15 Anti-Inflammatory Foods To Include In Your Diet

Written by Angie Arriesgado
Featured image for article on anti-inflammatory foods

Inflammation is a vital component of your body’s immune response. Think of it as your body’s way of telling you that it’s doing its job fighting off intruders, which is a great thing! Now, acute or short-term inflammation is GOOD. But when the inflammation lasts for a long time, it becomes known as chronic inflammation, which is BAD as it can lead to a lot of health problems. While there are modern drugs that can treat inflammation, we’ll focus on the diet side of things. Today, we’ll talk about the top 15 anti-inflammatory foods that can help manage chronic inflammation symptoms.

But first, what are the health risks associated with chronic inflammation?

Chronic inflammation – which can go on for years – can pose a serious threat to your health. It drastically increases the risk for many diseases (1, 2), such as:

Type 2 diabetesHypertensionArthritis and joint disease
Cardiovascular diseaseChronic kidney diseaseDepression
AllergiesCancerMetabolic syndrome
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

So, what exactly is behind chronic inflammation?

Well, apparently, there are several factors (1, 2):

  • A diet rich in pro-inflammatory foods like refined carbs, deep-fried food, sugar-sweetened beverages, soda, red meat, processed meat, artificial trans-fat, and vegetable oils.
  • Age
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Obesity
  • Tobacco smoking
  • Stress
  • Sleep disorders
  • Exposure to environmental and industrial pollutants  

Why is eating anti-inflammatory foods a must for those with chronic inflammation?

As the name suggests, anti-inflammatory foods are healthy, nutritious foods that reduce inflammation levels in the body. They usually come in the form of whole foods, NOT processed foods. Whole foods are minimally processed, single-ingredient foods that do not contain a ton of sugar, additives, and preservatives. They typically go straight from farm to table, still bursting with freshness, flavor, and nutrients!

Anti-inflammatory medications like corticosteroids do help, but when taken long term, they can have a lot of undesirable side effects (3). This is why switching to an anti-inflammation diet (like the Mediterranean diet for example) is highly recommended for anyone suffering from chronic inflammation. By giving your body the right fuel, it can repair the damage done by prolonged inflammation. It’s a healthy, long-term solution! 

examples of anti-inflammatory foods to include in your diet

What are examples of anti-inflammatory foods to include in your diet?

Here’s an infographic summarizing the different foods that help fight inflammation. Feel free to print this out and bring this anti-inflammation food list the next time you go on a grocery run! 

infographic on 15 anti-inflammatory foods

Fruits

The sky’s the limit when it comes to eating fruits on an anti-inflammation diet. Eat a variety of fresh fruits like apples, bananas, berries, melons, oranges, mangoes, pears, peaches, etc. every day! A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases and healthy weight (4).

Green, leafy vegetables

A diet rich in green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, chard, arugula, lettuce, microgreens, mustard greens, collard greens, cabbage, and Swiss chard is associated with a decline in C-reactive protein levels (CRP is an inflammatory marker) as well as an increase in plasma beta-carotene (5). Researchers say this type of anti-inflammatory food will help lower the risk of various chronic diseases, including eye diseases that involve inflammation, such as age-related macular degeneration, dry eye, and glaucoma (6).

Non-leafy vegetables

Weight loss in obese and overweight subjects has been linked to a decrease in pro-inflammatory markers (7). Now, one way to lose weight is by increasing the intake of veggies. But not all veggies are created equal. For instance, high-fiber, low glycemic load veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts can help with weight loss, while starchy veggies like corn, peas, and potatoes may do the opposite (8).  

Whole grains

Whole grains are grains that are minimally processed. They have all 3 grain parts intact – the bran (outer layer), the germ (embryo), and the endosperm (the germ’s food supply). Compared to refined grains, whole grains provide more protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals (9). Examples of whole grains include whole wheat, whole oats, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, and brown rice.  

Healthy fats

Healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and fatty fish help improve insulin sensitivity, lower inflammation levels, and reduce fat storage in the body. These healthy oils also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (10).

Legumes

Just like fruits and vegetables, legumes like green peas, lentils, peanuts, chickpeas, soybean, mung beans, lima beans, and sweat pea are also nutrient-rich. They contain lectins and peptides that have anti-inflammatory properties. While lectin is said to interfere with mineral absorption, the benefits far outweigh any risk (plus, soaking and cooking legumes can inactivate them). Legumes and other lectin-containing foods lower the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes (11).

nuts are good for you

Nuts

Nuts like almonds, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, magnesium and other dietary minerals, and antioxidants. Frequent nut consumption is linked to lower inflammation levels in the body as well as improved lipid profiles, lower blood pressure, and decreased insulin resistance (12).

