When we look at the diseases that plague our society — arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) — we see that long-term lifestyle changes are needed. And one thing that may not be as obvious as the common denominator tied to all of them and more: inflammation is at the root of most diseases.
I invite you to find naturally easy ways to deal with inflammation through the power of food. Reducing inflammation with anti-inflammatory foods can dramatically reduce the symptoms of these diseases and we could even see them cured.
Systemic or chronic inflammation has a domino effect that can seriously undermine your health. So how does it all begin?
Many experts now see inflammation as arising from an immune system response that’s out of control. When you catch a cold or sprain your ankle, your immune system switches into gear. Infection or injury trigger a chain of events called the inflammatory cascade. The familiar signs of normal inflammation — heat, pain, redness, and swelling — are the first signals that your immune system is being called into action.
In a delicate balance of give-and-take, inflammation begins when pro-inflammatory hormones in your body call out for your white blood cells to come and clear out infection and damaged tissue. These agents of support are matched by equally powerful, closely related anti-inflammatory compounds, which move in once the threat is neutralized to begin the healing process. This is called acute inflammation and it ebbs and flows as needed. It signifies a well-balanced immune system.
But there is the darker side to inflammations healing power. Symptoms of inflammation that don’t recede and dissipate are telling you that the “on” switch to your immune system is stuck. It’s poised on high alert — even when you aren’t in imminent danger. In some cases, what started as a healthy mechanism, like building scar tissue or swelling, just won’t shut off.
Because of its intense responsiveness, inflammation can be destructive to your health, particularly when it extends beyond the boundaries of localized area or continues for long periods of time. This is called chronic inflammation and it roots in the digestive system.
The body has complex mechanisms to ensure that inflammation stays where it's supposed to stay, and ends where it's supposed to end. But it's becoming increasingly common for people to have persistent inflammation lingering in their bodies. You can literally be walking around on simmer. Fired up from the inside out!
Unlike a normal, healthy inflammatory response, this chronic inflammation serves no purpose and can actually lead to an overactive immune system. This common type of chronic, low-level inflammation contributes to age-related diseases like cardiovascular and neurodegenerative illnesses. YUK!
Here's the good news: We can control an inflammatory lifestyle, which includes environmental toxin exposure, stress, and poor diet. Simply put, what you put in your mouth impacts your inflammatory status.
HERE IS THE BOTTOM LINE:
Stay healthy by giving your body the vitamins, minerals, amino acids and phytonutrients it needs build up healthy cells. In turn, your body will thank you with stronger organ and skin structure ---and less inflammation.
Small, gradual changes are typically more sustainable, easier for the body to adapt to and can make you less likely to go back to your old ways. So rather than emptying your pantry and sailing off to the Mediterranean, you can pursue an anti-inflammatory diet one step at a time.
By adding in the anti-inflammatory foods that fight inflammation and restore health at a cellular level, you can begin to repair the body without any drastic changes. Once you find foods that heal your body and satisfy your palate, you can remove the inflammation-causing foods without feeling deprived.
Let’s take a look at 10 of the best anti-inflammatory foods you can add to your diet.
Top 15 Anti-Inflammatory foods
1. Green Leafy Vegetables
The produce drawer is the first spot in your refrigerator or pantry to fill when fighting inflammation. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants that restore cellular health, as well as anti-inflammatory flavonoids. If you struggle to eat your green leafy veggies, try adding to your eggs in the morning, or morning smoothie. You can even drink powdered greens in water or juice.
2. Bok Choy
Also known as Chinese cabbage, bok choy is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins and minerals. In fact, recent studies show that there are over 70 antioxidant phenolic substances in bok choy. These include something called hydroxycinnamic acids, which are robust antioxidants that scavenge free radicals. A versatile vegetable, bok choy can be made in so many dishes so make it one of your go-to anti-inflammatory foods.
In recent pharmacological studies, benefits of celery include both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities that help improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as prevent heart disease. Celery seeds — which can be found either in whole seed form, extract form or ground-up — have impressive health benefits on their own, as they help to lower inflammation and to fight bacterial infections. It’s an excellent source of potassium, as well as antioxidants and vitamins.
