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Inflammation can either be a good thing or a bad thing.
In the first scenario, it can help protect your body from dangerous invaders and help the healing process. That’s the good part.
On another hand, in the absence of these invaders or threats, inflammation can be a bad thing, when it starts attacking healthy cells in the body. And no one wants that.
Luckily, there are very simple things you can do to help reduce and fight off inflammation.
One of them, and possibly the easiest way, is through the food we eat. By making certain good dietary changes, you can help stop your body from attacking itself.
With this guide, you’ll learn what inflammation is and how it works, its causes, and also the best foods to eat to fight it off.
Inflammation – What It Is And How It Works
Our bodies are truly amazing. When we get injured or are exposed to a possible infection, our immune system sends forth certain “inflammatory” cells to help fight it off and make the healing process quicker.
The swelling, redness and pain are just part of it, and in most cases, indicate your body is functioning as it should. This usually isn’t a cause for concern.
But that’s not always the case. In some other scenarios, where these immune cells are released, but there are no invaders to fight off or injuries to tend to, they can turn on the body and start attacking healthy cells.
The former isn’t a problem. The latter is. But what causes it?
What Causes It?
It’s hard to pinpoint a specific cause for the misguide firing, A.K.A chronic inflammation. Certain things, like autoimmune diseases and disorders, smoking, and obesity can contribute to, or increase your risk of chronic inflammation.
This can in turn increase your risk of things like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain types of cancers.
But hey! It’s not all bad news. There’s also some good news.
Certain foods have been shown to be able to fight back this excessive and misguided inflammatory response. Incorporating these foods in your diet and excluding the foods that trigger it, is one of the best ways to go.
Here are some of the best anti-inflammatory foods to enjoy.
Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods To Eat
1) Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and chard are must-have in any health-promoting diet or way of life. They are regarded as nutritional powerhouses, due to their richness in essential nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants as well.
For example, vitamin K, which is found in most dark greens can help protect against diabetes and fight against inflammation. These veggies can also keep your cells healthier, making you look younger and better.
And due to their lower caloric content, they can help you lose weight, while supplying your body with a load of the essential nutrients it needs.
One problem people seem to have with veggies like this is finding ways to incorporate them into their meals. It doesn’t have to be that hard.
Enjoying leafy greens goes beyond a boring salad that makes you reconsider life. Smoothies and sandwiches are great ways to enjoy your greens without necessarily tasting them as much as you would normally.
And with the right recipes, its even easier.
There’s just no reason to not love berries. Those tiny bundles of nutritional and tasty goodness also turn out to be one of the best anti-inflammatory foods to enjoy.
Berries are packed with nutrients and antioxidants, which help reduce oxidative stress caused by free radicals (a known marker of chronic inflammation) in the body.
They are also quite high in fiber, which supports a healthy metabolism, and helps you feel satiated for longer, leading to easier and better weight loss. Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are among the best types of berries to enjoy.
Another thing that makes these tasty fruits so good, is how easy they are to incorporate in your diet. Unlike bitter tasting veggies, berries have a good taste that makes them ideal to be enjoyed alone, or as part of a healthy recipe.
Some other health benefits of berries include;
- They can aid weight loss, due to their low calorie content
- Help to improve cardiovascular health and lower cholesterol
- Promote a fresh and healthy skin
3) Fatty Fish
Another great anti-inflammatory food you shouldn’t be missing out on is fatty fish. Salmon, tuna and mackerel are very good examples. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which is great for your heart and can help improve your cholesterol levels.
Plus, the oil from fatty fish also helps to slow age-related mental decline and improve memory overall. Now coming to their nutritional profile, they’re simply amazing.
Salmon for example, apart from being rich in protein, also serves as a good source of B vitamins and potassium, which is great for your body and can help prevent a host of unwanted medical conditions.
Incorporating fatty fish into your diet is also pretty easy. There are lots of delicious recipes ranging from tuna salads to sandwiches and even complete dinners to fit the occasion.
Avocados are another amazing fruit with a great nutritional profile and good anti-inflammatory properties. A 100g serving of avocado contains 160 calories, 15g of fat, 2g of protein, 9g of total carbohydrates and 7g of fiber.
Their fiber content makes them good for weight loss, and maintaining a healthy gut. And although they have a high fat content, it turns out to be the good and healthy kind. Majority of the fats coming from avocados are monounsaturated fats.
They are also rich in potassium, as well as vitamin K and folate. When it comes to cooking, there are tons of delicious recipes to enjoy with avocados, ranging from breakfast, to lunch, to dinner and even dessert.