Seeds

Chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are a few examples of anti-inflammatory foods in this category. Seeds are extremely nutritious as they contain all the nutrients and materials needed to develop into plants. A diet rich in nuts and seeds may reduce the risk of disease and prolong life expectancy (13).

Poultry

Red meat is rich in nutrients but eating too much of it can lead to inflammation and oxidative stress, thereby causing various health issues (14). White meat, or more specifically, poultry meat like chicken and turkey are better on an anti-inflammatory diet. According to a study published in the Nutrients journal, white meat consumption may even help reduce the risk of gastric cancer (15).

Seafood

Seafood like fish and shellfish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (especially fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel), as well as a long list of vitamins and minerals. Some fish species are low in fat but still extremely rich in nutrients (16). According to the Arthritis Foundation, eating a 3 to 6 ounce serving of fatty fish at least 2-4 times a week can lower inflammation and protect the heart (17).

Eggs

Eggs are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. After all, if left to hatch, it will develop into a living animal! Eggs are an excellent source of protein, iron, vitamins A, B2, and B12, choline, zinc, and calcium (18). According to a recently published systematic review, eggs have both pro and anti-inflammatory action. Amongst healthy populations, it has a pro-inflammatory effect (which is good since acute inflammation is an important immune response!). However, amongst obese and overweight individuals, the anti-inflammatory effects were more pronounced (19).

Dairy

Dairy products are rich in calcium and are known for their bone-building properties. Examples include milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, and cream. A 2019 systematic review of randomized clinical trials showed that dairy product consumption had significant anti-inflammatory effects amongst healthy individuals and those suffering from metabolic syndrome (20).

herbs and spices like curcumin and turmeric can help fight inflammation

Herbs and spices

According to Britannica, there are more than 70 herbs and spices. These not only add flavor to our favorite dishes, but most also have health benefits ranging from anti-inflammatory to antioxidant and antimicrobial effects. According to a systematic review published in the Genes and Nutrition journal, the following herbs and spices were found to exhibit anti-inflammatory effects (21):

CurcuminSageMint
TarragonBasilParsley
GingerRosemaryChili pepper
OreganoThyme 

Curcumin (a compound found in Turmeric) is an especially potent anti-inflammatory spice. However, the only problem with consuming turmeric is that curcumin only comprises a mere 3% when measured against the weight of turmeric (22). So, if you want to experience curcumin’s health benefits, it’s best to take it in supplement form, specifically in Meriva Curcumin form. We offer two soy-free varieties: Meriva Curcumin 500mg and 250mg.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate may not be everyone’s favorite type of chocolate, but when it comes to health benefits, it’s far healthier than its “lighter” cousins. Any chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa is considered “dark”. It’s chock-full of antioxidants such as bioflavonoids, resveratrol, and PQQ that help reduce inflammation and lowers your risk of heart disease (23, 24).

Bone broth

Long before bone broth started making its rounds in the wellness industry, people have been drinking warm bone broth to relieve fever and colds for centuries. Depending on the type of bone used and the veggies added, this popular folk remedy is a great source of collagen, amino acids, and minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus (25). But so far, early studies point to the amino acids glycine and arginine to be behind bone broth’s potential anti-inflammatory effect (26, 27).

Here’s a table summary of these 15 anti-inflammatory foods:

Type of foodExamples
Fruitsapples, bananas, berries, melons, oranges, mangoes, pears, peaches
Green leafy vegetablesspinach, kale, chard, arugula, lettuce, microgreens, mustard greens, collard greens, cabbage, Swiss chard
Non-leafy vegetablescauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts
Whole grainswhole wheat, whole oats, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, brown rice
Healthy fatsolive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, fatty fish
Legumesgreen peas, lentil, peanuts, chickpeas, soybean, mung beans, lima beans, sweet pea
Nutsalmonds, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts
Seedschia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
Poultrychicken, turkey, duck, geese, pheasant
Seafoodfreshwater fish, saltwater fish, shellfish, octopus, shrimps, crabs
Eggsomega-3 enriched eggs, pastured eggs, organic eggs
Dairymilk, butter, cheese, yogurt, cream
Herbs and spicescurcumin, sage, mint, tarragon, basil, parsley, ginger, rosemary, chili pepper, oregano, thyme
Dark chocolateshould be at least 70% cocoa
Bone brothmade from animal bones like chicken, beef, pork, and even fish bones
woman drinking green smoothie

What are the benefits of eating anti-inflammatory foods?