Also, balance is the key to a healthy body free of inflammation. A good example of mineral balance tied to inflammation is the proper mix of sodium foods and potassium-rich foods. Sodium brings in fluid and nutrients, while potassium flushes toxins. We know that processed foods are high in sodium, but our SAD diets aren’t as rich in potassium. Without this pairing, toxins can build up in the body, once again inviting inflammation. One of the benefits of celery is that it’s an excellent source of potassium, as well as antioxidants and vitamins.
A marker of a food chock-full of antioxidants is its deep color, and beets are a prime example! The umbrella category of antioxidants includes a great deal of substances. In general, they fight to repair the cell damage caused by inflammation. In the case of beets, the antioxidant betalain gives them their signature color and is an excellent anti-inflammatory. When added to the diet, beet benefits include repairing cells and adding high levels of inflammation-fighting potassium and magnesium.
Beets also contain quite a bit of magnesium, and a magnesium deficiency is strongly linked with inflammatory conditions. Calcium, while a vital nutrient, is not processed well within the body without magnesium. When calcium builds up in the body, it becomes unwanted — this unpleasant buildup, such as calcified kidney stones, then invites inflammation. But when a balanced diet is consumed, with anti-inflammatory foods rich in calcium as well as magnesium, the body better processes what’s consumed.
The poster vegetable for healthy eating, it’s no secret that broccoli is an amazing addition to any diet. For an anti-inflammatory diet, it’s invaluable. Broccoli is high in both potassium and magnesium, and its antioxidants are particularly potent anti-inflammatory substances in their own right. Broccoli is an antioxidant powerhouse, with key vitamins, flavonoids and carotenoids. These work together to lower oxidative stress in the body and help battle both chronic inflammation and the risk of developing cancer.
One antioxidant in particular stands out as an especially strong anti-inflammatory, and that’s quercetin. Found in citrus, olive oil and dark-colored berries, quercetin is a flavonoid (a beneficial substance or phytonutrient that’s prevalent in fresh foods) that fights inflammation and even cancer. The presence of quercetin is one of the health benefits of blueberries.
In a study seeking treatment for IBD (Irritable Bowl Disease), an extract from the noni fruit was used to affect the gut flora and colon damage done by inflammatory diseases. Of the effects the extract had, quercetin created the prominent anti-inflammatory actions.
Another study found that consuming more blueberries slowed cognitive decline and improved memory and motor function. The scientists in this study believed these results were due to the antioxidants in blueberries protective the body from oxidative stress and reducing inflammation.
Usually, when it’s packaged in supplement form, quercetin is often paired with bromelain, a digestive enzyme that’s one of the benefits of pineapple. After being used for years as part of an anti-inflammatory foods protocol, bromelain is observed to have immune-modulating abilities — that is, it helps regulate the immune response that so often creates unwanted and unnecessary inflammation.
Pineapple also helps improve heart health because of the effects of powerful bromelain. which can fight blood clotting and is nature’s answer to those taking an aspirin a day to lower the risk of heart attack. Bromelain has been shown to stop blood platelets from sticking together or building up along the walls of blood vessels – both known causes of heart attacks or strokes.
The benefits of pineapple are due to its high supply of vitamin C, vitamin B1, potassium and manganese, in addition to other special antioxidants that help prevent disease formation. Pineapple is filled with phytonutrients that work as well as many medicines do to reduce symptoms of some of the most common illnesses and conditions we see today.
Salmon is an excellent source of essential fatty acids, and considered one of the best omega-3 foods. Omega-3s are some of the most potent anti-inflammatory substances, showing consistent relief of inflammation and reduction of the need for anti-inflammatory medications.
Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function.
The source of fish and meat among anti-inflammatory foods is a vital component. One of the dangers of farmed fish is it doesn’t have the same nutrients as wild-caught salmon.
9. Bone broth
Bone broths contain minerals in forms that your body can easily absorb: calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and others. They contain chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, the compounds sold as pricey supplements to reduce inflammation, arthritis and joint pain.
When my patients suffer from leaky gut syndrome, I ask them to consume a lot of bone broth it contains collagen and the amino acids proline and glycine that can help heal leaky gut and the damaged cell walls of the inflamed gut.
When following a diet without a lot of meats, nuts and seeds can make up the difference for protein and omega-3s. Add omega-3-rich walnuts to green leafy salads drizzled with olive oil for a satisfying anti-inflammatory meal, or grab a handful for an on-the-go snack.
