7 Foods that Fight Inflammation
When your immune system is working properly, inflammation can be a helpful tool. For example, if you cut your finger on a rusty gate, you may experience redness, swelling, heat, and even pain. This is known as acute inflammation and is your immune system’s primary weapon against harmful bacteria. Symptoms of acute inflammation are time-limited and disappear once the cut has healed.
It’s when you have chronic inflammation that you need to be concerned. Chronic inflammation is an ongoing, persistent response that occurs when your body is under constant attack with no time to fully recover. This state of permanent alert can be caused by a number of factors, including leaky gut, inflammatory foods in your diet (gluten and dairy in particular), environmental toxins, infections and stress.
Chronic inflammation is the underlying cause of nearly every type of disease, and one of the greatest health risks we face today. It’s been linked to autoimmunity, gut issues, cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, pain, swelling, and many more conditions.1
In fact, as I explain in my book, The Autoimmune Solution, autoimmunity is not one discrete category. Instead, there is what I call the autoimmune spectrum, and the more inflammation you have, the higher you fall on the spectrum.
The Autoimmune Spectrum
On one end of the spectrum are those with little or no inflammation, who are living symptom-free and healthy lives. And on the other end are those with full-blown autoimmune conditions who are suffering from extremely high levels of inflammation. Those with inflammatory conditions such as asthma, allergies, joint and muscle pain, fatigue, and digestive issues fall into the middle of the spectrum, and are at significant risk of developing full-blown autoimmune conditions if their inflammation is not addressed.
Fortunately, by reducing your inflammation you can work your way back down the spectrum, reversing chronic illness and returning to optimal health. And, there are a number of inflammation-fighting foods you can incorporate into your daily diet to help you accomplish that!
Turmeric is a root or rhizome plant native to India. Commonly used as a kitchen spice, turmeric is what gives curry its vibrant yellow color. Chock full of carotenoids, curcuminoids, and essential oils called ‘tumerones,’ turmeric root is brimming with beneficial compounds. Many recent studies on curcumin, the active ingredient of turmeric, have shown that it is even more effective at reducing inflammation than NSAIDs such as aspirin and ibuprofen.2
One delicious way to incorporate turmeric into your diet is by drinking golden milk. This warming beverage is great at fighting inflammation, making it an excellent alternative to your morning coffee.
However, it’s important to understand that turmeric is very low in actual curcumin, with only about 2-5% curcuminoids by weight. Curcumin is also poorly absorbed by our bodies, and much of the curcumin we get by eating turmeric is rapidly metabolized and eliminated.3 For this reason, I recommend also taking a curcumin supplement to support a healthy immune response.
Like turmeric itself, most of the curcumin supplements out there are not easily absorbed by your body. Curcumin is fat-soluble, meaning when eaten with fat it gets directly absorbed into your bloodstream.4 Without the fat, it has a very hard time making it past your stomach, through your small intestine and into your blood where you need it. To get the greatest benefits from your curcumin supplement, I recommend choosing a fat-soluble option, such as the one I carry in my store.
A relative of turmeric, ginger is another anti-inflammatory powerhouse. Ginger has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to treat digestive upset, nausea, diarrhea, arthritis and even heart conditions.5
In addition to being anti-inflammatory, ginger also contains potent antimicrobial and anti-oxidative properties, which strengthen your body’s defenses against infections and scavenge the free radicals that lead to DNA damage and premature aging.6
Add ginger to any recipes where you might use garlic or another pungent spice, such as stir-fries and marinades. Or, try my Ginger Pear Soup for a soothing meal your gut and immune system will love!
Blueberries are packed vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that can limit the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are a type of protein that make disease worse.78 Eating blueberries can also lower your risk for heart disease and cancer, and their anti-inflammatory benefits extend to warding off other chronic conditions caused by systemic inflammation, including autoimmune disease.9
Phytonutrients known as anthocyanins give blueberries their characteristic hue, so when buying blueberries, the darker the better! Fresh or frozen, they make a great addition to your morning smoothie.
