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 (1).
Stress, inflammatory foods and low activity levels can make this risk even greater.
However, studies demonstrate that some foods can fight inflammation.
Here are 13 anti-inflammatory foods.
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Although there are dozens of varieties, some of the most common are:
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 (5).
In another study, overweight men and women who ate strawberries had lower levels of certain inflammatory markers associated with heart disease (6).
Summary Berries provide antioxidants known as anthocyanins. These compounds may reduce inflammation, boost immunity and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Although all types of fish contain some omega-3 fatty acids, these fatty fish are among the best sources:
Your body metabolizes these fatty acids into compounds called resolvins and protectins, which have anti-inflammatory effects (10).
However, in another study, people with an irregular heartbeat who took EPA and DHA daily experienced no difference in inflammatory markers compared to those who received a placebo (13).
Summary Fatty fish hold high amounts of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have anti-inflammatory effects.
It’s a cruciferous vegetable, along with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kale.
This may be related to the anti-inflammatory effects of the antioxidants they contain.
Summary Broccoli is one of the best sources of sulforaphane, an antioxidant with powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
Avocados may be one of the few supposed superfoods worthy of the title.
They’re packed with potassium, magnesium, fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
In addition, one compound in avocados may reduce inflammation in young skin cells (22).
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 (23).
Summary Avocados offer various beneficial compounds that protect against inflammation and may reduce your cancer risk.
Many of its benefits are due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, especially a substance called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).
You can buy green tea in most stores or online.
Summary Green tea’s high EGCG content reduces inflammation and safeguards cells from damage that can lead to disease.
Bell peppers provide the antioxidant quercetin, which may reduce one marker of oxidative damage in people with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease (31).
Summary Chili peppers and bell peppers are rich in quercetin, sinapic acid, ferulic acid and other antioxidants with strong anti-inflammatory effects.
These include truffles, portobello mushrooms and shiitake.
Mushrooms are very low in calories and rich in selenium, copper and all of the B vitamins.
However, one study found that cooking mushrooms lowered their anti-inflammatory compounds significantly — so it may be best to eat them raw or lightly cooked (37).
Summary Some edible mushrooms boast compounds that may decrease inflammation. Eating them raw or lightly cooked may help you reap their full anti-inflammatory potential.
Grapes are also one of the best sources of resveratrol, another compound that has many health benefits.
In one study, people with heart disease who consumed grape extract daily experienced a decrease in inflammatory gene markers, including NF-kB (43).
What’s more, their levels of adiponectin increased. Low levels are associated with weight gain and an increased risk of cancer (44).
Summary Several plant compounds in grapes, including resveratrol, can reduce inflammation. They may also reduce your risk of several diseases.
It has received a lot of attention for its content of the powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient curcumin.
However, it may be hard to get enough curcumin to have a noticeable effect from turmeric alone.
In one study, overweight women who took 2.8 grams of turmeric per day had no improvement in inflammatory markers (51).
Taking supplements containing isolated curcumin is much more effective. Curcumin supplements are often combined with piperine, which can boost curcumin absorption by 2,000% (52).
If you’re interested in using turmeric in cooking, you can find it in most grocery stores or online.
Summary Turmeric boasts a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin. Eating black pepper with turmeric can significantly enhance the absorption of curcumin.
It’s rich in monounsaturated fats and a staple in the Mediterranean diet, which provides numerous health benefits.
In one Mediterranean diet study, CRP and several other inflammatory markers significantly decreased in those who consumed 1.7 ounces (50 ml) of olive oil daily (57).
The effect of oleocanthal, an antioxidant found in olive oil, has been compared to anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (58).
Keep in mind that anti-inflammatory benefits are much greater in extra virgin olive oil than in more refined olive oils (59).
It’s easy to find extra virgin olive oil in your local grocery store, but you can also buy it online.
Summary Extra virgin olive oil provides powerful anti-inflammatory benefits, which may reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and other serious health conditions.
In one study, smokers experienced significant improvement in endothelial function two hours after eating high-flavonol chocolate (65).
However, make sure to choose dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa — more is even better — in order to reap the anti-inflammatory benefits.
If you forgot to grab this treat on your last run to the store, you can always buy it online.
Summary Flavanols in dark chocolate and cocoa can reduce inflammation. They may also reduce your risk of several diseases.
One study determined that drinking tomato juice significantly decreased inflammatory markers in overweight — but not obese — women (69).
Note that cooking tomatoes in olive oil can maximize the amount of lycopene you absorb (70).
That’s because lycopene is a carotenoid, or a fat-soluble nutrient. Carotenoids are absorbed better with a source of fat.
Summary Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, which may reduce inflammation and protect against cancer.
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 one month, their levels of the inflammatory marker CRP decreased — and stayed low for 28 days after they stopped eating cherries (75).
Summary Sweet and tart cherries contain antioxidants that reduce inflammation and your risk of disease.
Do your best to keep inflammation in check by choosing a wide variety of delicious, antioxidant-rich foods.
Peppers, dark chocolate, fish and extra virgin olive oil are just a few foods that can help you combat inflammation and reduce your risk of illness.
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