, it may contain 55-70 percent protein.15
Human and animal studies on spirulina have been promising. In one randomized double-blind, controlled trial conducted on elderly men and women, subjects given spirulina showed significant reductions in plasma cholesterol along with overall favorable effects on immune variables, lipid profiles, and antioxidant capacity.16
In terms of inflammation, spirulina offers several active components, but its main active ingredient is phycocyanoblin, which makes up about 1 percent of spirulina. Studies show that phycocyanoblin mimics bilirubin, a compound created in your liver that naturally inhibits an enzyme complex called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase. NADPH oxidase plays a role in inflammation and oxidation. The phycocyanoblin in spirulina can inhibit the effects of NADPHA oxidase, offering effective anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.17
Ginger is a common spice that comes from the family of Zingiberacae plants. Along with adding deep spice and flavor, ginger has commonly been used as a preventative treatment for nausea, upset stomachs, and other digestive problems.18 However, several studies suggest that its benefits may extend beyond just stomach issues.
Ginger offers a rich phytochemistry with several functional components, including gingerols, shogaol, and paradols. These substances have been shown to inhibit the biosynthesis of pro-inflammatory prostaglandin and leukotriene by suppressing prostaglandin synthetase and 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX). Compounds in ginger have also been shown to inhibit the synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Similar components have been found to provide potent antioxidant properties, scavenging free radicals produced within your system.19 One study from the University of Miami compared the effects of concentrated ginger extracts and placebos in 247 subjects diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee. Results showed that the ginger extract educed pain and stiffness in subjects’ knees by 40 percent over the placebo.20
8. Resveratrol (from Grapes)
Grapes contain a beneficial molecule known as resveratrol, a potent bioflavonoid antioxidant. Grapes create resveratrol in their skins and seeds, but it can also be found in raw cocoa and dark berries. Red wine tends to be the most popular source of resveratrol as the grape skins and seeds used in the fermentation process increase the levels and bioavailability of resveratrol.21
Resveratrol is often cited for its claims of “increasing lifespan.” Although these claims are dubious in mammals, resveratrol does present a variety of health benefits, particularly its potent antioxidant properties that can potentially contribute to reduced inflammation. Studies also suggest that resveratrol may help to protect against heart disease, reducing the occurrence of osteoporosis, and modulating blood pressure.22
Resveratrol has also shown direct anti-inflammatory properties in several studies. Some studies suggest that resveratrol down-regulates inflammatory responses by inhibiting the synthesis and release of inflammatory mediators. Resveratrol may actively block cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), which are enzymes that play a role in the synthesis of pro-inflammatory compounds.23
Along with these foods, consider including supplements into your diet for an easy daily source of anti-inflammatory compounds, like DrFormulas™ 30X Turmeric Curcumin capsules which contains turmeric that is up to 30x more concentrated than regular turmeric powder.