Food For Inflammatory

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Food For Inflammatory is a very important part of our daily diet that helps to fight against inflammation and reduce pain. Food rich in omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents like curcumin and lycopene are best sources for maintaining health.

Inflammation is a response by the body’s tissue to injury, infection or other stimuli. This can be either acute (lasting only long enough to trigger an immune response) or chronic (persisting over time). 

Foods that fight inflammation

Doctors are learning that one of the best ways to reduce inflammation lies not in the medicine cabinet, but in the refrigerator.  By following an anti-inflammatory diet you can fight off inflammation for good.

What does an anti-inflammatory diet do? Your immune system becomes activated when your body recognizes anything that is foreign—such as an invading microbe, plant pollen, or chemical. This often triggers a process called inflammation. Intermittent bouts of inflammation directed at truly threatening invaders protect your health.

However, sometimes inflammation persists, day in and day out, even when you are not threatened by a foreign invader. That’s when inflammation can become your enemy. Many major diseases that plague us—including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s—have been linked to chronic inflammation.

One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store. “Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Protect yourself from the damage of chronic inflammation.

Science has proven that chronic, low-grade inflammation can turn into a silent killer that contributes to cardiovas­cular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and other conditions. Get simple tips to fight inflammation and stay healthy — from Harvard Medical School experts.

Choose the right anti-inflammatory foods, and you may be able to reduce your risk of illness. Consistently pick the wrong ones, and you could accelerate the inflammatory disease process.

The health risks of inflammatory foods

Not surprisingly, the same foods on an inflammation diet are generally considered bad for our health, including sodas and refined carbohydrates, as well as red meat and processed meats.

“Some of the foods that have been associated with an increased risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease are also associated with excess inflammation,” Dr. Hu says. “It’s not surprising, since inflammation is an important underlying mechanism for the development of these diseases.”

Unhealthy foods also contribute to weight gain, which is itself a risk factor for inflammation. Yet in several studies, even after researchers took obesity into account, the link between foods and inflammation remained, which suggests weight gain isn’t the sole driver. “Some of the food components or ingredients may have independent effects on inflammation over and above increased caloric intake,” Dr. Hu says.

Benefits of anti-inflammatory foods

On the flip side are beverages and foods that reduce inflammation, and with it, chronic disease, says Dr. Hu. He notes in particular fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, apples, and leafy greens that are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols—protective compounds found in plants.

Studies have also associated nuts with reduced markers of inflammation and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Coffee, which contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds, may protect against inflammation, as well.

Anti-inflammatory diet

To reduce levels of inflammation, aim for an overall healthy diet. If you’re looking for an eating plan that closely follows the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating, consider the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils.

In addition to lowering inflammation, a more natural, less processed diet can have noticeable effects on your physical and emotional health. “A healthy diet is beneficial not only for reducing the risk of chronic diseases, but also for improving mood and overall quality of life,” Dr. Hu says.

13 of the Most Anti-Inflammatory Foods You Can Eat

Inflammation can be both good and bad.

On one hand, it helps your body defend itself from infection and injury. On the other hand, chronic inflammation can lead to disease.

Stress, low activity levels, and foods that cause inflammation can make this risk even greater.

However, studies suggest that some foods can help decrease chronic inflammation.

Here are 13 anti-inflammatory foods.

fresh blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries in containers
Amy Covington/Stocksy United

1. Berries

Berries are small fruits that are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Dozens of varieties exist. Some of the most common ones include:

  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • blackberries

Berries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins. These compounds have anti-inflammatory effects that may reduce your risk of disease

In one study including 25 adults, those who consumed blueberry powder every day produced significantly more natural killer cells (NK cells) than those who did not consume the powder. These findings were similar to those of an older study.

Your body naturally produces NK cells, and they help keep your immune system functioning properly.

In another study, adults with excess weight who ate strawberries had lower levels of certain inflammatory markers associated with heart disease than those who didn’t eat strawberries .

2. Fatty fish

Fatty fish are a great source of protein and the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Although all types of fish contain some omega-3 fatty acids, these fatty fish are among the best sources:

  • salmon
  • sardines
  • herring
  • mackerel
  • anchovies

EPA and DHA help reduce inflammation, which may otherwise lead to metabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease

Your body metabolizes these fatty acids into compounds called resolvins and protectins, which have anti-inflammatory effects

Studies have found that people consuming salmon or EPA and DHA supplements experienced reductions in the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP)

However, in one study, people with an irregular heartbeat who took EPA and DHA daily experienced no difference in inflammatory markers compared with those who received a placebo .

