20 Natural Anti-Inflammatory Foods That You Should Eat
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Inflammation is a protective response of your immune system. Inflammation is linked to many major diseases like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. Making dietary change is a very important in fighting it. Include anti-inflammatory foods such as green leafy vegetable, fatty fish, broccoli, and blueberry in your menu to reduce the risk of inflammation.
Your body has a natural mechanism to attack foreign bodies that can be harmful. Your immune system fights against pathogens, external injuries, or chemicals. The first such protective response of the immune system is inflammation. Redness, pain, swelling, and sometimes loss of function are the signs of acute inflammation.1
Is Inflammation A Reaction To External Causes?
Inflammation can happen even when you are not threatened by any foreign agent.2 While the exact causes are not yet known, this type of inflammation, known as chronic inflammation, lasts long and is dangerous, leading to major diseases.
Several factors may contribute to chronic inflammation. It occurs if your body fails to eliminate the cause of acute inflammation, that is an infection. Sometimes, it happens when the immune system attacks healthy tissues, mistaking them for pathogens, like in autoimmune diseases. Chronic inflammation may even be caused by obesity.
Chronic inflammation is linked to many major diseases like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis.3 The level of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is produced by the liver, rises when there is inflammation throughout the body. And by conducting the CRP test, you can check for inflammation in the body.
What is the best way to protect your body from such inflammation? Making dietary changes to include anti-inflammatory foods in your menu.4 Here are a few anti-inflammatory foods that are beneficial to your health.
20 Anti-Inflammatory Foods To Include In Your Diet
1. Green Leafy Vegetables
Make spinach, kale, and collards part of your diet. Their strength is the presence of flavonoids, which are biologically active polyphenolic antioxidants. They reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases.5
Moreover, these dark green vegetables contain vitamin K, which is capable of preventing inflammatory diseases.6 A research study has observed that high vitamin K can lower concentrations of inflammatory markers.7
2. Fatty Fish
Being a dietary source of helpful polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), fatty fish helps you fight inflammation.8 The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA found in fish restrict inflammation by giving rise to anti-inflammatory mediators called resolvins.9 This, in turn, reduces the incidence of many chronic diseases that involve any inflammatory process.
Salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines are some of the fatty fish you can eat. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish, particularly fatty fish at least 2 times a week.10 But watch out for fishes with high levels of mercury, such as swordfish or shark, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
An overload of free radicals – highly reactive molecules left over from metabolic processes – may damage your cells and tissues, resulting in inflammation. Antioxidants can protect against inflammation caused by free radicals. This is the reason you should eat blueberries. Blueberries contain anthocyanins, which are widely known as powerful antioxidants.11
Apart from that, as a study suggests, daily consumption of blueberry for 6 weeks increases natural killer cells, which are a type of white blood cell and a component of the immune system.12 This promotes healthy functioning of the immune system, preventing unnecessary inflammation.
The polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFAS), polysterols, and flavonoids found in avocado are anti-inflammatory in nature. They help you stop the synthesis of prostaglandins, a significant contributor to inflammation.13 This is why avocados are recommended for people at risk of heart diseases and arthritis.
The presence of sulforaphane, a chemical compound which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, equips broccoli to fight against inflammation.14 According to a research, in young male smokers, broccoli consumption may also reduce CRP levels, one of the best indicators of inflammation.15
This is the most popular and powerful spice of all. But, how does it help you with inflammation? Curcumin, an antioxidant in turmeric, is responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin is capable of interacting with numerous molecular targets linked to inflammation.16 This agent can also regulate various factors like cytokines, redox status, and enzymes that are associated with inflammation.17
Is this your favorite snack? Well, good choice. These nutritious nuts are rich in the omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linoleic acid. And it can lower the C-reactive protein, which increases inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.18 They can also reduce free radical damage, which induces inflammation and puts the body under oxidative stress.19 Having walnuts will give you not just anti-inflammatory benefits but also many other benefits for your skin, hair, and overall health.
Known as one of the healthiest spices, ginger is rich in bioactive compounds that are beneficial to your body and brain. Gingerol, shogaol, and other structurally related substances in ginger restrain synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines. They also inhibit prostaglandin and leukotriene biosynthesis – both of which play a key role in the generation of an inflammatory response.20 So, include ginger in your diet to make use of its anti-inflammatory benefits.
9. Green Tea
You may have heard a lot about the health benefits of green tea. The polyphenols, particularly EGCG in green tea have anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects.21 Green tea can also reduce the production of the pro-inflammatory cytokines22 and is beneficial to patients suffering from arthritis. A study has shown that older women drinking more than 3 cups of green tea a day had a significantly lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis compared to those who drank no tea.23 However, to get maximum benefits, you need to be aware of the best time to drink green tea.
