Foods to Help Fight Inflammation
When you think ‘inflammation’, you probably think ‘pain’, right? And in many ways, you’d be spot-on. One purpose of inflammation is to protect the site of sickness or injury. It’s your body’s way of beckoning the immune system to repair and heal damaged tissue – when you graze your knee, for instance. Problem is, if the inflammatory process becomes sustained, it can throw your biological functions into disarray. Chronic inflammation is usually a painless condition characterised by free radical damage. It’s not linked to one specific tissue, either, triggering everything from allergies to acne to autoimmune disease i.
Like most health complications, nutrition plays a pivotal role in helping to fight and prevent inflammation. In addition to staying away from those pro-inflammatory foods (ahem, vegetable oils, fatty meats, processed cheeses, and white bread – we’re looking at you), and listening to warning signs from your body (joint pain, constipation, IBS and bloating), loading up on these anti-inflammatory foods will support your biological defences against free radical damage. Think of them as fuel for your biological police force, which hunt down invading inflammatory scavengers.
Heralded for its antiviral, antibacterial, and antioxidant qualities, this pungent spice contains the sulphuric compound, allicin, which – yup, you’ve guessed it – boasts anti-inflammatory properties ii. The beauty of this bulb is there’s a place for it in every dish – soups, sauces, veggies and meat. Oh, and the finer you dice it, the more the free radical-fighting allicin is released, too. But before you crank up the heat, here’s some food for thought: cooking inactivates garlic’s active compound, allicin. So, if you really want to soak up all of that anti-inflammation goodness, best eat it raw. A good excuse to tolerate the garlic breath, don’t you think?
Jewelled and naturally sweet, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are jam-packed with antioxidants called anthocyanidins. Not only do these little guys contribute to the anti-inflammatory effects in the body by neutralising free radicals, but they have the power to support tissues, vital organs and cells, too. These powerhouses truly kick inflammation ass, supporting heart function, eye health, cognition, immunity, and collagen production iii. Breakfast is a brilliant canvas for a burst of berry goodness. Think blueberries on your porridge, strawberries on your overnight oats, and blackberries in your morning smoothie. Read more about anthocyanidins here.
Besides adding a sharp kick to your meals, ginger helps quash inflammation by inhibiting your body’s production of ‘cytokines’ – proteins notorious for causing chronic inflammation iv. This ‘spice of life’ has been widely touted for its capacity to soothe nausea and support digestion, and a growing body of research suggests it may even help to manage blood sugar levels, too v. This knobbly root deserves pride of place in curries, juices and soups. For the ultimate anti-inflammatory hit, fix yourself a blueberry and ginger smoothie. Blend 1 cup of frozen or fresh blueberries, 1 tbsp. minced ginger, 1 cup Greek yoghurt, and 2 tbsp. honey. Et voila! Nourishing, creamy deliciousness to jumpstart your day.
This powerful spice has certainly had its moment in the health and wellness world of late – and it’s not surprising. This beautiful golden root won’t just inject some colour into your grub; it will offer plenty of anti-inflammatory support, too. According to a bulk of data, turmeric’s active compound, curcumin, may help with inflammation in the body, and provide some support against metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular risks, and even cognitive decline vi. Cooking tip: for optimal absorption, always eat turmeric with its best pal: fat-containing foods. Ever tried turmeric in scrambled eggs? Trust us: breakfast will never be the same again. Read more about the easy ways to incorporate turmeric into your diet here.
To complete the holy trinity of inflammation-fighting spices, we have to mention cinnamon. And if you need another reason to sprinkle it on your cappuccino or bowl of porridge, here are two: not only does this oh-so-versatile spice works wonders at balancing blood sugar, but its abundance of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds to help support your body against free radicals, infections, and tissue damage vii. Cinnamon is the perfect partner to your turmeric latte. Talk about double whammy of anti-inflammatory goodness, or what?
These little fellas may be small, but boy are they mighty. Boasting a high protein and fibre content, along with a brilliant ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, chia seeds ooze anti-inflammatory prowess. Did you know chia seeds contain more omega-3s than salmon, gram for gram viii? Yup, these guys aren’t to be messed with. Power-up your porridge, salads and overnight oats with a good ol’sprinkling of these babies. Check out our delicious chia seed pudding recipe here.
A raft of scientific evidence proposes the omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish (salmon, herring, tuna, sardines and mackerel) can perform marvels against inflammation in the body. ix. Loading up 2-3 portions of oily fish each week can support everything from cognition and heart function, to mobility and eye health. Try roasting salmon with a cruciferous veggie, like broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower – another powerful weapon against inflammation x. Pass the veg, please.