3. Broccoli

Broccoli is extremely nutritious.

It’s a cruciferous vegetable, along with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale.

Research has shown that eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer .

This may be related to the anti-inflammatory effects of the antioxidants they contain.

Broccoli is rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that decreases inflammation by reducing your levels of cytokines and nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), which are molecules that drive inflammation in your body.

4. Avocados

slicing avocado in peel
Photography by Aya Brackett

Avocados are packed with potassium, magnesium, fiber, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats

They also contain carotenoids and tocopherols, which are linked to a reduced risk of cancer .

In addition, one compound in avocados may reduce inflammation in newly forming skin cells.

In one high quality study including 51 adults with excess weight, those who ate avocado for 12 weeks had a reduction of inflammatory markers interleukin 1 beta (IL-1β) and CRP .

5. Green tea

You’ve probably heard that green tea is one of the healthiest beverages you can drink.

Research has found that drinking it is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, and other conditions

Many of its benefits are due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, especially a substance called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).

EGCG inhibits inflammation by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokine production and damage to the fatty acids in your cells .

6. Peppers

Bell peppers and chili peppers are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants that have powerful anti-inflammatory effects .

Bell peppers also provide the antioxidant quercetin, which may reduce inflammation associated with chronic diseases, like diabete.

Chili peppers contain sinapic acid and ferulic acid, which may reduce inflammation and support healthier aging .

7. Mushrooms

While thousands of varieties of mushrooms exist worldwide, only a few are edible and grown commercially.

These include truffles, portobello mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms.

Mushrooms are very low in calories and rich in selenium, copper, and all of the B vitamins.

They also contain phenols and other antioxidants that provide anti-inflammatory protection.

A special type of mushroom called lion’s mane may potentially reduce low grade inflammation related to obesity.

However, one study found that cooking mushrooms lowered their anti-inflammatory compounds significantly. Thus, it may be best to eat them raw or lightly cooked .

8. Grapes

a bunch of grapes on wooden platter
Marisol Ogando/Addictive Creative/Offset Images Marisol Ogando/Addictive Creative/Offset Images

Grapes contain anthocyanins, which reduce inflammation.

In addition, they may decrease the risk of several diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, and eye disorders.

Grapes are also one of the best sources of resveratrol, another antioxidant compound that has many health benefits.

Studies show that resveratrol can protect the heart against inflammation.

In one study including 60 people with heart failure, those who consumed two 50-mg capsules of resveratrol daily for 3 months experienced a decrease in inflammatory gene markers, including interleukin 6 (IL-6) .

An older study from 2012 found that adults who ate grape extract daily experienced increased levels of adiponectin. Low levels of this hormone are associated with weight gain and an increased risk of cancer .

9. Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice with a warm, earthy flavor that’s often used in curries and other Indian dishes.

It has received a lot of attention because it contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory compound .

Research has shown that turmeric reduces inflammation related to arthritis, diabetes, and other diseases .

In one study, people with metabolic syndrome consumed 1 gram of curcumin daily combined with piperine from black pepper. They experienced a significant decrease in the inflammatory marker CRP.

It may be hard to get enough curcumin from turmeric alone to experience a noticeable effect. Taking supplements containing isolated curcumin may be much more effective.

Curcumin supplements are often combined with piperine, which can boost curcumin absorption by 2,000% .

More research is needed to understand how the dosage of turmeric affects inflammatory markers .

10. Extra virgin olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest fats you can eat.

It’s rich in monounsaturated fats and a staple in the Mediterranean diet, which provides numerous health benefits.

Studies link extra virgin olive oil to a reduced risk of heart disease, brain cancer, and other serious health conditions

In one study on the Mediterranean diet, CRP and several other inflammatory markers significantly decreased in those who consumed 1.7 ounces (50 mL) of olive oil every day for 12 months

The effect of oleocanthal, an antioxidant found in olive oil, has been compared to anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen

Keep in mind that extra virgin olive oil has greater anti-inflammatory benefits than refined olive oils do .

11. Dark chocolate and cocoa

Dark chocolate is delicious, rich, and satisfying.

