9 Anti-inflammatory Foods To Help Reduce Inflammation
You might associate the term “anti-inflammatory” with a sports rub, certain painkillers, or the chemist but, did you know that your body already has natural mechanisms for inflammation and your diet can assist or add fuel to the fire?
So, what is inflammation?
Your immune system becomes activated when your body recognizes anything that is foreign—such as an invading microbe, plant pollen, chemical, trauma, and toxins, or physical stress which triggers inflammation, a process your body uses for protection. You’ve probably experienced inflammation after an injury, a new gym class, or when you’ve been unwell.
Inflammation is usually intermittent and for protection. However, sometimes inflammation is consistent, which is when it can cause issues and you should seek medical help. Think of it as a constant state of stress for the area of inflammation. Common diseases, including Rheumatoid arthritis, depression, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease, have all been linked to inflammation.
Nutrition can cause inflammation, but it can also be a tool to help decrease inflammation with anti-inflammatory responses. Anti-inflammatory foods groups are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols, which are protective compounds found in plant foods.
What are antioxidants?
If we had to create a LinkedIn bio for antioxidants, it would say - “a little like your fairy godmother, floating around, cleaning up after you, making you shiny and new, and defending you from trouble”. Or more scientifically speaking, “Free Radical Scavenger”. Click here to learn more about how antioxidants work in our bodies.
Food that can cause inflammation:
Processed foods like cold meats, pastries, baked goods, fried food with trans-fat, sweetened beverages, alcohol, red meat, and saturated fat like margarine may all cause inflammation. Hence, we try to limit these foods in our diets.
Luckily, there are some amazing food groups that work wonders in our bodies. Not only are they anti-inflammatory but they have nutrient profiles that are beneficial to us in many other ways.
So, what food groups are anti-inflammatory?
Berries: These summery fruits are filled with goodness, like vitamin C, K, and manganese, but are also an anti-inflammatory food because of their powerhouse antioxidants called anthocyanins. Bring on the berry smoothies this summer.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: The gold star for healthy fats, unlike other cooking oils EEVO is high in antioxidants and contains 30 various types of phenolic compounds that help our bodies protect against free radicals and reduce markers of inflammation.
Turmeric: Bright and beneficial, turmeric has rightfully been in the spotlight in the superfood world for quite some time. Famous for its levels of curcumin, yet another powerful antioxidant, and thus reduces inflammation. A great addition to your curries and tropical smoothies.
Avocados: The breakfast menu hero, these bad boys deserve their superfood rep. Filled with healthy monounsaturated fats, and antioxidants called carotenoids and tocopherols, which help reduce inflammation markers. Some studies have shown that avo’s can actually reduce inflammation of skin cells. Smashed avo on toast coming up!
Oily Fish: Filled with omega-3 fatty acids, oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, and anchovies can help to reduce inflammation. Our bodies convert these fatty acids to compounds called resolvins and protectins that have anti-inflammatory effects.
Grapes: Like berries, grapes contain anthocyanins, but they’re also great sources of resveratrol, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties! A perfect post-workout snack!
Cruciferous vegetables: This family of veggies includes broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and kale. Rich in an antioxidant called sulforaphane, which reduces levels of compounds that drive inflammation.
Nuts: Filled with good fats like omega-3 as well as vitamin E, zinc, and magnesium, all of which have anti-inflammatory effects on our bodies. Along with being high in protein, nuts are a perfect snack to fuel you throughout the day.
Dark Chocolate: Filled with cocoa, dark choccy is delicious and acts as an anti-inflammatory as it's packed with antioxidants. It’s the flavanols we can thank as we enjoy dark chocolate.
As always, a well-balanced diet can have many beneficial effects on our health. Remember to include an array of fresh produce, especially from the groups above, to ensure your body is getting all its nutritional needs.