You’ve probably heard that chronic inflammation is the root cause of most diseases.
But what does that really mean?
Inflammation is the body’s natural and healthy response to injury, illness, and infection. Just think about the fever, pain, redness, and swelling that can accompany a cut, burn or the common cold – that’s acute inflammation at work.
It’s your body’s way of fighting viruses and promoting healing.
However, an unhealthy lifestyle stemming from things like poor diet, stress, and lack of sleep can create low-level, ongoing inflammation on the cellular level.
This type of inflammation affects all body systems and, left untreated, is believed to be the underlying cause of serious illness, such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer.
You may not even know this kind of inflammation is occurring until you’re dealing with pain in your body or perhaps a diagnosis of a new illness.
Inflammation Fighting Foods… That Truly Are Like Medicine!
The good news is that your diet is one of the most powerful tools you have that can boost your immune system and fight the fires of inflammation in your body.
Even better news though…if you’re currently dealing with chronic pain, such as arthritis or healing from a recent injury, the foods you eat may be able to provide some relief, naturally.
Be aware that some foods can promote inflammation in the body, and you’ll want to minimise or steer clear of those all-together.
Inflammation-promoting foods include:
- Unhealthy, processed fats (hydrogenated oils, processed deli-style meats, etc)
- Refined carbohydrates (white bread, sweets, etc)
- Fried & (saturated) fatty foods
- Alcoholic beverages
Decreasing the amount of these inflammation-promoting foods, and increasing the number of anti-inflammatory foods you regularly consume is one of the keys to fighting inflammation and therefore, decreasing pain.
That said, in general, an Anti-inflammatory Diet limits processed and convenience foods and includes plenty of whole foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. No surprise there, I know!
But, here are the top 5 inflammation-fighting foods you should be including in your daily diet…
Inflammation Fighting Food #1: BERRIES & CHERRIES
Dark-colored fruits, like blueberries and cherries, are loaded with antioxidants (responsible for those beautiful colors!) that can help fight inflammation. These fruits also contain fiber, which as previously mentioned, also plays a role in blocking inflammation.
Several studies have found regular consumption of cherries resulted in decreased inflammatory markers, including C-reactive protein, and reduced levels of oxidative stress.
Some studies have also linked regular cherry intake with less muscle pain and soreness following exercise – have you ever tried tart cherries or tart cherry juice?
Inflammation Fighting Food #2: HEALTHY FATS
One of the biggest culprits of inflammation is eating too many unhealthy fats. A diet full of omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils, such as corn, soybean, and safflower oil, common in processed foods promotes inflammation.
When your intake of omega-6 fats is greater than omega-3 fat intake, inflammation results.
You should also consider eliminating the following from your diet:
- Vegetable oils (e.g. processed, refined oils made from corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower)
- Hydrogenated oil products, like margarine
FYI – Getting enough omega-3 fatty acids can help decrease inflammation and support the health of your heart, brain, and joints.
Studies have found people who have higher intakes of omega-3 fatty acids have enhanced longevity and a reduced risk of developing a chronic illness, like cardiovascular disease.
The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids to include in your diet are:
- wild-caught fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, and mackerel
- fish oil
- hemp seeds
- chia seeds
Grass-fed and pastured animal products, like meat and eggs, also contain higher amounts of omega-3 fats than grain-fed animals.
Other healthy fats, like avocado and olive oil, also have anti-inflammatory properties. They also contain high amounts of antioxidants which help repair damage caused by inflammation and aging.
Interestingly, olive oil contains a compound called oleocanthal, which the International Journal of Molecular Sciences describes as having “…a similar anti-inflammatory action with Ibuprofen, therefore oleocanthal is now acknowledged as a naturally occurring NSAID.”
Hellooo natural pain relief… from food!
Inflammation Fighting Food #3: NUTS & SEEDS
Besides being a source of healthy fat, raw nuts and seeds contain minerals and antioxidants that can help decrease inflammation, fight pain, and boost the function of your immune system.
Eating a variety of nuts and seeds ensures you get a variety of nutrients. Most nuts and seeds are also a good source of magnesium, a mineral most people don’t get enough of.
Getting enough magnesium (especially from food sources) can promote relaxation, help alleviate body pain, like headaches, and decrease the inflammatory effects stress can have on your body.
Almonds and pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are good sources of magnesium. Other food sources of magnesium include leafy green vegetables, beans, lentils, and dark chocolate.
Inflammation Fighting Food #4: LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES
Eating plenty of vegetables, especially leafy greens like spinach, kale, and bok choy, help your body fight inflammation.
Studies have found low intakes of vegetables and fruit are associated with higher rates of inflammatory-based diseases. Yet another reason why eating your vegetables is good for you!
Leafy greens contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants – that all play a role in decreasing inflammation.
Studies have linked high fiber intake with lower levels of C-reactive protein in the blood, which is a common lab measurement of inflammation that, in turn, is an indicator of the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Inflammation Fighting Food #5: TURMERIC
Turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound responsible for the spice’s bright golden color.
Studies have found curcumin to be as effective as pain relief medications (e.g. ibuprofen) at reducing joint pain and stiffness among people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Black pepper enhances your body’s absorption of curcumin from turmeric. If you cook with turmeric, be sure to include some black pepper.
Alternatively, you can take a turmeric supplement specially formulated with a high percentage of curcumin and black pepper (piperine) for better absorption.
So, there you have it – the top 5 foods for putting out the fires of inflammation and that can help reduce pain in your body!
Let me know which of the inflammation-fighting foods listed YOU include in your day 🙂
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, National Institutes of Health
Oleocanthal, a phenolic derived from virgin olive oil: a review of the beneficial effects on inflammatory disease, International Journal of Molecular Science, 2014.
Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy, Nutrients, 2015.
Berry Phenolic Antioxidants – Implications for Human Health, Frontiers in Pharmacology, 2018.
A Review of the Health Benefits of Cherries, Nutrients, 2018.
Potential Therapeutic Effects of Curcumin, the Anti-inflammatory Agent, Against Neurodegenerative, Cardiovascular, Pulmonary, Metabolic, Autoimmune, and Neoplastic Diseases, International Journal of Biochemical Cellular Biology, 2009.