It’s also packed with antioxidants that help reduce inflammation. These may reduce your risk of disease and lead to healthier aging

Flavanols are responsible for chocolate’s anti-inflammatory effects and help keep the endothelial cells that line your arteries healthy.

In one small study, people who consumed 350 mg of cocoa flavanols twice daily experienced improved vascular function after 2 weeks .

However, more high quality studies on chocolate and its components are needed.

In the meantime, it can’t hurt to choose dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa — a greater percentage is even better — to reap these anti-inflammatory benefits.

12. Tomatoes

holding fresh tomatoes
Catherine Falls Commercial/Getty Images

The tomato is a nutritional powerhouse.

Tomatoes are high in vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene, an antioxidant with impressive anti-inflammatory properties .

Lycopene may be particularly beneficial for reducing pro-inflammatory compounds related to several types of cancer

Note that cooking tomatoes in olive oil can help you absorb more of their lycopene content

That’s because lycopene is a carotenoid, a nutrient that’s better absorbed with a source of fat.

13. Cherries

Cherries are delicious and rich in antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and catechins, which decrease inflammation .

Although the health-promoting properties of tart cherries have been studied more than other varieties, sweet cherries also provide benefits.

One study including 37 older adults found that those who consumed 16 ounces (480 mL) of tart cherry juice daily for 12 weeks experienced significantly lower levels of the inflammatory marker CRP .

However, another study found tart cherry juice had no effect on inflammation in healthy younger adults after they took it daily for 30 days .

More research is needed to understand how cherries might help reduce inflammation.

anti-inflammatory and inflammatory foods chart

Inflammatory foods

In addition to filling your diet with nutritious anti-inflammatory ingredients, it’s important to limit your consumption of foods that can promote inflammation.

For example, ultra-processed foods like fast food, frozen meals, and processed meats have been associated with higher blood levels of inflammatory markers like CRP .

Meanwhile, fried foods and partially hydrogenated oils contain trans fats, a type of unsaturated fatty acid that research has linked to increased levels of inflammation

Other foods like sugar-sweetened beverages and refined carbs have also been shown to promote inflammation.

Here are some examples of foods that have been linked to increased levels of inflammation:

  • Processed foods: potato chips and fast food
  • Refined carbs: white breads, white rice, crackers, and biscuits
  • Fried foods: fries, fried chicken, and mozzarella sticks
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages: soda, sweet tea, and sports drinks
  • Processed meats: bacon, ham, and hot dogs
  • Trans fats: shortening and margarine

Keep in mind that it’s perfectly healthy to eat these occasionally. Just try to ensure that you follow a well-balanced diet that’s based on whole foods, including lots of fruits and vegetables. It’s best to stick to foods that are minimally processed.

The bottom line

Even low levels of inflammation on a chronic basis can lead to 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 lower inflammation and reduce your risk of illness.

Anti-inflammatory diet: What to know

Inflammation helps the body fight illness and can protect it from harm. In most cases, it is a necessary part of the healing process.

However, some people have a medical condition in which the immune system does not work as it should. This malfunction can lead to persistent or recurrent low level inflammation.

Chronic inflammation occurs with various diseases, such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma. There is evidence that dietary choices may help manage the symptoms.

An anti-inflammatory diet favors fruits and vegetables, foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains, lean protein, healthful fats, and spices. It discourages or limits the consumption of processed foods, red meats, and alcohol.

The anti-inflammatory diet is not a specific regimen but rather a style of eating. The Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet are examples of anti-inflammatory diets.

What is an anti-inflammatory diet?

steam coming from a pot cooking a meal for an anti-inflammatory diet
Sayanh Kaew Mni/EyeEm/Getty Images

Some foods contain ingredients that can trigger or worsen inflammation. Sugary or processed foods may do this, while fresh, whole foods are less likely to have this effect.

An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables. Many plant-based foods are good sources of antioxidants. Some foods, however, can triggerTrusted Source the formation of free radicals. Examples include foods that people fry in repeatedly heated cooking oil.

Dietary antioxidantsTrusted Source are molecules in food that help remove free radicals from the body. Free radicals are the natural byproducts of some bodily processes, including metabolism. However, external factors, such as stress and smoking, can increase the number of free radicals in the body.

Free radicals can lead to cell damage. This damage increases the risk of inflammation and can contribute to a range of diseases.