Phytonutrients can help protect against metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular problems and type 2 diabetes. And some phytonutrients in walnuts are hard to find in any other foods.
11. Coconut oil
So much can be written about the way herbs and oils work together to form anti-inflammatory partnerships. Lipids (fats) and spices create strong anti-inflammatory compounds, especially coconut oil and the components of turmeric. In a study in India, the high levels of antioxidants present in virgin coconut oil reduced inflammation and healed arthritis more effectively than leading medications.
Also, oxidative stress and free radicals are the two biggest culprits of osteoporosis. Since coconut oil benefits include fighting such free radicals with its high levels of antioxidants, it’s a leading natural treatment for osteoporosis.
Coconut oil uses include topical preparations as well as culinary — and as a heat-stable oil, it’s excellent for sautéing anti-inflammatory vegetables.
12. Chia seeds
Fatty acids found in nature are more balanced than the fats we typically consume in our typical diets. Chia seeds benefits, for example, offer both omega-3 and omega-6, which should be consumed in balance with one another.
Chia are an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory powerhouse, containing essential fatty acids alpha-linolenic and linoleic acid, mucin, strontium, vitamins A, B, E, and D, and minerals including sulphur, iron, iodine, magnesium, manganese, niacin, thiamine.
Chia seeds’ ability to reverse inflammation, regulate cholesterol and lower blood pressure make it extremely beneficial to consume for heart health. Also, by reversing oxidative stress, someone is less likely to develop atherosclerosis when they’re regularly consuming chia seeds.
An excellent source of omega-3s and phytonutrients, flaxseeds benefits include being packed with antioxidants. Lignans are unique fiber-related polyphenols that provide us with antioxidant benefits for anti-aging, hormone balance and cellular health. Polyphenols support the growth of probiotics in the gut and may also help eliminate yeast and candida in the body.
Before you use them alongside your other new anti-inflammatory foods, consider grinding them in a coffee grinder to ensure the digestive tract has easy access to their many benefits.
Turmeric’s primary compound, curcumin, is its active anti-inflammatory component. Documented for its affects against inflammation in numerous circumstances, turmeric health benefits prove invaluable in an anti-inflammatory diet.
The journal Oncogene published the results of a study that evaluated several anti-inflammatory compounds. It found that aspirin (Bayer, etc.) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.) are least potent, while curcumin is among the most potent anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative agents in the world.
Due to its high anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric is highly effective at helping people manage rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A recent study out of Japan evaluated its relationship with interleukin (IL)-6, the inflammatory cytokine known to be involved in the RA process, and discovered that curcumin “significantly reduced” these inflammatory markers.
Used fresh, dried, or in supplement form and extracts, ginger is another immune modulator that helps reduce inflammation caused by overactive immune responses.
Ayurvedic medicine has praised ginger’s ability to boost the immune system before recorded history. It believes that because ginger is so effective at warming the body, it can help break down the accumulation of toxins in your organs. It’s also known to cleanse the lymphatic system, our body’s sewage system.
In fact, ginger health benefits may even include treating inflammation in allergic and asthmatic disorders.
WHAT TO AVOID:
From animals fed on genetically modified corn and grains, anti-biotics and hormones.
From margarine, shortening and hydrogenated oils. Avoid a diet high in omega-6 and low in omega-3 fatty acids. This unhealthy balance leads to an increase in cytokines, which are proteins released in the cells that can trigger inflammation.
Sugar and refined grains
I am talking those that are found in your everyday supermarket breakfast cereals breads, pastas and even most "snack" bars. Cookies, crackers, and so many "snack" products.
The refining process depletes fiber and vitamin B, which keep inflammation at bay. Overall, avoiding refined, processed and manufactured foods and eating as much fresh, whole food as possible will supply your boy with the vitamins, minerals and highly effective phytonutrients required to increase the body's defense against chronic inflammation.
Keep it simple, keep it clean.
With anti-inflammatory foods filling the diet, you naturally begin to eliminate pro-inflammatory foods and substances — they’re not as satisfying as a diet rich in whole foods.
Plus, establishing a regular routine of physical activity can help prevent systemic inflammation from building up or returning. An active life fueled by fresh, whole anti-inflammatory foods and unrestricted by processed, toxic compounds can set you on the path toward freedom from inflammation.