Inflammation. It’s not just for health headlines. It’s a serious situation that can lead to a host of health issues.
Scientists are measuring levels of inflammation in our bodies with specific markers of inflammation like C-reactive protein (shown as CRP on blood tests). Studies show that the presence of circulating inflammatory markers in the body is detrimental to your health; this is especially true when it's chronic (i.e. constant over a long period of time).
Inflammation has been linked to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer's, and diabetes, just to name a few. Instead of writing all about what it is, how it's measured, and where it comes from, in this post we focus on some foods packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants that are proven to help reduce it!
Here are my top anti-inflammatory food recommendations:
Anti-inflammatory food #1: Wonder fruits
Why save the best for last? Perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods are a sweet favourite of yours?
Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fiber, antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese), as well as anti-inflammatory phytochemicals (phyto=plant).
Yes, many antioxidants such as "anthocyanins", "resveratrol" and “quercetin” are found in these small and delicious fruits. In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.
Anthocyanins seem to play a role in fighting free radical damage. Research suggests that anthocyanins have positive effects on gut health when they interact with microflora, which can help decrease inflammatory markers associated with many chronic diseases.
Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals produced during everyday bodily functions. Furthermore, resveratrol is classified as a phytoestrogen because of its ability to interact with estrogen receptors in a positive way.
Quercetin is a type of flavonoid antioxidant that’s found in plant foods technically considered a “plant pigment,” which is exactly why it’s found in deeply colored, nutrient-packed fruits and veggies. Considered one of the most abundant antioxidants in the human diet, quercetin plays an important part in fighting free radical damage, which slows down again, reducing inflammation, decreasing allergies, and even alleviating pain.
Anti-inflammatory food #2: Superhero vegetables
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant "sulforaphane." This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.
Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and quercetin. Vitamin C is one of the body’s most powerful antioxidant since it helps to rid the body of free radicals that can damage cells and tissue, which means fewer triggers for inflammation. Vitamin C may also directly lower levels of C-reactive protein, meaning that it actively quells inflammation.
Just make sure to choose red peppers over the other colours. Peppers that are any other colour are not fully ripe and won't have the same anti-inflammatory effect.
Tomatoes contain quercetin and lycopene. As a pigment in food, lycopene is responsible for the red color of tomatoes, although not all red fruits and vegetables contain this antioxidant. Lycopene plays a role in preventing and slowing several types of cancer, most notably prostate cancer, making any foods containing it cancer-fighting foods.
Anti-inflammatory food #3: Healthy fats
Fat can be terribly inflammatory (the "trans" fats), neutral (saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory ("omega-3s), this is why choosing the right fats is so important for your health.
One exceptional saturated fat source is coconut oil. The antioxidants found in coconut oil make it an effective anti-inflammatory food and help reduce arthritis. And the anti-inflammatory property of coconut oil is just one of its many wonderful benefits!
The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, including the polyunsaturated fats omega-3s. Opt for fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, fish, and nuts and seeds.
The high amount of antioxidants in olive oil, quercetin among others, means it protects your cells from free radicals damage. It also helps improve memory and cognitive function, and works as an anti-inflammatory.
Omega-3's are essential fatty acids (EFA), part of the family of polyunsaturated fats and have many anti-inflammatory properties in the body. EFA are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Omega-3 fats are found in oily fish like salmon and mackerel, as well as in nuts and seeds, for example, flax and chia.
Avocados are packed with the benefits of vitamin E, which help prevent free radical damage of cell membranes, hence being linked to reduce risks of Alzheimer and Parkinson’s disease, as well as lowering the incidence of cancer.
Anti-inflammatory food #4: Heavenly hot drinks
Green tea contains quercetin as well as the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG. EGCG is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer's.
Drinking steeped green tea is great, but have you tried matcha green tea? It's known to contain even higher levels of antioxidants than regular green tea!
Coffee is probably the number source of antioxidant in the North American diet. Coffee, which contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds, may protect against inflammation, as well. Studies have found that drinking coffee lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and other inflammatory diseases, as well as delaying aging!
Is that fantastic? But exert caution when indulging in this stimulating beverage because it can lead to increase of cortisol output, your stress hormone, from the adrenal glands depending on your specific caffeine metabolism.
Anti-inflammatory food #5 - Magic spices
Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing spice turmeric?
Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin. This compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, as well as having anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties.
Turmeric is what gives the spice mix that is curry powder its yellow color. Curry powder is used extensively in the Indian cuisine, and also in some Thai curry paste recipes, so put on an apron and try new meals!
Ok, ok. This *may* be slightly more decadent than my #1 pick of berries, grapes, and cherries. Cocoa, the powder made from cacao beans and used to make chocolate, is one of the best anti-inflammatory foods to eat!!
Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa, is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants (namely "flavonols"), as well as quercetin and resveratrol. These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy. Flavonoids have even been shown to prevent "neuro-inflammation" (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory, and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke.
But make sure you avoid the sugary “chocolate candy bars.” You already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!
There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious anti-inflammatory foods you can choose. They range from colourful fruits and vegetables, tasty spices, to healthy fats, and even decadent cocoa.
You have so many reasons to add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet to get your daily dose of "anti-inflammation."