Wellness warriors are going nuts for coconut oil at the moment – and for good reason. Not only has this superfood been praised for its medicinal and health properties, but it’s versatile beauty credentials have been lauded, too (side note: coconut oil is your one-stop-beauty product; it’s the perfect hair mask, moisturiser, makeup remover, lip balm – the list could go on…). Plus, this oil is one of the best things to cook with because it’s pretty dang resistant to high heat. Save the extra virgin for drizzling over salads (another anti-inflammatory food, we should add), and use coconut oil for frying instead. You don’t get more of a tried-and-tested superfood than coconut oil. It’s a store cupboard essential.
Jam-packed with health-boosting nutrients, bone broth is more than just a hippy-dippy, wellness trend. This feel-good staple has been shown to be helpful with managing inflammation in countless areas of the body, thanks to its high levels of the amino acids, proline and glycine xii. It’s abundant in collagen, too. And collagen doesn’t just make your skin glow, it’s also vitally important for your overall health. It’s found in one-third of all proteins in the body, so it’s needed for supple tendons, bones, joints and ligaments. Pro-cooking tip: try using bone broth to cook your grains, like brown rice or quinoa.
Nuts, especially our pals walnuts and almonds, are chock-full of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which keep your brain, heart and eyes fighting fit xiii. These nuts are abundant in vitamin E, too – a potent antioxidant that neutralises the harmful effects of free radicals and works hard against inflammation in the body. Up your intake of these little guys by adding them to salads, porridge or blended into nut butter. Oh, and munching straight-up nuts is a great snack when the four o’clock slump strikes. You heard us: go nuts!
Khanna, R.D., Kark, K. (2014). Inflammation, Free Radical Damage, Oxidative Stress and Cancer Interdisciplinary Journal of Microinflammation, 01(01).
Lee, D.Y., Li, H., Lim, H.J., Lee, H.J., Jeon, R., Rye, J.H. (2012). Anti-inflammatory activity of sulfur-containing compounds from garlic. Journal of medicinal food, 15(11), 992-9.
Basu, A., Rhone, M. & Lyons, T.J. (2010). Berries: emerging impact on cardiovascular health. Journal of Nutrition reviews, 68(3), 168-77.
Ghosh, D. (2007). Anthocyanins and anthocyanin-rich extracts: role in diabetes and eye function. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 16(2): 200-8.
Cho, J., Kang, J., Long, P., Jing, J., Back, Y. & Chung, K. (2003). Antioxidant and memory enhancing effects of purple sweet potato anthocyanin and cordyceps mushroom extract. Archives of Pharmacal Research, 26(10), pp.821-825.
Somerville, V.S., Braakhuis, A.J. & Hopkins, W.G. (2016). Effect of Flavonoids on Upper Respiratory Tract Infections and Immune Function: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Asia Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 7(3), 488-97.
Bae, Y.J., et al. (2009). Bog blueberry anthocyanins alleviate photoaging in ultraviolet-B irradiation-induced human dermal fibroblasts. Mol Nutr Food Res, 53(6): 726-38.
Mashhadi, N.S., Ghiasvand, R., Askari, G., Hariri, M., Darvishi, L. & Mofid, M.R. (2012). Anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of ginger in health and physical activity: review of current evidence. International journal of preventive medicine, 4(Suppl 1), S36-42.
Grzanna, R., Lindmark, L. & Frondoza, C. (2005). Ginger—An Herbal Medicinal Product with Broad Anti-Inflammatory Actions. Journal of Medicinal Food, 8(2), pp.125-132.
Chainani-Wu, N. (2003). Safety and Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Curcumin: A Component of Tumeric (Curcuma longa). The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 9(1), 161-168.
Goel, A., Boland, C., Chauhan, D. (2001). Specific inhibition of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression by dietary curcumin in HT-29 human colon cancer cells. Cancer Letters, 172(2), 111-118.
Rao, P.V. & Gan, S.H. (2014). Cinnamon: a multifaceted medicinal plant. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: eCAM, 2014, 642942.
Gunner, K. (BSc). (2018). 11 Proven Health Benefits of Chia Seeds. Available online: www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-health-benefits-of-chia-seeds [Accessed 11 Oct. 2018].
Versus Arthritis. (2018). Fish oils. Available online: https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/complementary-and-alternative-treatments/types-of-complementary-treatments/fish-oils [Accessed 13 Oct. 2018].
Jiang, Y., Wu, S., Shu, X., Xiang, Y., Ji, B., Milne, G., Cai, Q., Zhang, X., Gao, Y.,Zheng, W. & Yang, G. (2014). Cruciferous Vegetable Intake Is Inversely Correlated with Circulating Levels of Proinflammatory Markers in Women. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(5), 700-708.e2.
Hsu, D.J., Lee, C.W., Tsai, W.C. & Chien, Y.C. (2017). Essential and toxic metals in animal bone broths. Food & nutrition research, 61(1), 1347478.
Salas-Salvado, J., et al. (2008). The effect of nuts on inflammation. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 17. Suppl 1: 333-6.
You Might Also Like
Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.