If you want to use food as medicine, there is no better place to start than a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods.
Inflammation, a sign that something is off balance in the body, can trigger everything from fatigue to poor digestion to muscle and joint pain to chronic disease. Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet is a great way to fight free radicals, reduce inflammation on a cellular level, and help prevent and ease such ailments.
Instead of the standard American diet, which is chock full of processed foods, sugar, and refined grains, follow a diet rich in whole foods that are high in minerals, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids. Chinese and Ayurvedic practitioners have also used herbs and spices to treat ailments for centuries due to their high antioxidant properties. Incorporating spices and herbs into your daily routine as well may help combat unwanted inflammation.
Here is our top-ten list of anti-inflammatory foods, as well as how to incorporate these delicious foods into your life today!
1. Dark Leafy Greens
Organic dark leafy greens (especially Swiss chard!) are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and flavonoids that restore cellular health.
How to use: Lightly steam and toss with extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice, throw into a salad, or blend into a smoothie daily.
This root vegetable is loaded with minerals and vitamins that help fight inflammation.
How to use: Roast with spices and herbs, steam and toss in a salad, or use the beet greens in a smoothie.
3. Cruciferous Vegetables
Organic cruciferous vegetables help combat free radicals and reduce chronic inflammation (especially broccoli and bok choy!). These veggies are antioxidant powerhouses.
How to use: Lightly steam and toss with extra-virgin olive oil and some lemon juice, roast with spices and herbs, or sauté with aromatic garlic and onions.
4. Bone Broth
Broths made with bones from grass-fed/pasture-raised animals contain both compounds that reduce inflammation and minerals that are easy to absorb and can help heal a damaged, inflamed gut.
How to use: Use in a soup or enjoy a cup with turmeric and ginger in the morning or as a midday or evening snack.
Organic berries (especially blueberries!) are high in quercetin, a flavonoid that helps fight inflammation, and relatively low in natural sugars.
How to use: Eat as a snack, blend into a smoothie, or add to high-quality coconut yogurt.
Spices (especially turmeric and ginger, but also garlic, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and cloves) are highly concentrated powerhouses that contain antioxidants as well as antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer components. They are key for those suffering from chronic illnesses and inflammation.
How to use: Add to salad dressings, sprinkle into a smoothie, or add to roasted/sautéed/baked foods. Also great to add to herbal teas and coffee.
Herbs (especially sage and rosemary!) rank higher than fruits and vegetables in antioxidant levels, and also offer other unique medicinal qualities. Both these herbs help increase the activity of superoxide dismutase, which can help ward off chronic inflammation.
How to use: Add to salad dressings and roasted/sautéed/baked foods. You can also infuse your high-quality oils with herbs!
Seaweeds (especially kombu and wakame) are nutrient-rich superfoods that contain fucoidan, which inhibits inflammation and works as an antioxidant.
How to use: Add to homemade stocks and broths, sprinkle dried seaweed on top of salads and soups, or use to make homemade wraps.
9. Fermented Foods
Fermented foods (especially organic kimchi and sauerkraut) are anti-inflammatory superstars. They give a natural dose of probiotics to keep the gut microbiome in balance and build immunity in the body.
How to use: Eat as a snack, add to a salad, or add as a side dish to a meal.
10. Food High in Fatty Acids
Foods that are rich in omega fatty acids (especially wild-caught salmon, unrefined coconut and hemp oil, raw walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds!) reduce inflammation and may help to lower the risk of chronic diseases.
How to use: Eat raw nuts as a snack or sprinkle on a leafy green salad. Roast wild-caught salmon with spices and herbs for a perfect lunch or dinner. Use high-quality oils in homemade salad dressings or for sautéed dishes. Add seeds to your smoothies.
Katie Ulrich is a health coach at Dr. Frank Lipman’s Eleven Eleven Wellness Center. She is a certified Holistic Health Coach through The Academy of Healing Nutrition and holds her 200-hour Yoga Certification. As a coach, her goals are to help elevate her clients with education about the power of a whole-foods diet and to help guide them about which foods work best for their body and lifestyle.