Edible mushrooms are well known for their nutritional qualities. They are rich in anti-inflammatory bioactive compounds like polysaccharides, terpenoids, and phenols.24
A study that looked into the anti-inflammatory activities of oyster mushroom concluded that they could be considered a dietary agent against inflammation.25 However, remember that the anti-inflammatory activity is high in raw mushroom preparations.26
The anti-inflammatory activity of beetroot comes from its betalain pigments. They reduce the production of cytokines, thus, inhibiting inflammatory reactions.27 Various human studies have also reported that beetroot supplementation can minimize the effect of inflammation.28 Add this dash of red to your food now.
12. Virgin Olive Oil
Virgin olive oil contains various phenolic compounds that exert anti-inflammatory actions. Oleocanthal, a phenolic compound found in virgin olive oil, has anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug.29 According to a study, the consumption of virgin olive oil may decrease inflammation, lowering the risk of atherosclerosis, a condition where arteries become clogged with fatty deposits.30
The phenolic compounds such as flavonols and procyanidins in grapes may help you reduce inflammation. A research has pointed out that procyanidins might inhibit proinflammation factors.31 The polyphenols in the muscadine variety of grapes are effective in reducing inflammation in the eye. This is why your mother told you to eat grapes for your eyes.
14. Dark Chocolate
There is no harm in falling in love with this dessert as it helps you fight inflammation. It has a high concentration of flavonoids. Thus, regular consumption of small doses of dark chocolate may reduce inflammation.32
Flavonoid intake is also beneficial to patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease. Moreover, the anti-inflammatory effects of cocoa polyphenols protect you against atherosclerosis, which is considered a low-grade inflammatory disease, that is inflammation caused by natural immune response.33
Bromelain, the enzyme complex unique to pineapple, can modulate inflammatory changes.34 It has immune-modulating abilities, by which it regulates the immune response preventing unwanted inflammation.35
If garlic is not yet an ingredient in your cooking, start using it. Garlic can modulate cytokine secretion, thus, inhibiting anti-inflammatory tendencies.36 It contains allicin, sulfur, and other antioxidants that can fight inflammation.37
According to a research, thiacremonone, a sulfur compound isolated from garlic, could even help in inflammation-related neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease.38
This delicious fruit has a modulatory effect on pro-inflammatory C-reactive protein (CRP) and RANTES (regulated on activation, normal T expressed and secreted). RANTES is a member of the 8-kDa cytokine family, which can act as a mediator of acute and chronic inflammation. Thus, cherries are valuable for the management and prevention of inflammatory diseases.39
A research has suggested that daily consumption of tart cherries may attenuate inflammatory and oxidative responses to exercise-induced muscle damage, leading to faster recovery after exercise bouts.40
18. Whole grains
Given their anti-inflammatory effects, you should consume whole grains daily as part of your healthy diet. The whole grain consumption may reduce CRP, in turn, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.41 A research study has concluded that the whole grains and a low-glycemic-index diet may reduce systemic inflammation among women with type 2 diabetes.42
Lycopene, a natural carotenoid found in tomato, is an anti-inflammatory compound.43 A study has pointed out that consuming lycopene through whole food sources like tomato is more effective than lycopene supplements for lowering cardiovascular risks factors including oxidative stress and inflammation.44 However, more research studies are needed on the anti-inflammatory impact of tomatoes.
Bell peppers and chili peppers contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.45 Capsaicin, a spicy component of chili peppers, is efficient in suppressing obesity-induced inflammation by modulating adipokine release.46 Adipokines are a type of inflammatory cytokines.
Foods That Trigger Inflammation
Besides knowing about anti-inflammatory foods, you should also identify those foods that cause it. Try to limit margarine, refined carbohydrates, red meat, and soda. A diet rich in sucrose or fructose may have an adverse effect on inflammation.47 According to a research, regular consumption of sugar-sweetened soda can increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis in women.48
Keep these in mind as you prepare to fight inflammation:
- Avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils or trans fats in the ingredient labels.
- Avoid gluten, excess omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils, and monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer found in Asian dishes.49 These foods may aggravate the inflammation of joints.
- Dietary changes alone cannot promise you an inflammation-free life.
- Physical activity and moderate exercise are vital to prevent inflammation.50
- Chronic alcohol use may lead to persistent systemic inflammation.51
- Also, quit smoking.
Along with cleaning up your diet, make these healthy changes to your lifestyles to strengthen your immune system.
References [ + ]
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Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.