Reduce Inflammation ➤ 6 Best Natural Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Blueberries and leaf greens in a bowl

Despite having seemingly little in common, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, gastritis, depression, cancer, and asthma all share one common trait: they may be caused or worsened by inflammation. And while inflammation can sometimes be good – like when it’s helping your body fight an infection, for example – chronic inflammation can lead to long-term health problems, including the ones I just mentioned. In fact, research has shown that inflammation is at the root of most diseases.

Fresh spinach

A sedentary lifestyle, stress, and environmental factors can all contribute to inflammation –  but a poor diet is also a key factor.(1, 2)

Luckily, certain foods are natural anti-inflammatories, and eating them can help.

Where does inflammation come from?

Our immune system is activated when our body detects foreign substances, such as bacteria, viruses, pollen, or chemicals, but also certain foods like white bread, fried foods, sugary drinks, and red meat. This often triggers a process described as inflammation. Temporary inflammation directed at truly threatening invaders protects our health. However, sometimes inflammation persists and becomes a chronic condition. Chronic inflammation is associated with diseases like diabetes, arthritis, depression, cancer, heart disease, or Alzheimer’s. Free radicals – highly reactive oxygen molecules that damage biologically-relevant molecules like proteins, lipids, or our DNA – play a key role in the creation of inflammation. Free radicals can be neutralized by substances in our food called antioxidants.

Top 6 Anti-Inflammatory Foods

1. LEAFY GREEN VEGGIES

There’s a reason these powerful foods are on nearly every healthy eating list. Leafy greens are packed with antioxidants that have a positive effect on our health. They also contain an array of vitamins, and powerful anti-inflammatory flavonoids. The beauty of leafy greens is that there are so many! Choose from spinach, kale, Swiss chard, arugula, collard greens, and mustard greens (also known as brown mustard, Chinese mustard, Indian mustard, or leaf mustard).

2. BLUEBERRIES

Bowl with blueberries and yoghurt

Quercetin (= plant pigment) is considered a powerful antioxidant that helps fight inflammation, and it’s prominent in blueberries. In fact, blueberries are full of antioxidants. One study found that the bright little fruit not only beat out blackberries and strawberries for having the most antioxidants, but it also had more types of antioxidants, thus providing a wide range of anti-inflammatory protection each time you eat a handful.(3)

Tip:

Combine both #1 and #2 by whipping up this Blueberry & Kale Smoothie for breakfast or midday snack.

3. Pineapples

Cut pineapple

Pineapples are another natural anti-inflammatory. They are full of bromelain(4), a digestive enzyme that helps regulate your body’s immune response, so that it doesn’t react with unnecessary inflammation. Bromelain also contributes to heart health. The tropical fruit is chock-full of minerals and vitamins (e.g. vitamin C), potassium, and the trace element manganese (which is involved in activating enzymes that destroy free radicals).

Good to know:

If you want to benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of pineapple, drink pineapple concentrate, which contains a much higher concentration of bromelain than a ripe pineapple.

4. Wild-caught salmon

Salmon is another great anti-inflammatory food. It is rich in the essential omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid. The fatty acids contained in salmon can benefit your heart, skin, and brain health.

Especially interesting:

Omega-3s can provide relief from inflammation(5) and even reduce the need for anti-inflammatory meds.

5. Chia seeds and flaxseeds

These little seeds really pack a punch. Not only are they loaded with vitamins and minerals, but they’re also a healthy source of essential fatty acids (like omega-3s) – a helpful alternative source if you don’t eat meat. Chia seeds help fight inflammation, regulate cholesterol levels, and lower blood pressure, making them excellent for your heart. They’re also high in linoleic acid, a fatty acid that helps the body better absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

6. Turmeric

Turmeric isn’t exactly a food, but it may just become your new go-to spice:

Curcumin, the yellow-orange pigment in turmeric, is said to be a strong anti-inflammatory agent. Many studies are currently testing the effect of curcumin on different types of cancer, diabetes, joint changes (osteoarthritis), and retinal damage. (6,7)

As you can see, there are many natural anti-inflammatory foods that benefit your health. Now go ahead and start incorporating more of these foods into your diet on a regular basis.

Turmeric spice

*Always make sure to consume the above foods in moderation. Our body should maintain a balance between compounds that destroy free radicals and processes that create free radicals.

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Dr. Josh Axe Josh is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist, and author. He specializes in how the right nutrition has a positive influence on people's health. View all posts by Dr. Josh Axe »

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