If you’re trying to eat a more anti-inflammatory diet to reduce chronic inflammation in the body, improve your health and reduce pain, make sure to eat more of the anti-inflammatory foods on this list.
I know how good I feel when I’m eating the anti-inflammatory way, it’s delicious. The benefits I’ve experienced are: being more alert, happy, have more energy, don’t have that much pain in my neck, I want to exercise, overall do more and I feel light.
And yet, when life happens, I still have to convince myself over and over again that eating this way is worth it. Unfortunately just because you know something’s good for you, doesn’t mean you always choose to do it.
Currently I’m trying to get back to being mindful of what I do, what’s nourishing and what can help me be more me. Getting back to working out regularly and changing the way I eat are the things that always get me out of a rut, so that’s what I’m doing this month.
The main focus with my diet will be to reduce inflammation, because I do have joint pain, allergies and a family history of cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases. Also because I really need to reduce belly fat and exercise alone doesn’t do wonders.
So here I’ll summarize what the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet are and I’ll get more specific about what type of foods to eat to reduce chronic inflammation.
Benefits of the anti-inflammatory diet
There are many pro’s to eating to reduce inflammation and here are a few of them:
- slows down aging, prevents premature aging
- prevents cardiovascular disease, diabetes
- prevents cancer
- improves skin health
- makes weight loss easier
- prevents neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease
What kind of foods are anti-inflammatory?
There are a few things you need to look out for, when you’re consuming an anti-inflammatory diet. The food you eat needs to:
- have low glycemic index
- be low in saturated fats
- have a good omega-3 / omega-6 ratio
- provide your body with antioxidants and polyphenols
- be nutritious and cover your dietary needs
I have a more detailed guide on what to eat to reduce chronic inflammation here if you want to learn more about it.
Remember that this list of anti-inflammatory foods, as any list of foods is just a guidance and not exhaustive.
The 11 Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods
1. Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil
Among all seeds and nuts, flaxseed have the highest omega-3/omega-6 ratio. They’re also a great source of fiber, magnesium, selenium, protein and vitamin B1.
The daily consumption of 6g flaxseed oil is shown to reduce hsCRP levels, which is a marker for systemic inflammation and a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. (study).
Some animal studies also suggest that consuming more flaxseed can decrease the growth of certain types of cancers. (study)
How To: It’s best to use ground flaxseed or to consume flaxseed oil. Make sure to add raw flaxseeds to omega-6-rich foods like sunflower seeds or peanuts to improve the omega-3/omega-6 ratio.
Arugula (or rocket salad) is a green leafy vegetable and a cruciferous vegetable in one. It’s very nutritious and a good source of vitamin A, C, K, folate, magnesium potassium, carotenoids and polyphenols, with a great omega-3:omega-6 ratio (source).
A recent study found arugula has the highest antioxidant activity and polyphenol content among all the cruciferous vegetables, along with watercress and Brussels sprouts (study)
How To: It’s best to eat arugula raw in salads or as a side dish.
Berries are delicious, have low glycemic index and are extremely rich in antioxidants, especially vitamin C. They contain a large amount of polyphenols called anthocyanins that are shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. (source)
Eating berries more often can also prevent age-related neurodegenerative diseases, improve motor and cognitive functions. (source)
How To: Berries are best eaten raw and great in smoothies, with chia pudding or even in salads.
4. Salmon Or Mackerel
Salmon and mackarel are fatty fish that provide a great amount of omega-3’s, vitamin D and selenium – nutrients you won’t find often in food. Fatty fish is also a good source of protein and B-vitamins.
There are many plant sources of omega-3’s, but we can use only a small portion of this type of omega-3’s (called ALA) in the body. The type of omega-3 fatty acids we can actually use in the body are EPA and DHA and are found in fatty fish.
Omega-3’s are shown to prevent heart disease, diabetes as well as neurodegenerative (Alzheimer’s) and inflammatory (e.g. arthritis) diseases.
How Much: It’s best to eat 2-3 servings of fatty fish like salmon or mackerel per week.
I know it’s so out there, but I can’t make a list of anti-inflammatory foods and not include turmeric in it. It’s been researched like crazy over the last few years and many health benefits have been demonstrated in studies.
Turmeric contains curcumin, which is a molecule that has multiple health-protective properties: antioxidant, antimicrobial, anticancer, anti-inflammatory and it protects your liver & brain.
