Inflammation is a natural process that occurs in the body. It can help your body defend against infection and injury and is an important part of the repetitive muscle process after exercise.
However, chronic inflammation is associated with increasing the risk of numerous diseases, such as obesity, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and certain cancers.
The good news is that certain foods may decrease inflammation. Consuming anti-inflammatory foods can be a great way to help combat excessive inflammation.
This, in turn, may not only decrease pain and discomfort but may reduce your risk of chronic diseases associated with inflammation.
So, what are the best anti-inflammatory foods? Is there a complete list of anti-inflammatory foods? In this article, we share an (almost) complete list of anti-inflammatory foods.
List of Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Berries are one of the best anti-inflammatory foods. They are packed with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and boysenberries are all examples of anti-inflammatory berries.
The anti-inflammatory benefits of berries are primarily attributable to the vitamin C content—a powerful antioxidant that helps support the immune system and combat the deleterious effects of free radicals—as well as a particular group of antioxidants known as anthocyanins.Studies suggest that anthocyanins in berries have powerful anti-inflammatory effects that, in turn, may reduce the risk of certain diseases.
For example, one study found that consuming blueberry powder daily can lead to a significant increase in the production of natural killer cells (NK cells), which are key immune cells that help your body fight infection.
Another study involving overweight adults found that those who consumed strawberries exhibited lower levels of certain inflammatory markers that have been linked with heart disease relative to those who did not eat the berries.
#2: Broccoli and Other Cruciferous Vegetables
Broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables or foods overall, so it’s no surprise that it turns up on the list of anti-inflammatory foods. It is a cruciferous vegetable belonging to the same family of vegetables as kale, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
Broccoli is rich in an antioxidant called sulforaphane, which has been shown to reduce inflammation by decreasing levels of certain inflammatory factors in the body, such as cytokines and nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB).
Broccoli also contains phytochemicals known as glucosinolates, which also reduce inflammation and promote cellular health.
Indeed, studies suggest that diets high in cruciferous vegetables are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and certain cancers, likely attributable to the anti-inflammatory benefits of these foods.
#3: Fatty fish
Almost any list of anti-inflammatory foods will surely include salmon or fatty fish in general.
Fatty fish, including salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring, are not only a great source of proteins but also contain the heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory long-chain omega-3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
These omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to decrease inflammation.
EPA and DHA are metabolized in the body into compounds known as resolvins and protectins, which have direct anti-inflammatory effects, with studies suggesting that consuming fatty fish or omega-3 fatty acid supplements can reduce levels of CRP (C-reactive protein), one of the primary markers of inflammation.
Avocados are one of the best anti-inflammatory foods because they are packed with monounsaturated fats, fiber, and essential nutrients such as magnesium and potassium.
Monounsaturated fats have been shown to provide a cardioprotective effect.
Additionally, avocados contain powerful antioxidants and phytonutrients such as carotenoids and tocopherols, which have been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers. Other studies have demonstrated that avocados may reduce inflammation in the skin.
Another study involving overweight adults found that eating avocado daily for 12 weeks resulted in a significant decrease in the inflammatory markers interleukin 1 beta (IL-1β) and CRP.
Tomatoes are not only high in vitamin C but also contain a particular antioxidant known as lycopene, which has been shown to confer potent anti-inflammatory effects in the body. Lycopene can combat the production of certain pro-inflammatory compounds that are associated with certain types of cancer.
Experts suggest that cooking tomatoes helps release some of the lycopene to make them more bioavailable, especially when cooked in a fat like olive oil.
Like berries, grapes contain anti-inflammatory anthocyanins. Studies suggest that grapes are also high in other polyphenols such as resveratrol, the antioxidant that is what confers health benefits to red wine as well.
This antioxidant has been shown to decrease inflammatory markers and improve heart health.
Turmeric is a rich spice with an earthy flavor often used in Indian dishes. It contains an anti-inflammatory compound known as curcumin, which is so powerful it is often used in herbal remedies for arthritis. Curcumin can also exhibit anti-inflammatory effects that reduce the risk of other diseases.
Like berries and grapes, cherries are a natural source of anthocyanins. They also provide another anti-inflammatory compound known as catechins.
Although all cherries can be considered an anti-inflammatory food, tart cherries provide superior anti-inflammatory benefits.
Peppers, including bell peppers and chili peppers, are packed with vitamin C, which in and of itself has powerful anti-inflammatory effects on the body, but they also provide an antioxidant known as quercetin.
This antioxidant has been shown to decrease the inflammation associated with certain chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
Other research suggests that chili peppers are an anti-inflammatory food because they have compounds known as sinapic acid and ferulic acid.
#10: Orange Vegetables
Carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and other orange winter squashes contain beta-carotene, which gets converted to vitamin A in the body. These vegetables also provide zeaxanthin and lutein, antioxidants that can decrease inflammation.
#11: Green Tea
You will find green tea on almost any list of anti-inflammatory foods, which has been shown to reduce the risk of numerous health conditions such as certain cancers, obesity, and heart disease.
Green tea is rich in epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), an anti-inflammatory compound that combats the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which otherwise may induce damage to the healthy fatty acids in your cells.
Several different types of nuts may decrease inflammation. Almonds, in particular, are one of the best anti-inflammatory foods because they are rich in monounsaturated fat and also contain the antioxidant vitamin E.
Another anti-inflammatory nut is walnuts, which provide similar nutrients.
There is a vast family of edible mushrooms, some of which provide more anti-inflammatory benefits than others. However, almost all types of mushrooms are rich in certain nutrients such as B vitamins, selenium, copper, powerful polyphenols, and antioxidants that decrease inflammation in the body.
Lion’s Mane is a type of mushroom specifically shown to decrease the inflammation associated with obesity.
#14: Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Like avocados, olives and extra-virgin olive oil are rich in monounsaturated fats, which can decrease inflammation in the body.
The Mediterranean diet is often considered an anti-inflammatory diet due largely in part to the consumption of fatty fish and extra virgin olive oil.
In addition to healthy fats, extra-virgin olive oil contains an antioxidant known as oleocanthal, which has been suggested to be nearly as effective as ibuprofen. It also contains oleic acid, another powerful heart-healthy compound that can reduce cardiovascular stress and protect against atherosclerosis.
#15: Dark Chocolate and Cocoa
Perhaps one of the most appealing foods on our list of anti-inflammatory foods is dark chocolate and cocoa.
Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, which decrease inflammation in the endothelial cells lining the inside of your blood vessels.
The darker the chocolate, the higher the antioxidant content.
#16: Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits, are high in vitamin C. They also contain a certain kind of flavonoid known as narirutin, which helps decrease inflammation.
This list of anti-inflammatory foods should serve as a guide to provide you with some ideas of the types of foods that are best for decreasing inflammation.
Other examples of good anti-inflammatory foods include kale, spinach, Swiss chard, walnuts, flaxseeds, legumes, bok choy, and ginger.
Including anti-inflammatory foods in your diet is a great way to improve your overall health and reduce your risk of disease.
When doing so, aim to make a simultaneous concerted effort to decrease inflammatory foods such as processed foods, alcohol, excess sugar, artificial sweeteners and dyes, and fatty meats.
If you are interested in adjusting your eating habits and making better choices, check out some of our healthiest diet ideas!