7 Anti-Inflammatory Foods and Supplements You Should Know
By Melissa Rifkin, MS, RDN, CDN
In this article:
What Is The Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
“Anti-inflammatory” is a nutrition buzzword you have likely heard over the years. From unique foods to common household ingredients and supplements, the concept of using nutrition to reduce inflammation in the body is grounded in science. But why exactly is this important and how can less inflammation benefit your health? We’ll cover the importance of managing inflammation, the cases in which inflammation may even be good, and the foods and products you can enjoy at home to offset inflammation in your body.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is often talked about in a negative light, and while it is negative in many scenarios, inflammation is a natural protective mechanism in your body. For example, inflammation and swelling around an injury, say a sprained ankle, helps to send nutrients to the injured site to increase healing. Additionally, inflammation can even be helpful as it supports the immune system to fight off infection. This is known as acute inflammation, and your body has natural mechanisms to manage these inflammatory systems. While these scenarios show positive outcomes of inflammation, excessive inflammation created by dietary and lifestyle choices can lead to a whole host of issues.
The scenarios in which inflammation can negatively impact the body are vast. When inflammation lasts for extended periods of time, in too large amounts, it can damage DNA, cells, and tissues within your body. This damage is thought to lead to an increased risk of some chronic diseases, like forms of cancer and heart disease. One of the best ways to fight inflammation is through lifestyle choices, including diet, supplements, and limiting tobacco and alcohol. Read on to find my top picks for reducing inflammation.
7 Foods And Supplements That Fight Inflammation
Turmeric is a spice known for its bright golden yellow color and is commonly used in Asian cuisine for its warm, bitter flavor and health benefits. While cooking with turmeric can be great for your health, a supplemental form will likely be able to provide a much more potent form of this healthful spice. Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric that is known for its health benefits, including reducing inflammation, possessing antioxidant activity, and even supporting joint and heart health. You can include a turmeric supplement in the form of curcumin daily to enjoy these health benefits.
Turmeric Benefits, An Anti-inflammatory Spice: Read more.
Omega-3 is a form of fat found in common foods, like salmon and tuna, and is also known to reduce inflammation within the body. For those who may not consume enough omega-3s each day through their diet, a supplement can be a wonderful way to ensure you are getting enough of this valuable nutrient. In addition to reducing inflammation, omega-3 fat is also known to support heart health and is a source of essential nutrients EPA and DHA, which are known to play a role in brain function and eye health. For those who do not care to swallow capsules, you can also find omega-3 in liquid forms in which you can add to smoothies or take a quick spoonful before your morning tea.
On the topic of omega-3 fat, walnuts are a plant-based food source that naturally contains this healthy form of fat. While supplements can be a very helpful way to get a broad spectrum of nutrients you may not be getting from your diet, food sources of nutrients are often superior. When you consume walnuts, for example, you get the anti-inflammatory omega-3 benefit, but you also get protein, iron, and other forms of fat you would not get from a supplement. In addition to housing a wide variety of nutrients, including those that reduce inflammation, walnuts are also incredibly versatile. Add them to your oatmeal or yogurt, combine them with dried fruit for a trail mix snack, or heat them with honey and cinnamon for a delicious snack.
Seeds are another good source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, and just as versatile as walnuts. Flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds all contain omega-3s. While this fat is the main nutrient that allows this seed trio to have anti-inflammatory benefits, flax, chia, and hemp host many other nutrients as well, including fiber, protein, and iron. Additionally, they each have their own unique texture and flavor. No worries if you aren’t a fan, they can be disguised easily in many different ways. Try combining these seeds into your salad dressing, blending into a smoothie, or baking into your favorite muffin recipe. For those looking for a subtle food source of omega-3, these seeds are right up your alley!
Sardines are another natural dietary source of omega-3. While the flavor (and smell) may be potent, these little fish are packed with nutrients! When you are unable to cook fresh fish on a regular basis, canned fish, like salmon and sardines, is a wonderful alternative that provides you anti-inflammatory nutrients while packing in protein in a convenient package. Additionally, because very tiny bones are present in sardines, this fish is also a great source of dietary calcium. Add to a salad or mash and spread on toast, sardines are a healthful way to increase omega-3 in your diet.
Green tea has long been enjoyed by cultures around the world, largely because of its health properties. While there are a host of benefits associated with green tea, including possible reductions in risk for heart disease and even obesity, these benefits may be attributed to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds found within green tea. Naturally occurring phytonutrients in green tea, like catechins and L-theanine, are thought to provide a majority of the health benefits associated with this beverage. While you can brew your morning cup of green tea and keep it simple, you can also explore recipes for matcha green tea lattes to create a more artisan green tea experience.
Spirulina is a plant known as blue-green algae and falls into a category called cyanobacteria. Don’t worry, spirulina is completely safe for human consumption and actually provides a wide array of health benefits. A compound found in spirulina called phycocyanin is thought to fight the production of free radicals, and, in turn, fight off inflammatory processes in the body. Additionally, spirulina may help improve cholesterol and blood pressure. Spirulina can be taken in tablet form for those who don’t enjoy an “earthy” flavor, or in a powdered form added to water or a smoothie.
Cacao is the plant that serves as the base in making chocolate. While chocolate is a combination of cacao, sugar, milk, and cocoa butter that often creates high fat and high sugar food product, cacao on its own is actually a very nutritious ingredient. Cacao powder is a natural source of polyphenols, compounds known for their antioxidant properties that have the ability to positively impact health. These antioxidants are thought to aid in weight management, reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases, and exert anti-inflammatory effects. Add cacao powder to a smoothie, combine it with nut butter for a chocolate spread or use it in baking to increase the number of antioxidants in your diet.
Ginger is another food known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities. You can enjoy ginger in many different ways, including fresh, powdered, pickled, in tea, or in a concentrated “shot” form, all providing you health benefits. In addition to having anti-inflammatory properties, ginger is also known to aid in digestion. For those with an upset stomach, motion sickness, or general queasiness, ginger, in any form, is a solution that may help alleviate these uncomfortable symptoms.
Resveratrol is a plant compound that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. If you have ever heard someone claim that red wine can be healthy for you, they aren’t wrong. Red wine is known to contain resveratrol, although you will find much more concentrated amounts in supplements than in a glass of vino. In addition to serving as an antioxidant, resveratrol is also thought to positively impact blood pressure, cholesterol, and may even help protect brain tissue for an anti-aging effect.
As you can see, there are many ways to introduce anti-inflammatory foods and supplements into your daily routine. In addition to these ideas, ensure you are drinking plenty of water, eat a well-rounded diet that contains a variety of fruits and vegetables, and avoid inflammatory foods, like refined sugar, processed meats, and trans fats in processed food items.
14 Ways To Reverse Inflammation: Read more.