The Best Foods to Eat to Fight Inflammation

These foods pack a powerful punch of antioxidants to help kick-start a healthy anti-inflammatory diet.

Inflammation is inevitable. It's the body's natural way of defending against foreign invaders and helping us heal from injury, which is good—it's when it goes into overdrive and turns into chronic inflammation that things can get hairy. "Chronic inflammation can interrupt and damage body cells. When body cells don't function properly due to a repeated stressor, they are unable to protect against disease or can initiate changes in the body which can contribute to the development of a disease," explains Andrea Conner, M.P.H., RDN, of Medical Nutrition Therapy in Scottsdale, Arizona. Some diseases associated with chronic inflammation include cancer, heart disease, arthritis and diabetes.

Read More: Is the Anti-Inflammatory Diet Right for You?

The good news is that a healthy diet and lifestyle can help combat chronic inflammation and lower your risk of disease. "Lowering inflammation in the body means eating a plant-forward diet and avoiding highly processed foods that contain trans fats or a lot of added sugar," says Toronto-based dietitian Pamela Fergusson, RD, Ph.D. This way of eating means you'll get in those good-for-you nutrients that work together to quell inflammation while limiting the foods that tend to trigger it.

And while there isn't any one food in particular that will cure all your ills (a 2019 study published in Nutrients, among other studies, shows that the Mediterranean diet is effective in combating inflammation), certain foods pack a powerful punch of antioxidants to help you get started. In addition to including more of these healthy foods in your routine, aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night, stay active and reduce stress where you can to fight inflammation.

Don't Miss: 7-Day Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan

The Best Foods to Eat to Fight Inflammation

Add more of the following healthy inflammation-fighting foods to your daily diet to see the benefits.

1. Cherries


Pictured recipe: Anti-Inflammatory Cherry-Spinach Smoothie

Cherries pack a wallop of antioxidants that help temper inflammation, including anthocyanins (an antioxidant found in red and purple fruits and vegetables) and vitamin C (well-known for its immune-supporting properties). In a 2018 review published in Nutrients of 29 studies looking at both tart and sweet cherries, 80% of the trials showed that cherry consumption decreased markers for oxidative stress and 70% showed that it lowered inflammation. In the research, people were advised to consume whole fruit, juice or powder in an amount equivalent to 45 to 270 fresh cherries per day, but you don't need to eat that much every day to reap some benefits. Incorporate more cherries into your diet with smoothies, as a yogurt or oatmeal topper, in sorbet or simply on their own for an easy, naturally sweet snack.

See More: Healthy Cherry Recipes

2. Avocados

Salmon-Stuffed Avocados

Pictured recipe: Salmon-Stuffed Avocados

Packed with healthy monounsaturated fatty acids that help to keep our hearts happy, avocados are also an excellent source of fiber—one-half offers 5 grams of the 25 to 38 grams of recommended fiber per day. "One of the simplest things you can do to eat in an anti-inflammatory way and prevent disease is to eat a diet high in fiber," says Fergusson. For one, fiber makes losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight easier, which in turn helps ward off weight-related inflammation. Additionally, fiber is what keeps our gut microbiome happy and healthy, which we now know plays a critical role in chronic disease development.

3. Beets

Beet Salad with Feta & Dill

Pictured recipe: Beet Salad with Feta & Dill

Just like cherries contain anthocyanins, beets contain different phytochemicals, called betalains, that act similarly in the body to fight off inflammation. Whether you add beets to your juicer or roast them as a salad topper, you'll get a healthy dose of helpful nutrients. See all the tasty ways you can enjoy beets with these healthy recipes.

4. Fatty Fish (or Flaxseed)

Simple Grilled Salmon & Vegetables

Pictured recipe: Simple Grilled Salmon & Vegetables

Eating wild-caught salmon or other fatty fish, like sardines and mackerel, at least twice a week delivers healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to turn off pro-inflammatory genes in your body and increase cells' ability to scrub themselves of harmful components, according to a 2020 study published in Molecular and Chemical Biochemistry. Not feeling fish? Eat 1 to 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, ground flaxseed or walnuts to get plant-based omega-3 fats.

5. Nuts

Chicken and Vegetable Penne with Parsley-Walnut Pesto

Pictured recipe: Chicken & Vegetable Penne with Parsley-Walnut Pesto

From almonds to cashews, pistachios and walnuts, you can choose your favorite (or mix it up) when designing an anti-inflammatory diet. In a review of a study published in the Journal of Hygienic Engineering and Design in 2020, researchers found that people who ate 30 to 65 grams of nuts, such as walnuts, per day had lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers like C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 in their blood. Add nuts into your pesto, sprinkle them over a salad or turn them into energy bites—or just enjoy them on their own.

6. Dark Leafy Greens

A smart goal to up your nutrition game: a salad a day. Aim for dark leafy greens, like kale, spinach and collards, all of which pack nutrients, most notably lutein, folate and vitamin K, that slow the simmer of inflammation. It's for that reason that a 2018 study in Neurology found that eating just one serving per day of greens was associated with slower cognitive decline in aging adults. A 2018 study published in Biomedicines showed that every green offers unique anti-inflammatory properties, so mix things up and get a variety in your diet for the biggest range of benefits.

7. Spices

Crazy Herb Spice Mix

Pictured recipe: All-Purpose Herb Seasoning

There's been a lot of talk about specifically loading up on turmeric. However, research isn't conclusive when it comes to the benefits of eating it as a spice (rather than in larger amounts in proprietary supplements). Instead, focus on including a range of dried herbs and spices in your diet rather than relying on the power of one to do all the work. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine suggested that eating herbs and spices regularly may play a role in preventing cancer.

Along with having turmeric as part of your spice collection, Conner also recommends cloves, peppermint, oregano, ginger, parsley, cinnamon, pepper and garlic. "Find opportunities to add spices and get into the habit of using them daily," she says. You can add them to meals naturally by stirring a teaspoon of cinnamon into your oatmeal, topping cherry tomatoes with olive oil and oregano, and adding turmeric to water when cooking quinoa.

See More: Seasoning Blends and Herb Mixes You Can Make at Home

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