All the non-inflammatory foods listed above are healthy and delicious. But if your taste buds have been finely tuned to appreciate only the deep fried, artificially sweetened, and high calorie variety, then you may have a hard time adjusting to the natural flavors of whole foods! Hopefully, the benefits below will help convince you to make the switch to a diet that will fight inflammation.  

Healthy weight

Unlike all the empty calories you get in many processed junk foods, eating a bunch of fruits and veggies daily helps promote a healthy weight (4, 8). This will then lead to a reduction in pro-inflammatory markers since weight loss is also a critical factor in reducing inflammation (29)!  

Improves insulin sensitivity

With the infusion of healthy fats into your diet, you also get to experience an improvement in insulin sensitivity. This bodes well for your health since insulin sensitivity helps improve blood sugar levels, which then reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes, PCOS, metabolic syndrome, and more (10, 30).

Decreased risk for various diseases

Throughout this article, we’ve cited plenty of studies that support the claim that eating anti-inflammatory foods will help reduce your risk for various chronic inflammation-related diseases (4-30).

Better mood and energy

Eating healthy not only lowers chronic inflammation but you also get to experience a mental boost! Research suggests that there is a positive correlation between happiness and a healthy diet comprised primarily of fruits and veggies (eat at least 3 portions per day for max happiness) (31)!

Ready to switch to an anti-inflammatory diet?

Eating nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods such as the ones we shared in our anti-inflammatory food list above can do wonders for your health. You not only get to keep your chronic inflammation in check and lower your risk of all the harm it can bring, but it also contributes to a fit and happy you!

References

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(2) Furman, David et al. “Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span.” Nature medicine vol. 25,12 (2019): 1822-1832. doi:10.1038/s41591-019-0675-0

(3) “Corticosteroids.” Cleveland Clinic, 2020, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/4812-corticosteroids.

(4) Pem, Dhandevi, and Rajesh Jeewon. “Fruit and Vegetable Intake: Benefits and Progress of Nutrition Education Interventions- Narrative Review Article.” Iranian journal of public health vol. 44,10 (2015): 1309-21.

(5) Schultz, Hannah, et al. “Rising Plasma Beta-Carotene Is Associated With Diminishing C-Reactive Protein in Patients Consuming a Dark Green Leafy Vegetable–Rich, Low Inflammatory Foods Everyday (LIFE) Diet.” American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 2019, p. 155982761989495. Crossref, doi:10.1177/1559827619894954.

(6) “Study Finds Diet Abundant in Leafy Vegetables May Reduce Risk of Diseases Involving Chronic Inflammation – Penn Medicine.” Penn Medicine, 2020, www.pennmedicine.org/departments-and-centers/ophthalmology/about-us/news/department-news/diet-and-chronic-inflammation.

(7) Bianchi, Vittorio Emanuele. “Weight loss is a critical factor to reduce inflammation.” Clinical nutrition ESPEN vol. 28 (2018): 21-35. doi:10.1016/j.clnesp.2018.08.007

(8) Bertoia, Monica L., et al. “Changes in Intake of Fruits and Vegetables and Weight Change in United States Men and Women Followed for Up to 24 Years: Analysis from Three Prospective Cohort Studies.” PLOS Medicine, edited by Fahad Razak, vol. 12, no. 9, 2015, p. e1001878. Crossref, doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001878.

(9) “What Is a Whole Grain? | The Whole Grains Council.” Oldways Whole Grains Council, 2021, wholegrainscouncil.org/what-whole-grain.

(10) DiNicolantonio, James J, and James H O’Keefe. “Good Fats versus Bad Fats: A Comparison of Fatty Acids in the Promotion of Insulin Resistance, Inflammation, and Obesity.” Missouri medicine vol. 114,4 (2017): 303-307.

(11) “Lectins.” The Nutrition Source, 4 Nov. 2019, www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/anti-nutrients/lectins.

(12) Salas-Salvadó, Jordi et al. “The effect of nuts on inflammation.” Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition vol. 17 Suppl 1 (2008): 333-6.