The body creates some antioxidants that help it remove these toxic substances, but dietary antioxidants also help.

An anti-inflammatory diet favors foods that are rich in antioxidants over those that increase the production of free radicals.

Omega-3 fatty acids, which are present in oily fish, may help reduce the levels of inflammatory proteins in the body. Fiber can also have this effect, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Types of anti-inflammatory diet

Many popular diets already adhere to anti-inflammatory principles.

For example, both the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet include fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, whole grains, and fats that are good for the heart.

Inflammation appears to play a role in cardiovascular disease, but researchTrusted Source suggests that the Mediterranean diet, with its focus on plant-based foods and healthful oils, can reduce the effects of inflammation on the cardiovascular system.

Who can it help?

An anti-inflammatory diet may serve as a complementary therapy for many conditions that become worse with chronic inflammation.

The following conditions involve inflammation:

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • psoriasis
  • asthma
  • eosinophilic esophagitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • colitis
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • lupus
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome refers to a collection of conditions that tend to occur together, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.

Scientists believe that inflammation plays a role in all of these. An anti-inflammatory diet may, therefore, help improve the health of a person with metabolic syndrome.

Eating a diet that is rich in antioxidants may also help reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Foods to eat

An anti-inflammatory diet should combine a variety of foods that:

  • are rich in nutrients
  • provide a range of antioxidants
  • contain healthful fats

Foods that may help manage inflammation include:

  • oily fish, such as tuna and salmon
  • fruits, such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and cherries
  • vegetables, including kale, spinach, and broccoli
  • beans
  • nuts and seeds
  • olives and olive oil
  • fiber

The authors of a 2017 article also recommended the following:

  • raw or moderately cooked vegetables
  • legumes, such as lentils
  • spices, such as ginger and turmeric
  • probiotics and prebiotics
  • tea
  • some herbs

It is worth remembering that:

No single food will boost a person’s health. It is important to include a variety of healthful ingredients in the diet.

Fresh, simple ingredients are best. Processing can change the nutritional content of foods.

People should check the labels of premade foods. While cocoa can be a good choice, for example, the products that contain cocoa often also contain sugar and fat.

A colorful plate will provide a range of antioxidants and other nutrients. Be sure to vary the colors of fruits and vegetables.

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Foods to avoid

People who are following an anti-inflammatory diet should avoid or limit their intake of:

  • processed foods
  • foods with added sugar or salt
  • unhealthful oils
  • processed carbs, which are present in white bread, white pasta, and many baked goods
  • processed snack foods, such as chips and crackers
  • premade desserts, such as cookies, candy, and ice cream
  • excess alcohol
  • In addition, people may find it beneficial to limit their intake of the following:

Gluten: Some people experience an inflammatory reaction when they consume gluten. A gluten-free diet can be restrictive, and it is not suitable for everyone. However, if a person suspects that gluten is triggering symptoms, they may wish to consider eliminating it for a while to see if their symptoms improve.

Nightshades: Plants belonging to the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes, seem to trigger flares in some people with inflammatory diseases. There is limited evidence to confirm this effect, but a person can try cutting nightshades from the diet for 2–3 weeks to see if their symptoms improve.

Carbohydrates: There is some evidence that a high carb diet, even when the carbs are healthful, may promote inflammation in some people. However, some carb-rich foods, such as sweet potatoes and whole grains, are excellent sources of antioxidants and other nutrients..

Can a vegetarian diet reduce inflammation?

A vegetarian diet may be one option for people looking to reduce inflammation. The authors of a 2019 review analyzed data from 40 studies. They concluded that people who follow a vegetarian-based diet are likely to have lower levels of various inflammatory markers.

A 2017 studyTrusted Source looked at the data of 268 people who followed either a strict vegetarian diet, a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, or a nonvegetarian diet. The findings suggested that eating animal products could increase the risk of systemic inflammation and insulin resistance.

Earlier researchTrusted Source from 2014 suggested that lower inflammation levels could be a key benefit of a vegan diet.

Get some tips on switching to a plant-based diet here.

Anti-inflammatory diet tips

It can be challenging to transition to a new way of eating, but the following tips may help:

  • Pick up a variety of fruits, vegetables, and healthful snacks during the weekly shop.
  • Gradually replace fast food meals with healthful, homemade lunches.
  • Replace soda and other sugary beverages with still or sparkling mineral water.

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