Inflammation is actually a good thing in some cases. It’s part of the body’s immune response, signaling that it’s time to start fixing an injury or wound. Most of us know what inflammation looks like on the outside of the body. You injure your ankle, it swells, and you wait for the swelling (inflammation) to go down. If however, you have swelling that wasn’t caused by an injury, you may have edema. If so you should consult your physician for treatment.
But inflammation can also happen inside of the body. Things like lack of exercise, poor diet and bad sleeping habits can all contribute to inflammation.
Here’s the good news: You can combat inflammation with the right foods. Here are 11 of the best foods to fight inflammation.
1. Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are some of the healthiest foods on the planet, and they are potent inflammation-fighters. Leafy greens have high levels of antioxidants, which help restore cellular health. They also contain anti-inflammatory flavonoids.
Swiss chard contains high levels of vitamins C, A and K, which all protect the brain against oxidative stress. Kale and spinach are also rich in antioxidants, and can help combat the effects of inflammation.
Try adding leafy greens to your salads, or lightly sautéing them to add to your side dishes at dinner.
Recent studies have shown that celery has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties that help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Celery seeds on their own have potent anti-inflammatory effects, and can even help combat bacterial infections. Celery is a great source of vitamins and potassium as well as antioxidants.
Celery is great to eat on its own, but you can also incorporate it into just about any dish to add flavor.
3. Bok Choy
Bok choy is rich in minerals and antioxidant vitamins. Studies have shown that bok choy has more than 70 antioxidant phenolic substances, including hydroxycinnamic acids.
Bok choy has a mild flavor and can easily be incorporated into any dish.
There’s a reason your mother made you eat broccoli – it’s a nutritional powerhouse. Broccoli is rich in magnesium, potassium and potent anti-inflammatory antioxidants.
This one green vegetable contains a slew of key flavonoids, vitamins and carotenoids. They work to lower oxidative stress on the body, help to battle chronic inflammation and can even help keep cancer at bay.
To maximize the nutritional benefits of broccoli, try steaming it and adding it to meals. Steaming preserves as much nutrients as possible while still cooking the vegetable.
The deep purple color of beets is a dead giveaway that this food has powerful antioxidants. Betalain is the antioxidant that gives this vegetable its characteristic color.
High levels of magnesium and potassium fight inflammation, while other nutrients help repair cells. Magnesium also helps the body absorb calcium. When not processed by the body, calcium build-up can lead to calcified kidney stones and even more inflammation.
Beets make a great side dish, but they can also be sliced into salads to add flavor.
Blueberries are well-known for their high levels of antioxidants, which makes them one of the best foods to fight against inflammation. These colorful berries contain quercetin, which is also found in olive oil, citrus and other dark berries. This flavonoid is known to combat inflammation and even cancer.
Studies have linked blueberries to slowed cognitive decline and improved memory. Experts believe the antioxidants in the berries, which reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, are responsible for this effect.
Blueberries are great to eat on their own, but you can also add them to your morning bowl of oatmeal or pancakes.
Ginger is a staple in Chinese and Indian diets, and its known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-disease properties. These effects are thanks to the gingerols compounds in ginger.
Studies have shown that these compounds block several enzymes and genes that promote inflammation.
Fresh ginger has the most potent anti-inflammatory effects. Try adding freshly grated ginger to your meals for a punch of flavor, or steep some freshly sliced ginger in your tea.
8. Green Tea
While technically not a food, green tea deserves mention because its anti-inflammatory effects are so powerful.
Many cultures have been drinking green tea for centuries, and it’s well-known for its healing properties.
Most of green tea’s benefits stem from its catechins, a group of antioxidants found in the leaves of the plants. Epigallocatechin gallate is the most powerful of catechins, and it’s found almost exclusively in green tea. Studies have shown that this catechin is more potent than those found in black tea, and its anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to help prevent the growth of skin tumors.
9. Wild Salmon
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, wild salmon should be a staple in every anti-inflammatory diet. Omega-3s are healthy fats with a known reputation for combating inflammation.
Fatty fish, like salmon, are also one of the best sources of polyunsaturated fats. This fish provides both EPA and DHA.
The omega-3s in salmon are more easily absorbed by the body than plant omega-3s, and they’re already in their active form. This means that they’re ready to start attacking inflammation right away.
Try adding salmon to your diet two times per week to maximize the benefits of this food.
Turmeric, like ginger, is a very powerful anti-inflammatory food thanks to curcumin. Curcumin gives this root its bright color, but it also contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Studies have shown that the curcumin in turmeric prevents the activation of inflammatory pathways by shutting down production of the enzymes 5-LOX and COX-2.
Try adding turmeric to your dishes for an earthy flavor, or steep turmeric slices in tea for a spicy taste.
Rich in lycopene, tomatoes are also rich in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. Lycopene has been linked to cancer prevention, but it also helps prevent depression and protects the brain.
Most of the lycopene in tomatoes is found in the skin, so try adding cherry tomatoes to your salad. Cooking tomatoes (with the skin) makes lycopene even more potent.