What do the cut on your finger, your twisted ankle, and white bread have in common? They all cause your body to inflame. Kind of threw you off with the bread, huh?
It’s true, though. Foods like white bread, fried foods, red meat, and sugary beverages will all cause your body to swell up. Though inflammation is usually a good thing (it’s your body’s way of activating the immune system to send in extra white blood cells to help you heal), inflammation from food is just, well, uncomfortable and unhealthy. Worse, it can lead to chronic inflammation, to which many major diseases – cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s – have been linked.
Fortunately, just as there are foods that puff you up like a balloon, there are also ones that decrease inflammation. In fact, researchers are finding paying attention to what’s on your plate can be more important for fighting inflammation than what’s in your medicine cabinet.
Why should you eat anti-inflammatory foods?
Simply put, an anti-inflammatory diet is a healthy diet.
I mean, you’re eliminating fried, fatty foods, as well as sugars. So doing that will always have positive health effects.
It goes beyond that, though. A more natural, less processed diet that lowers your body’s inflammation can have noticeable effects on your physical (lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, among other things) and emotional health.
With that, in no particular order, here are five of the most anti-inflammatory foods:
Most fruits are anti-inflammatory by nature, but berries are commonly cited as some of the best.
Just about any berry you can think of is rich in vitamins and antioxidants, which are anti-inflammatory compounds. Plus, they are especially rich in fiber, vitamin C and anthocyanins, an antioxidant-rich plant pigment.
Make sure you’re filling up on whole fruit and not fruit juice. While delicious, fruit juice is full of sugar, which will cause you to bloat and gain weight.
Keeping the doctor away is going to take more than an apple. Instead of apples, focus on your berries and cherries and have three to four servings per day.
If you’re not already filling your plate with leafy greens, now’s the time to start. Nearly all non-starchy vegetables have anti-inflammatory properties, as they are full of vitamin K, which is known to reduce inflammation.
Broccoli is especially nutritious and anti-inflammatory, but any leafy green will do.
Mushrooms, peppers, and tomatoes are also great options.
Stacking your plate with four to five servings of fresh vegetables per day will give you the most benefit, as long as you’re not cooking them in vegetable oil.
- Fatty fish
Omega 3 fatty acids are quite anti-inflammatory. And fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel are all loaded with Omega 3.
Unlike red meat, eating fish can actually reduce the risk of heart disease or diabetes. Omega 3 fatty acids reduce the fats found in your blood and slow down the plaque build-up in your arteries.
This can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of a heart attack.
Plus, let’s be honest, when cooked right, fish is just so tasty.
- Dark Chocolate
With fried foods, carbohydrates, and sugars off the table, there are a few anti-inflammatory options that will satisfy your sweet tooth.
For those of us looking for a ‘healthy’ dessert option, dark chocolate just might be the answer.
Dark chocolate is not only delicious, but it’s also filled with antioxidants and has flavanols in them, which keep your blood vessels healthy and support good circulation.
- Green Tea
Green tea is one of the healthiest drinks out there. It’s chock full of antioxidants and an anti-inflammatory substance called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). ECGC reduces cytokine production, which directly decreases inflammation.
The effects of drinking green tea are just short of a miracle: The tea reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
Even drinking one cup a day will have positive effects on your health. However, green tea has caffeine, so if you’re already a coffee addict, it might be best to skip it.
Sean Ostruszka is an active creator. A national-award winning writer for numerous industries, Ostruszka also delves into photography, design, product development and more, while being an avid family man, outdoorsman and fitness enthusiast.