(13) Tucker, L A. “Consumption of Nuts and Seeds and Telomere Length in 5,582 Men and Women of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).” The journal of nutrition, health & aging vol. 21,3 (2017): 233-240. doi:10.1007/s12603-017-0876-5

(14) Montonen, Jukka et al. “Consumption of red meat and whole-grain bread in relation to biomarkers of obesity, inflammation, glucose metabolism and oxidative stress.” European journal of nutrition vol. 52,1 (2013): 337-45. doi:10.1007/s00394-012-0340-6

(15) Kim, Seong Rae et al. “Effect of Red, Processed, and White Meat Consumption on the Risk of Gastric Cancer: An Overall and Dose⁻Response Meta-Analysis.” Nutrients vol. 11,4 826. 11 Apr. 2019, doi:10.3390/nu11040826

(16) Oehlenschläger, Jörg. “Seafood: nutritional benefits and risk aspects.” International journal for vitamin and nutrition research. Internationale Zeitschrift fur Vitamin- und Ernahrungsforschung. Journal international de vitaminologie et de nutrition vol. 82,3 (2012): 168-76. doi:10.1024/0300-9831/a000108

(17) “Best Fish for Arthritis | Arthritis Foundation.” Arthritis Foundation, 2021, www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/nutrition/healthy-eating/best-fish-for-arthritis.

(18) Réhault-Godbert, Sophie et al. “The Golden Egg: Nutritional Value, Bioactivities, and Emerging Benefits for Human Health.” Nutrients vol. 11,3 684. 22 Mar. 2019, doi:10.3390/nu11030684

(19) Sajadi Hezaveh, Zohreh et al. “Effect of egg consumption on inflammatory markers: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials.” Journal of the science of food and agriculture vol. 99,15 (2019): 6663-6670. doi:10.1002/jsfa.9903

(20) Ulven, Stine M et al. “Milk and Dairy Product Consumption and Inflammatory Biomarkers: An Updated Systematic Review of Randomized Clinical Trials.” Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.) vol. 10,suppl_2 (2019): S239-S250. doi:10.1093/advances/nmy072

(21) Vázquez-Fresno, Rosa et al. “Herbs and Spices- Biomarkers of Intake Based on Human Intervention Studies – A Systematic Review.” Genes & nutrition vol. 14 18. 22 May. 2019, doi:10.1186/s12263-019-0636-8

(22) Tayyem, Reema F et al. “Curcumin content of turmeric and curry powders.” Nutrition and cancer vol. 55,2 (2006): 126-31. doi:10.1207/s15327914nc5502_2

(23) Monagas, Maria et al. “Effect of cocoa powder on the modulation of inflammatory biomarkers in patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 90,5 (2009): 1144-50. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27716

(24) Khan, Nasiruddin et al. “Cocoa polyphenols and inflammatory markers of cardiovascular disease.” Nutrients vol. 6,2 844-80. 21 Feb. 2014, doi:10.3390/nu6020844

(25) Hsu, Der-Jen et al. “Essential and toxic metals in animal bone broths.” Food & nutrition research vol. 61,1 1347478. 18 Jul. 2017, doi:10.1080/16546628.2017.1347478

(26) Wijnands, Karolina A P et al. “Arginine and citrulline and the immune response in sepsis.” Nutrients vol. 7,3 1426-63. 18 Feb. 2015, doi:10.3390/nu7031426

(27) Razak, Meerza Abdul et al. “Multifarious Beneficial Effect of Nonessential Amino Acid, Glycine: A Review.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity vol. 2017 (2017): 1716701. doi:10.1155/2017/1716701

(28) Tsigalou, Christina et al. “Mediterranean Diet as a Tool to Combat Inflammation and Chronic Diseases. An Overview.” Biomedicines vol. 8,7 201. 8 Jul. 2020, doi:10.3390/biomedicines8070201

(29) Bianchi, Vittorio Emanuele. “Weight loss is a critical factor to reduce inflammation.” Clinical nutrition ESPEN vol. 28 (2018): 21-35. doi:10.1016/j.clnesp.2018.08.007

(30) Freeman AM, Pennings N. Insulin Resistance. [Updated 2020 Jul 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507839/

(31) Veenhoven, Ruut. “Will Healthy Eating Make You Happier? A Research Synthesis Using an Online Findings Archive.” Applied Research in Quality of Life, 14 Aug. 2019, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11482-019-09748-7/

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