Salmon is full Omega-3s, which support a balanced immune response. Numerous studies have shown the benefit of fish oil supplementation in patients with inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and even migraine headaches. It was found that supplementing with fish oil decreased disease symptoms and flare-ups, and reduced dependence on anti-inflammatory medications.10
Enjoy eating salmon a few times a week–just make sure it’s the wild-caught kind, which contains much more astaxanthin (the anti-inflammatory molecule found in algae, plankton, and krill that gives salmon its red color) than farmed salmon.11 Not to mention, you’ll be avoiding the mercury and antibiotics frequently found in farmed salmon.12 For a fresh take on sushi, try my Wild-Caught Salmon Sushi Bowl!
Though eating salmon or other fatty fish is a great way to get more Omega-3s in your diet, you would have to eat a lot of fish to get the full amount needed to tackle inflammation, which is why I recommend adding an Omega-3 supplement to your regimen. In fact, I consider Omega-3 to be one of four essential supplements that I recommend to all of my patients, take myself, and give to my daughter Elle! My Complete Omega 3 Softgels have been third-party tested and certified mercury-free, so you can rest assured that they are safe to take on a daily basis. Plus, through patented, lipid-absorption technology, my Omega-3s allow for 3x greater EPA/DHA absorption rates than other leading fish oils. This means you only need to take one capsule per day to get 860 mg of EPA/DHA!
Avocados seem to be in everything these days, from smoothies and salads to guacamole and even brownies. They were also my baby Elle’s first food!
These super fruits are high in monounsaturated fat, particularly oleic acid, which preliminary studies have shown to reduce biomarkers of inflammation.13 Unlike most fruits, they are also a good source of vitamin E, a micronutrient that has anti-inflammatory effects and is linked to decreased risk of joint damage in osteoarthritic patients.14 Adding avocado to a meal will help you fight inflammation for hours after eating.15
This Detoxifying Ginger Avocado Green Smoothie will give you tons of energy to carry you through a busy morning, or for a double dose of inflammation-fighting healthy fats, try my Simple Salmon Stuffed Avocado recipe.
6. Leafy Greens
Dietary nitrate, found in leafy green vegetables and beets, has been shown in preclinical studies to have the potential to reduce inflammation and arterial stiffness, which in turn reduces your risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.1617 Leafy greens–such as kale, spinach, broccoli, collards, and arugula–are also brimming with vitamins A, D, E, and K, all of which have anti-inflammatory benefits and are necessary for optimal health.18 It’s best to eat a mix of raw and cooked greens, since heat can destroy some nutrients while making others more bioavailable.19
It’s absolutely critical to get the full spectrum of nutrients that your body needs to thrive. Between soil depletion caused by modern agriculture that strips our foods of their nutrients, and the greater amount of toxins and stress in our lives today, we need more protective micronutrients than we used to. That’s why in addition to eating plenty of leafy greens, I recommend everyone take a high-quality multivitamin. The Myers Way® Multivitamin is specially formulated to contain the highest quality blend of vitamins and minerals designed for optimal absorption and bioavailability. It’s another of the four essential supplements that I recommend for everyone to take!
7. Bone Broth
You probably remember your mother or grandmother feeding you chicken soup when you were sick as a child. You might also remember feeling better afterward, and never knew why. Bone broth has long been a well-known folk remedy, and now we have scientific evidence to back up its health-promoting effects.
Bone broth is a natural source of glucosamine and is high in the anti-inflammatory amino acids glycine and proline, all of which help to reduce joint pain caused by inflammation.20 Drinking bone broth has also been found to mitigate the symptoms of upper respiratory infections, which explains why it is so frequently used as a home remedy for the common cold.21 The collagen in bone broth helps repair your gut lining, improves detoxification and liver function, encourages optimal bone mineral density, and supports healthy hair and nail growth.
You can make your own simple and inexpensive bone broth at home. Follow my Gut-Healing Chicken Broth recipe to get started, or get all of the benefits of bone broth without the hours spent simmering bones by adding a scoop of collagen into your smoothie, tea, or even water.
Whether you’re dealing with autoimmunity, an inflammatory condition, or are looking to prevent one, be sure to add these inflammation-fighting foods to your diet!
- A. Basu, S. Deveraj and I. Jialal (2006). Dietary Factors That Promote or Retard Inflammation. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 26: 995-1001.