10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods You Should Start Eating Today!
Inflammation is the immune system’s natural response to stress, toxins, injuries and infections and is an essential part of the healing and recovery process. However, sometimes our immune system has a tendency to go overboard which results in painful swelling and inflammation which doesn’t seem to subside. This is when we need to intervene before our immune systems cause more harm than good. How do we intervene, you ask? The answer: Anti-inflammatory foods.
What is Inflammation and why is it a concern?
Inflammation is a natural response of the immune system to damaging factors, e.g. physical, chemical and pathogenic. Deficiencies of antioxidants, vitamins, and microelements, as well as physiological processes, such as aging, can affect the body’s ability to resolve inflammation.
When our immune system responds to the different stressful situations (injuries, infections etc.) it releases chemicals from the body’s white blood cells into the blood or the affected tissues to protect your body from foreign substances. This may result in redness, swelling, pain and stiffness for a short period of time. But if the immune cells producing the chemicals start to overreact, it can cause chronic inflammation and adversely affect the cellular health of your body.
Inflammation can affect the internal organs and has been linked to digestive disorders, skin problems, mental and emotional imbalance and more. Different studies have also linked chronic inflammation to degenerative diseases including cancer, heart diseases, diabetes and many others.
Chronic inflammation can have a number of causes, including a virus or bacteria, an autoimmune disorder, lifestyle choices and diet. Furthermore, modern medications take away the pain associated with inflammation without addressing the underlying cause, meaning that the affected tissue or organ never heals.
Read on as we highlight 10 of the best anti-inflammatory foods that you can easily include in your diet!
Almonds are one of the best natural anti-inflammatory foods. It contains monounsaturated fat, protein and potassium which make them good for heart health. The vitamin E they contain is an antioxidant that helps reduce the risk of heart attacks. They also stabilise the rise in insulin and blood sugar, helping to fight diabetes. According to a 2013 study, incorporating almonds into a healthy diet can help fight inflammation and oxidative stress in type 2 diabetes patients.
Not only is salmon an excellent source of protein but it is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids which have potent inflammation reducing properties. Salmon contains two types of Omega 3, the primary among which is EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Eicosapentaenoic acid is a precursor to all anti-inflammatory signals produced in the body called prostaglandins.
Integrating salmon into your diet also reduces the risk of heart and cardiovascular diseases. Additionally, it reduces your serum triglycerides and blood pressure. Eating salmon also allows your body to respond better to insulin. This ensures better blood sugar control and reduced inflammation caused by lapses in the immune system’s inability to recognize its own cells (also called autoimmune disorders).
The anti-inflammatory benefits of flaxseeds come from high amounts of alpha linoleic acid (ALA), a form of omega 3 fatty acid which is a precursor to the anti-inflammatory compound EPA. Flaxseeds provide numerous health benefits such as controlling blood sugar, lowering blood cholesterol, reducing heart disease risk and maintaining anti-inflammatory balance. The phytoestrogens in flaxseeds balance the body’s hormone levels and have been found to be protective against cancer.
Blueberries are a rich source of antioxidants that protect cells from inflammation and oxidative stress. The antioxidant compounds of blueberries stop the proliferation of cancer cells as well as enhance the antioxidant effects of vitamin C present in it.
Blueberries also protect against macular degeneration, prevent dementia, improve learning and motor skills, lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of UTI (Urinary Tract Infections). Blueberries have a low glycemic index which makes it a great diabetic-friendly anti-inflammatory food.
Mushrooms are one of the most immune-boosting, nutrient-packed and anti-inflammatory foods that you can include in your diet. The antioxidants and phytonutrients present in mushrooms protect your body against infection, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, arthritis and diabetes. Several studies indicate that edible mushroom has therapeutic and health-promoting benefits, particularly in relation to diseases associated with inflammation.
One of the foods high in anti-inflammatory properties is broccoli. It contains a high level of different nutrients that provides numerous health benefits. A 2010 study published in the Inflammation Researcher journal found that decreasing the influence of allergy-related substances, kaempferol in broccoli also helps to lower the risk of chronic inflammation.
Apart from kaempferol, there are other antioxidant phytonutrients such as quercetin, isothiocyanates (especially sulforaphane) and omega-3 fatty acids present in broccoli that help regulate inflammation and allergic reactions.
Quinoa is a gluten-free whole grain that is also one of the best anti-inflammatory foods. It is high in magnesium and riboflavin (vitamin B2), which helps prevent migraine headaches and reduce inflammation of blood vessels.
Research suggests quinoa might suppress the release of immune substances called cytokines, which is helpful in both preventing and treating inflammation. You can use quinoa as a substitute for rice or pasta or use quinoa flour as a gluten-free flour substitute.
Brussels sprouts are nutritious vegetables rich in antioxidants, vitamin K, omega 3 and anti-inflammatory fatty acids. They aid in detoxification as they contain compounds called glucosinolates, which help fight against some cancers. These compounds are also able to regulate several inflammatory responses of the body and reduce the risk of pro-inflammatory diseases.
Onions are a powerhouse of anti-inflammatory benefits and are easy to incorporate in most foods. They are a rich source of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound quercetin. The anti-inflammatory effects of quercetin might help reduce inflammation. They also protect against cardiovascular disease, improve blood sugar control in diabetics and protect against some cancers.
Onions are also high in sulphur-containing molecules that help the cells of your body to function properly. They aid in detoxification and boost immune function.
Green tea is available in wide varieties and flavours and is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds such as catechins. The presence of catechins and other polyphenolic compounds help fight inflammation and oxidative stress.
Thus, nutrition is one of the important players in the anti-inflammatory process. Many foods are naturally pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. Hence, the types of foods you feed your body have a serious impact on your inflammation responses. The biggest enemies are processed foods, sugary foods and trans fats as they promote inflammation and thus their intake should be limited.
Let us know your favourite anti-inflammatory foods and how they have improved your health in the comments section below.