Inflammation-Fighting Foods: While most of us think about food in terms of how it can affect our weight and physical performance, it goes well beyond that. Everything from our skin to our hair to how our organs are performing is effected by what we eat. Chief among the foods we want to avoid in order to optimize how our body functions are those that promote inflammation.
The Inflammation-Fighting Foods You Should Be Eating
So what exactly is inflammation?
If you’ve ever sprained your ankle only to find it swell up like a balloon, you’ve witness inflammation firsthand. It’s a natural immune response whereby the tissues in your body react to a harmful stimuli such as an infection or an injury. It’s a protective response meant to eliminate the initial cause of harm. In the case of the ankle sprain, it’s a temporary, targeted form of inflammation. When you consistently eat a poor diet rich in sugary, starchy foods (pasta, bread, pastries, baked goods, fried foods including chips, pretzels, soda, red meats, margarine…), your body is systematically being effected by inflammation, which increases the risk of degenerative disease, chronic pain, joint pain, fatigue, damage to blood vessels, and causes sagging skin, dark circles, puffiness, among many other internal and external factors.
The good news is there’s plenty that can be done to control inflammation. The key is to be strategic about the foods you eat, focusing on following a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods and drinking water (or tea) throughout the day.
Here’s a look at the inflammation-fighting foods you should always have around.
Fish (especially cold water fish like wild Alaskan salmon, tuna, scallops, halibut, herring, sardines, anchovies, all of which are high in inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids), shellfish (shrimp, crab, lobster), poultry (free-range chicken, turkey, Cornish hens, nitrate-free bacon on occasion), seitan, tempeh, and tofu are all great dietary staples that will work to naturally fight inflammation.
Dark leafy greens
Rich in antioxidants, dark leafy greens like kale and spinach have been proven to fight inflammation. They’re also high in vitamin E, which is thought to help protect the body from pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines.
Opt for raw, unsalted nuts. Walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, and hazelnuts are all great options as they’re high in inflammation-fighting monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, fiber, and antioxidants.
Berries, especially blueberries, will work to fight inflammation with their high antioxidant content.
Flax, chia, pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame are all high in inflammation-fighting omega-3s.
Beans and lentils
Lentils (red, green black), lima beans, kidney beans, white beans, pinto beans, and black beans are all rich in fiber and phytonutrients, which help lower CRP, an indicator of inflammation found in the blood.
Oats, barley, quinoa, and buckwheat are all low-glycemic carbohydrates (i.e. they won’t cause a sugar spike), making them a great option. These whole grains will also work to lower CRP.
Extra virgin olive oil, flax oil, macadamia nut oil, avocados, coconuts, and olives are all fantastic sources of healthy fats. Avocados in particular are rich in carotenoids, which have been proven to help fight inflammation.
When necessary, sweeten foods with honey or another less processed type of sugar. Natural sweeteners tend to fall lower on the glycemic index, which means they won’t spike your blood sugar as much. This may help combat inflammation.