7 Best Anti-inflammatory Foods: Inflammation has been linked with the onset of many forms of chronic disease, from cardiovascular problems to diabetes, cancer and neurological disorders. At its origin, inflammation is a normal biological response meant to signal a health problem, innitiate tissue repair and healing. However, the body´s inflammatory response can be perpetuated by various infelicitous factors and circumstances and gotten to the point where it ceases to be a symptom and becomes a cause for disease.
Our dietary habits are greatly responsible for creating inflammation in our body. The type of foods we consume, their low-quality or poor choice of ingredients and even the very nature of certain foods or beverages may have a highly negative impact on our health as a whole. Luckily, there are just as many foods out there which can help lower inflammation levels and reduce its negative health effects.
Counteracting excessive inflammation is pivotal for keeping healthy in the long run and eating right is a great way to do so. While we may respond differently to various foods, based on the principle of Good for me but bad for you, there are some particular foods that benefit many of us in the sense that, when consumed in the right amounts and right way, they exert a strong anti-inflammatory action, engendering numerous positive health effects.
Here is a list of 7 best anti-inflammatory foods to boost our health:
1) Fish Omega-3. There are three types of Omega-3 fatty acids: ALA, EPA and DHA. ALA (alpha-linoleic acid) is the one found in generous amounts in vegetable food sources such as walnuts or olive oil. It is extremely healthy, but not the healthiest of the three. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are specific to animal food sources, fish being the richest. Of the three, DHA is the healthiest because it is physically present in a large percentage of our body in the brain, retina and skin. Naturally, supplying our body with this crucial nutrient is vital.
As a result of their strong anti-inflammatory properties, Omega-3 fatty acids from animal sources have been shown to prevent neurological decline in the elderly, delay wrinkles, reduce inflammation at the level of the lungs and digestive system in particular, with lower risks for stomach and colon cancer, as well as improve asthma and arthritis symptoms. Considering that fish Omega-3 fatty acids are our body´s favorite type, salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel, halibut, swordfish and cod are the healthiest options for us.
But aren´t nuts, eggs and meat healthy too? After all, they all contain Omega-3. They are all healthy foods, well, as long as eggs and meat are consumed in moderate to small amounts. However, if you are looking for the formula with the strongest anti-inflammatory effect, then fish is the best option by far.
2) Turmeric (Curcuma longa). Turmeric is one of the healthiest spices available to us. In addition to potent cancer-fighting, antiviral, antifungal and antioxidant properties, turmeric boasts an excellent anti-inflammatory action. Research suggests that curcumin, the main active compound in turmeric, directly inhibits several molecules responsible for triggering inflammation, hence its strong anti-inflammatory action.
Even more, studies show that taking curcumin supplements at higher than recommended doses for extended periods of time did not engender any side effects. The spice is also so versatile that we can add it to virtually any recipe, from rice and chicken dishes to vegetable sautees, purees and soups.
3) Vitamin C-rich foods. Including as much vitamin C rich foods in our diet as possible is a great way to fight inflammation naturally. Strawberries, kiwifruit, raw bell peppers, unripe mirabelles, lemons, oranges and other citrus fruit are the best options available for most of us. However, beware of artificial foods with no taste and no smell. The presence of vitamin C is generally indicated by a sharp, sour taste.
The utter lack of taste or smell of some foods may very well be connected with extremely low levels of nutrients because, despite what we might be told, nutrient value may vary considerably within the same species primarily as a result of differences in soil quality. Moreover, as research suggests, our body requires far greater amounts of vitamin C than the recommended daily allowance of only 90 mg, which means supplementation might be necessary.
4) Green tea (Camellia sinensis). Green tea is one of the most popular hot beverages in the world and much of its popularity stems from its high antioxidant value shown to pomote good health, reduce the risk for chronic illnesses and even increase lifespan. However, the specific antioxidant compounds (flavonoids, particularly catechin) in green tea boast excellent anti-inflammatory properties as well, hence the overall improved health of regular green tea consumers.
Nevertheless, green tea is a generous source of caffeine, a highly stimulant compound also found in coffee. Caffeine might exert mild negative health effects on certain people, particularly those with existent cardiovascular conditions. Side effects of excessive consumption may include heart palpitations, arrhythmia, rise in blood pressure, but also dizziness or lightheadedness, insomnia, agitation, increased anxiety and nervousness.
5) Ginger (Zingiber officinale). A relative of turmeric, ginger is another great anti-inflammatory food with an overall positive impact on human health. In addition to cardiovascular benefits, ginger has been shown to reduce inflammation at the level of the gastrointestinal tract, contribute to cancer prevention as a result of biologically active compounds such as gingerols, shogaol, and paradols and improve muscle pain symptoms following intense physical exercise.
Ginger can be added to herbal infusions to improve taste or any dish that lends itself to spiciness. I like to add a half of tablespoon of ginger powder to a big glass of fruit juice every morning and leave turmeric for my favorite recipes. However, as healthy as it may be, ginger should be consumed with moderation. Its spiciness can easily irritate an already sensitive stomach mucosa (gastritis sufferers, beware) as well as hemorrhoids, causing them to swell and become quite painful.
6) Cherries (Prunus avium). According to research, sweet cherries contain biologically active compounds that inhibit the COX (Cyclooxygenase) enzyme responsible for triggering inflammation and pain. It would appear that the anthocyanins that give the fruit their beautiful red color are the ones responsible for their potent anti-inflammatory effect. Studies have shown that regular consumption can help improve arthritis and gout pain as well as reduce muscle soreness following intense physical exercise.
Other studies have shown that regular consumption of the fruit reduces C-reactive protein levels visibly (CRP is an inflammation marker). It has been suggested that the more cherries we eat, the more pronounced their anti-inflammatory effects would be. And since they do not have any side effects, cherries are a great long-term, safe option for the management of pain.
7) Black carrots (Daucus carota sativus). Black carrots are not really black but rather various shades of dark purple or indigo. And it is their color that makes them so healthy. Black carrots contain anthocyanins, pigments with both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Including purple carrots in our diet can help prevent and improve painful inflammatory conditions and prevent related long-term side effects. However, it is important to note that the carrots are best consumed raw to prevent them from losing important nutrients.
Conclusion. Including as many of these foods as possible into our diet on a regular basis can not only up our intake of important nutrients, but also improve our health immensely in the long run. The biologically active anti-inflammatory compounds responsible for reducing swelling and associated pain will exert a beneficial action on the cardiovascular and digestive systems as well as offer antioxidant protection to cells throughout our body, slowly working from the inside towards better health.