Your body is built to fight off anything that may harm it, from infections to injuries to toxins in the air. And when your body is in danger, your immune system to triggered to respond.1 That response is called inflammation—i.e., your body’s way of protecting and healing itself.2 Eventually, you become healthy again. But what if you don’t?
For some, inflammation can become chronic and persist; instead of becoming your ally, it becomes your worst nightmare.3 In fact, systemic inflammation is a known precursor to chronic illness.4,5
Unfortunately, chronic inflammation may be more common than you think. An otherwise healthy person can have a low to moderate amount of inflammation in his or her body and not even know it. The good news? There are plenty of foods you can eat that have been shown to help reduce chronic inflammation and can therefore promote overall health; there are also plenty of foods that have been linked to promoting inflammation which you can avoid. Keep these lists in mind at your next meal!
Leafy greensVegetables such as broccoli, spinach, and kale are packed with antioxidants that protect your body from foreign invaders.4,6
BerriesVarieties including blueberries, raspberries, cherries, and strawberries are high in protective compounds such as antioxidants and polyphenols.4,7
NutsHealthy snacks like almonds and walnuts have been associated with reduced markers of inflammation.4
AvocadoA superfood rich in monounsaturated fats as well as carotenoids and tocopherols, avocados can reduce your risk for chronic illness.9,10
Dark chocolateA delicious treat with plenty of antioxidants to fight off inflammation. It may even lead to healthier aging.1
Green teaSip on this ultrahealthy drink for its antioxidative, anti-inflammatory properties, particularly its high levels of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). This substance inhibits proinflammatory cytokine production.12,13
Fatty fishOmega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish (e.g., salmon) are metabolized into anti-inflammatory compounds called resolvins.4,14
Extra virgin olive oilThis kitchen staple is full of healthy monounsaturated fats and has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers.4
TurmericThis beloved spice contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient.8
CoffeeYour favorite morning beverage contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds.
Note: Many of the foods on this list make the cut in one of the most well-researched diets in the world—the Mediterranean diet. Overall, the plant-based combination of healthy fats, carbs, and protein is shown to reduce key markers of inflammation.4,15-18
Saturated fatsFound in virtually all processed, packaged junk foods as well as things like shortening and lard, saturated fats can throw off immune cells and trigger inflammation. Common culprits include pizza, pasta, cheese, and red meat products.19
Refined carbsThese include white flour (breads, rolls, and crackers), white potatoes (French fries), and many breakfast cereals, which contain a high glycemic index.4,21
Processed meatsConsumption of processed red meats (burgers, hot dogs, and sausage) has been associated with increased levels of inflammatory markers.4,22
SugarForego anything that rhymes with gross (e.g. fructose, sucrose), as these can trigger the release of cytokines and lead to inflammation. 4,18
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Found in corn, safflower, sunflower, peanuts, soy, vegetable oils, mayonaise and many commercial salad dressings, these fatty acids may inhibit the anti-inflammatory effects of healthy omega-3s. 20
With this information in mind, incorporating more of these plant-based foods and healthy fats into your diet while cutting out sugar and processed foods can be a powerful strategy in supporting your long-term health.
This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare professional for advice on medical issues.