Last month I listed the top inflammation causing foods to avoid, and this month as promised is a list of some of the top Anti-Inflammatory foods you can add to your diet.  (Most of this information was written by Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE on December 19, 2019 for Healthline.)

1. Berries

Berries are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  Berries provide antioxidants known as anthocyanins.  These compounds may reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Although dozens of varieties exist, some of the most common include:

  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • blackberries

Your body produces natural killer cells (NK cells), which help keep your immune system functioning properly.

In one study in men, those who consumed blueberries every day produced significantly more NK cells than those who did not.

In another study, adults with excess weight who ate strawberries had lower levels of certain inflammatory markers associated with heart disease.

2. Fatty fish

Fatty fish are a great source of protein and the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have anti-inflammatory effects.  EPA and DHA reduce inflammation that can lead to metabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease.

Although all types of fish contain some omega-3 fatty acids, these fatty fish are among the best sources:

  • salmon
  • sardines
  • herring
  • mackerel
  • anchovies

Your body metabolizes these fatty acids into compounds called resolvins and protectins, which have anti-inflammatory effects.

Studies have found that people consuming salmon or EPA and DHA supplements experienced reductions in the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP).

3. Broccoli

Broccoli is extremely nutritious, and is very high in antioxidants.  It’s a cruciferous vegetable, along with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale.

Research has shown that eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer. This may be related to the anti-inflammatory effects of the antioxidants they contain.

Broccoli is rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that fights inflammation by reducing your levels of cytokines and NF-kB, which drive inflammation.

4. Avocados

Avocados may be one of the few supposed superfoods worthy of the title.

They’re packed with potassium, magnesium, fiber, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.  They also contain carotenoids and tocopherols, which are linked to reduced cancer risk. In addition, one compound in avocados may reduce inflammation in young skin cells.

In one study, when people consumed a slice of avocado with a hamburger, they had lower levels of the inflammatory markers NF-kB and IL-6, compared with participants who ate the hamburger alone.

5. Green tea

You’ve probably heard that green tea is one of the healthiest beverages you can drink.  It reduces your risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, and other conditions.  Many of its benefits are due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, especially a substance called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).

EGCC inhibits inflammation by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokine production and damage to the fatty acids in your cells.  You can buy green tea in most stores.

6. Peppers

Bell peppers and chili peppers are loaded with Vitamin C and antioxidants that have powerful anti-inflammatory effects.  Bell peppers provide the antioxidant quercetin, which may reduce one marker of oxidative damage in people with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease.

Chili peppers contain sinapic acid and ferulic acid, which may reduce inflammation and lead to healthier aging.

7. Mushrooms

While thousands of varieties of mushrooms exist worldwide, only a few are edible and grown commercially.  These include truffles, portobello mushrooms, and shiitake.  Mushrooms are very low in calories and rich in selenium, copper, and all of the B vitamins.

They also contain phenols and other antioxidants that provide anti-inflammatory protection.  A special type of mushroom called lion’s mane may potentially reduce low-grade, obesity-related inflammation.  However, one study found that cooking mushrooms lowered their anti-inflammatory compounds significantly. Thus, it may be best to eat them raw or lightly cooked.

8. Grapes

Grapes contain anthocyanins, which reduce inflammation. In addition, they may decrease the risk of several diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, and eye disorders. Grapes are also one of the best sources of reseveratrol, another compound that has many health benefits.

In one study, people with heart disease who consumed grape extract daily experienced a decrease in inflammatory gene markers, including NF-kB. What’s more, their levels of adiponectin increased. Low levels of this hormone are associated with weight gain and an increased risk of cancer.)

9. Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice with a strong, earthy flavor that’s often used in curries and other Indian dishes.  It has received a lot of attention for its content of curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient. Turmeric reduces inflammation related to arthritis, diabetes, and other diseases.

In fact, consuming 1 gram of curcumin daily combined with piperine from black pepper caused a significant decrease in the inflammatory marker CRP in people with metabolic syndrome.

However, it may be hard to get enough curcumin to experience a noticeable effect from turmeric alone.

In one study, women with excess weight who took 2.8 grams of turmeric per day showed no improvement in inflammatory markers. Taking supplements containing isolated curcumin is much more effective. Curcumin supplements are often combined with piperine, which can boost curcumin absorption by 2,000%.

10. Extra virgin olive oil

Extra virgin Olive oil is one of the healthiest fats you can eat.

It’s rich in monounsaturated fats and a staple in the Mediterranean diet, which provides numerous health benefits.  Studies link extra virgin olive oil to a reduced risk of heart disease, brain cancer, and other serious health conditions. In one study on the Mediterranean diet, CRP and several other inflammatory markers significantly decreased in those who consumed 1.7 ounces (50 ml) of olive oil daily.

The effect of oleocanthal, an antioxidant found in olive oil, has been compared to anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.  Keep in mind that extra virgin olive oil offers greater anti-inflammatory benefits than those provided by more refined olive oils.

11. Dark chocolate and cocoa

Dark chocolate is delicious, rich, and satisfying.

It’s also packed with antioxidants that reduce inflammation. These may reduce your risk of disease and lead to healthier aging.  Flavanols are responsible for chocolate’s anti-inflammatory effects and keep the endothelial cells that line your arteries healthy.  In one study, smokers experienced significant improvements in endothelial function within 2 hours of eating high-flavonol chocolate.

However, make sure to choose dark chocolate that contains at least 70% — a greater percentage is even better — to reap these anti-inflammatory benefits.

12. Cherries

Cherries are delicious and rich in antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and catechins, which fight inflammation.  Although the health-promoting properties of tart cherries have been studied more than other varieties, sweet cherries also provide benefits.

In one study, when people consumed 280 grams of cherries per day for 1 month, their levels of the inflammatory marker CRP decreased and stayed low for 28 days after they stopped eating cherries.

These are just a few ways to reduce inflammation just by adding these nutritious foods to your diet.  If you feel like you cannot get enough of these natural foods in your diet you can add some dietary supplements.

Personally I have found the best supplements for anti-inflammation to be Metagenics Inflavanoid- and Metagenics SPM Active.  We have both of these products here at Performance Health Center- so next time you stop by the front desk, ask and the front desk staff can answer your questions and or give you more information on these anti-inflammatory supplements.

If you have any questions about this blog, or about your health in general, please feel free to contact me at drtomball@performancehealthcenter.com

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