Some more health benefits of avocados include;
- They support good cardiovascular health and can help reduce cholesterol levels
- Avocados are rich in certain phytochemicals that support eye health
- They can help protect against certain types of cancer
Nuts are another great anti-inflammatory food you should be enjoying. They are loaded with antioxidants, which protect against oxidative stress caused by free radicals.
Nuts are also super nutritious, high in healthy monounsaturated fats, protein and fiber, and low in carbohydrates. A 1 ounce serving (28g) of almonds for example, 6g of protein, 14g of fat, 3.5g of fiber and a good amount of manganese, magnesium and vitamin E.
And although nuts are a bit high in calories, they still help with weight loss due to their high protein, fat and fiber content, keeping you full for longer.
Of all the types of nuts, almonds and walnuts are the most well-known when it comes to the battle against inflammation. And it is relatively easy to add them into your meals.
Broccoli is considered one of the best superfoods in the world. Due to its low calories and abundance of nutrients and antioxidants, it is one anti-inflammatory food you’ll want to be serving on your plate.
A 100g serving of broccoli contains just 34 calories, 4g of net carbs (2.6g of fiber), and 2.8g of protein. It is also rich in several vitamins like C, and K and minerals like potassium and phosphorus.
And although a lot of people don’t like their veggies, incorporating broccoli into your diet is pretty easy, once you have the right recipe. Here are some more health benefits of broccoli;
- The antioxidants in broccoli help fight against inflammation and protect against certain types of cancers
- Due to its fiber content, it promotes healthy digestion and can help relieve constipation
- Abundance of vitamins C and K supports a healthy immune system, and better bone health
7) Olive Oil
Rich in monounsaturated fats and loaded with antioxidants, olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil, is one of the healthiest types of oils out there. It is a staple in many anti-inflammatory diets such as the Mediterranean diet.
It also helps to protect against heart diseases, lower cholesterol and can reduce your risk of stroke. Certain diets even recommend olive oil in place of regular cooking oils which are high in unhealthy omega-6 fatty acids.
Some other health benefits of olive oil include protection against certain cancers, improved brain health and slower age-related mental decline, as well as reduced risk of diabetes.
8) Dark Chocolate
Who doesn’t love chocolate? And especially when it’s loaded with antioxidants that can help relieve oxidative stress and fight inflammation. Yes, I’m talking about dark chocolate.
Unlike the less healthy milk chocolate which is loaded with sugar and only a little cacao, dark chocolate has more cacao, less sugar, and is way healthier.
And not only is it a great anti-inflammatory food, it also offers quite a couple of health benefits, such as lower blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease, and better brain function.
And although it’s worth noting that even though dark chocolate is rich in calories and should be best enjoyed in moderation, it can still have a place in any healthy diet.
Plus, there are a lot of delicious choco treats you can make with it, that taste incredibly good, and even better than your store-bought treats. A win-win situation.
Other Great Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Some more great anti-inflammatory foods include;
- Sweet potatoes
- Beans like kidney beans and pinto beans
- Seeds like chia seed and flaxseed
- Green tea
Foods To Avoid
Just as there are certain foods that can help you fight inflammation, some foods can make the situation worse, and should best be avoided or reduced in our diets. Here are some foods to avoid.
- Refined carbohydrates
- French fries, and other foods high in artificial trans fats
- Processed meat
- Excessive alcohol
- Unhealthy oils such as soy, peanut, corn and safflower oil.
There are no specific diets for inflammation. Filling your plate with good anti-inflammatory foods, and excluding foods that trigger it is one of the best ways to go.
Although, certain diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, which favor the use of most of these anti-inflammatory foods, while excluding the unhealthy ones, are also a good try.
Here are some delicious Mediterranean diet recipes worth trying. Even if you’re not on the Mediterranean diet, you’d still love them.
Summing It All Up
Inflammation, on its own is a natural and healthy process that helps your body heal faster and ward off invaders.
But in some conditions caused by certain factors, your immune cells may begin attacking the body. This is known as chronic inflammation. The good news is, with the right dietary and lifestyle choices, this can be reduced, and possibly avoided.
Anti-inflammatory foods such as berries, nuts and green leafy vegetables are good for fighting this condition, while foods like processed meat and oils high in omega-6 fatty acids can worsen it.
Fighting inflammation through dieting is all about excluding the latter and including the former in our meals. Some diets, such as the Mediterranean diet may also be helpful.