To a certain degree, inflammation is necessary for helping the body to combat infection and respond to injury. But nowadays the vast majority of people suffer from chronic inflammation, brought on by too much stress, a sedentary lifestyle, and a diet filled with processed foods.
And if it persists over time, can lead to serious diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s. Thankfully, chronic inflammation can oftentimes be managed just by adding more of the following eight anti-inflammatory foods into a person’s diet.
1. Olive Oil
According to Prevention, olive oil contains plenty of polyphenols, which “provide both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.” One such polyphenol is called oleocanthal, and has been found to “inhibits inflammatory enzymes in the same way that ibuprofen does,” says Reader’s Digest.
In addition to its anti-inflammatory benefits, olive oil—specifically the extra virgin variety—is considered to be a very heart-healthy fat. This is due to its high oleic acid content, which Prevention indicates “has been found to help lower blood pressure, reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, and increase HDL (good) cholesterol.”
2. Green Leafy Vegetables
You can add ‘fights inflammation’ to the list of reasons to eat more green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard. These foods are rich sources of vitamin E, which Health.com says “may be key in protecting the body against pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines.”
Although not as leafy, broccoli is another green with powerful anti-inflammatory properties. According to Healthline.com, broccoli is a valuable source of sulforaphane, “an antioxidant that fights inflammation by reducing your levels of cytokines and NF-kB, which drive inflammation.”
Not only are nuts and seeds rich sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, but they also contain plenty of anti-inflammatory properties. Walnuts, for example, are high in rare antioxidants like juglone, which “help scavenge and neutralize rogue pro-inflammatory free radicals,” says Ann Kulze, M.D., in speaking with Men’s Fitness.
When it comes to seeds, Dr. Axe says, “Chia are an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory powerhouse.” They contain myriad vitamins and minerals, as well as essential fatty acids like alpha-linolenic and linoleic acid, making them able to “reverse inflammation, regulate cholesterol and lower blood pressure.”
4. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish—such as salmon, sardines, anchovies, and herring—are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which the Arthritis Foundation says “reduce C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6, two inflammatory proteins in your body.”
The omega-3s in fatty fish can also help to reduce the pain associated with inflammation. According to Reader’s Digest, a study out of the University of Pittsburgh found that “people with back and neck pain who took omega-3 fatty acids in supplement form for three months had less pain overall.” To achieve these benefits, the source recommends eating fatty fish twice per week, as well as taking an omega-3 supplement.
When it comes to fruits with anti-inflammatory properties, there are plenty to enjoy! Berries like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are rich in antioxidants called anthocyanins, which Healthline.com says “have anti-inflammatory effects that may reduce the risk of disease.”
Both the flesh and rind of citrus fruits—such as orange, grapefruits, lemons, and limes—are beneficial because as well due to their flavonoids, which Prevention indicates “neutralize free radicals, potentially preventing the growth of cancer cells.” Also, in pineapple, the enzyme bromelain has been found to reduce inflammation and pain in people with knee osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
In addition to being an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium, tomatoes are also rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which Healthline.com says has “impressive anti-inflammatory properties.”
Particularly, the source indicates it may be beneficial for “reducing pro-inflammatory compounds related to several types of cancer.” But to maximize their anti-inflammatory benefits, Health.com says that eating them cooked (such as in tomato sauce) is better than raw.
7. Garlic and Onions
Not only do garlic and onions pack a flavor punch, but they’ve also been dubbed “anti-inflammatory superstars”—and for good reason. Garlic, Health.com explains, contains organosulfur compounds, which “may lower the production of substances in the blood that boost inflammation.” It is most beneficial when eaten raw, however, so try adding it to salads, salsas, or guacamole.
And onions contain the flavonoid quercetin, which the source says “helps inhibit inflammation-causing agents at play in arthritis,” especially in red onions, yellow onions, and shallots.
8. Herbs and Spices
Certain herbs and spices also help to combat chronic inflammation. Turmeric, for instance, contains a substance called curcumin, which Health.com says “helps to turn off NF-kappa B, a compound that’s integral to triggering the process of inflammation.”
And turmeric’s cousin ginger has been used to reduce inflammation for thousands of years. Whether consumed fresh, dried, or as a supplement, Dr. Axe says “ginger is so effective at warming the body, it can help break down the accumulation of toxins in your organs,” in addition to cleansing the body’s lymphatic system.