The 6 Best Budget-Friendly Anti-Inflammatory Foods, According to a Dietitian

These foods prove that eating to lower inflammation doesn’t have to break the bank.

Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where nutrition editor and registered dietitian Jessica Ball keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make Earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.

Inflammation is a trending topic, and it's for a good reason. But there are two different kinds of inflammation that affect the body differently. Acute inflammation helps us heal from an injury or seasonal cold or flu. Chronic inflammation is a long term low-grade inflammation that's triggered by environmental irritants and lifestyle factors such as stress, sedentary lifestyle, lack of sleep, unbalanced diet and excess body fat. Over time, chronic inflammation can lead to pesky symptoms like joint pain, digestive issues, mental fog and high blood pressure. On the flip side, controlling your chronic inflammation levels can help lower chronic disease risk, support your immune system and improve overall health.

green salad with edamame and beets
Katie Webster

Contrary to what you might think, eating to reduce inflammation doesn't need to be expensive and definitely doesn't require any special supplements or products. In fact, several super-nutritious, budget-friendly foods will do the job. Here are some more affordable ingredients to add to your grocery list if you want to help lower your levels of bodily inflammation.

1. Canned Fish

I always have canned tuna, salmon and sardines in my pantry. I routinely use it in quick tuna salad lunches or as a protein source in pastas or casseroles for dinner. One of the things I love most about canned fish is that it makes eating seafood more budget-friendly and helps me get more inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids in my diet.

2. Frozen Berries

Berries are like nature's candy. They're sweet, tart, juicy and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and flavors. Not to mention, they're packed with fiber and antioxidants that help fight off free radicals, which can help reduce inflammation. But fresh berries can be really expensive and don't last very long in the fridge. That's why I almost always opt for frozen berries instead. They're way cheaper (typically for a larger portion), they last way longer and they're super versatile. It's the one frozen food I never leave the store without.

3. Beets

Root vegetables are great for a lot of reasons. They last a long time in the fridge compared to other fresh vegetables, and once they're roasted, they haves a delicious mix of sweet, savory and earthy flavors. Beets, in particular, pack an anti-inflammatory punch thanks to the phytochemicals they contain called betalains. Other antioxidant-packed honorable mentions include sweet potatoes, carrots and cauliflower.

4. Frozen Greens

Here at EatingWell, we love our dark leafy greens; they're packed with fiber, vitamins and nutrients that can help support bone health, bolster brain health and lower chronic disease risk. But their short shelf life can sometimes lead to food waste and, ultimately, wasted money. Choosing frozen greens like spinach, kale or collards instead can help them cost less and last longer, so you can reap the benefits. Other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts are great, too and typically pretty easy to find in the freezer section.

5. Edamame

Edamame beans are immature soybeans that can be enjoyed fresh from the pod but are also commonly found shelled in the freezer aisle. This legume is packed with protein, fiber and healthy unsaturated fat that can help ward off inflammation. They're a super balanced and budget-friendly choice to add to your next grain bowl, salad, stir fry or soup. They can even make a filling snack on their own with a sprinkle of flakey salt.

6. Brown Rice

You've probably heard the nutrition advice to eat more whole grains. In fact, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest making half of your grain come from whole grain sources. But specialty grains like quinoa, bulgur and amaranth can get pricey at the store. That's where brown rice comes in. It's super affordable, lasts years in your pantry and can help you reap the benefits of eating more whole grains, including improving heart health, lowering diabetes risk and reducing inflammation, of course. Since it requires a slightly longer cook time, I like to make a big batch of brown rice at the beginning of the week. Sometimes, I'll even freeze it once it's cooked to help it last longer (check out our guide for how to safely store and reheat leftover rice).

The Bottom Line

There are lots of foods that provide anti-inflammatory benefits, and many of them are very budget-friendly. Hopefully, this list helps you build an anti-inflammatory grocery list that meets your flavor preferences and your budget. Making the most of the freezer and pantry aisles can help you cut down on food waste, too.

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