Curcumin has been demonstrated to be a safer and stronger anti-inflammatory than ibuprofen and aspirin. (study)
Studies have also shown that turmeric, due to its anti-inflammatory effects, is beneficial for people who have osteoarthritis, insulin resistance, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. (source)
How To: Adding turmeric to your meals is easy: it’s great in dishes with lentils, chickpeas, meat or fish. Make sure to consume turmeric in combination with black pepper, because this can increase the absorption of curcumin by 2000%. (source)
Believe it or not, broccoli and arugula have something in common, as they are both cruciferous vegetables (along with cauliflower, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts).
Broccoli is very nutritious, full of antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, potassium and fiber and a good plant source of protein.
But beyond essential nutrients, broccoli contains phytochemicals that have detoxifying and anti-cancer properties.
One study showed that young smokers could reduce their CRP-levels (marker for inflammation in the body) by 48% after eating 250g broccoli per day for 10 days. (study)
Another, larger study with middle-aged Chinese women showed that those who ate more cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower had significantly lower concentrations of proinflammatory markers in their blood than women who didn’t consume as many cruciferous vegetables. (study)
How To: Remember that the antioxidants in broccoli aren’t heat resistant, so it’s best to consume broccoli as unprocessed as possible. You can do this by steaming or adding broccoli to your meals at the end of cooking.
7. Chia seeds
Chia seeds contain a great amount of protein, fiber, antioxidants, calcium and of course omega-3’s.
Including more chia seeds in your diet can help increase the omega-3 levels in your body (source), which might help reduce chronic inflammation.
How To: Soak your chia seeds in water or dairy-free milk of your choice for at least 30 minutes and add them to your smoothies, you can also make chia pudding – by adding chia:liquid in a ratio 1:3. You can also use ground chia seeds in salads or oatmeal.
Garlic is a truly magical plant. It’s highly nutritious and it’s especially rich in manganese, vitamin C, B6 and selenium.
But the real secret to garlic’s healing power is a special type of sulfur-containing compounds called organosulfur compounds. These compounds live for a really short time when garlic is crushed. They have multiple proven health-promoting properties (source):
- blood pressure lowering
How To: Garlic is best eaten as unprocessed as possible shortly after the cloves are crushed. You can add garlic to any savory dish to make it more nutritious and delicious!
Almonds are an extremely good source of vitamin E (which is a very important fat-soluble vitamin we need), a great source of protein, fiber, magnesium, copper, manganese, calcium, iron, and B-vitamins. (source)
Eating around 60g / 2oz of almonds per day has been shown to help type 2 diabetes patients improve insulin sensitivity, lower LDL-levels (source), reduce inflammatory marker levels and oxidative stress (source). Long-term this can help prevent further progression of the disease.
How To: Adding raw almonds to your diet is pretty easy. You can have a handful a day as a snack, chopped on top of your oatmeal, in salad or as almond butter in smoothies.
Ginger is an ancient herb that has multiple health benefits. Consuming even a little bit every day, can improve your health. Ginger contains substances called gingerols, shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory (source), anti-neuroinflammatory (source), and anti-cancer (source) properties.
Daily consumption of ginger for 12 weeks has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and CRP-levels (marker for systemic inflammation) in type 2 diabetes patients. (source)
Walnuts are quite unique among the nuts. They provide the biggest amount of omega-3’s (ALAs) from all the nuts, with an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of around 4:1. This ratio is important for reducing inflammation, as most foods these days are naturally much richer in omega-6 fatty acids and this leads to an imbalance that can cause chronic inflammation. By eating more foods with a lower omega-6/omega-3 ratio, like walnuts, fish and flaxseed, we can change this.
How To: Walnuts are best eaten raw. I like to add them to salads, smoothies or in sweet snacks like these.
Anti-Inflammatory Meal Ideas & Drinks
- Arugula, avocado and tomato salad
- Healthy vegan lettuce wraps
- Salmon Lettuce Wraps
- Broccoli and Red Lentil Soup
- Curried Chickpea Wraps
- Detox Avocado Quinoa Salad
- 5-Minute Anti-Inflammatory Berry Smoothie
- The Best Green Smoothie
- Easy Anti-Inflammatory Detox Water
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