We’ve heard it countless times. Inflammation is bad for health. But what does that mean? And what can we do about it?
Get started today with this science-backed list of the best anti-inflammatory foods.
What Is Inflammation?
Anti-inflammatory foods help reduce inflammation. Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response.
Therefore, it makes the body aware of injuries. For example, when your ankle swells and turns red after a sprain.
In short, your immune system tries to repair the injury. But it is not only external injuries that can cause inflammation.
Lack of sleep, excessive stress, and lousy nutrition can promote inflammation.
Therefore, there is a difference between acute and chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation continually knocks down your body’s immune system and increases your susceptibility to serious health problems. In contrast, acute inflammation happened to the sprained ankle.
Moreover, chronic inflammation promotes common diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, permeable bowel, mental illness, obesity, hypertension, and other cardiovascular diseases.
Nevertheless, the most critical lever against inflammation is entirely in your hands: nutrition.
What Are Anti-Inflammatory Foods?
Anti-inflammatory foods help reduce inflammation.
You are what you eat because every cell in your body consists of your food. Fats, in particular, are essential building blocks of cell membranes.
Therefore, food can cause inflammation that puts your body under stress, weakens its immune system, and prevents it from functioning optimally.
Our Western Pattern Diet (WPD) is inflammation-promoting since it contains refined grains, sugar, and chemical food additives.
Therefore, the best defense against inflammation in the body is a healthy low-carb diet. Especially a ketogenic diet has substantial anti-inflammatory impacts.
Therefore, removing refined grains, sugar, and food additives from your diet is the best way to protect your health.
For this reason, replacing these inflammation-promoting foods with the following anti-inflammatory foods makes sense.
Which Foods Are Anti-Inflammatory?
The following list of the best anti-inflammatory foods reflects my personal opinion.
Since these best anti-inflammatory foods offer many other health benefits, I have nominated them for the list.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Even the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, used the anti-inflammatory effects of apple cider vinegar (ACV).
The acetic acid and active enzymes in apple cider vinegar help the body metabolize proteins and absorb amino acids more effectively.
Hence, apple cider vinegar helps to build up healthy hormones, enzymes and repair tissue. Through these mechanisms, it helps to recover from injuries, excessive exercise, and chronic pain.
Also, ACV increases energy and well-being through better enzyme function (Johnston et al. 20061).
Furthermore, the antibacterial properties of apple cider vinegar can combat pathogens that cause colds and allergies.
2. Bone Broth
Bone broth is an excellent source of electrolytes and collagen and helps against inflammation.
If you want to cook bone broth, boil bones in water for at least two hours. As a result, collagen and other nutrients enter the soup.
Part of this degraded material from cartilage and tendons is glucosamine, which is known as a dietary supplement for arthritis and joint pain.
According to a study, overweight middle-aged adults could reduce inflammation markers by 23%, leveraging glucosamine.
Furthermore, bone broth contains the anti-inflammatory amino acids glycine and proline. Additionally, abundant gelatine promotes intestinal mucosa and anti-inflammatory gut microbes.
3. Grass-Fed Butter
Not only are you what you eat – the same applies to cows and dairy products.
Compared to conventional butter, grass-fed butter contains about 3.5 times more anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids (Couvreur et al. 20062).
Therefore, feeding hay and grasses in a manner appropriate to the species makes the difference. As a result, grass-fed butter is full of nutrients.
Due to its high vitamin A and beta-carotene content, grass-fed butter has a rich yellow color. Additionally, it is rich in vitamin K2, which plays a crucial role in bone and heart health (Maresz 20153).
Furthermore, grass-fed dairy contains about six times more conjugated linoleic acid than dairy from grain-fed cows. And this powerful fat helps you reduce body fat and maintain muscle mass (Dhiman et al. 19994; McCrorie et al. 20115).
Vitamin D not only keeps brittle bones in check but also fends off depression and colds and reduces the risk of certain types of cancer.
Nevertheless, its probably most significant effect is to reduce inflammation.
Accordingly, research has found a link between vitamin D deficiency and signs of inflammation.
Although the body produces vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight, it is advisable to get enough vitamin D in your diet.
Who doesn’t sit at a desk more often than they would like? But one of the simplest anti-inflammatory foods can help. And please do not reduce the egg to just the protein.
The egg yolk contains a multitude of fat-dissolving and health-promoting nutrients. In addition to A, B, and D vitamins, it is full of healthy fats that can maintain and renew skin, bones, and muscles.
5. Wild Salmon
Regarding healthy fats, there is one type of fat you cannot get enough of – omega-3 fatty acids.
They can improve the inflammatory omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of 1:15 in the Western diet. Researchers say a healthy ratio is a maximum of 1:2 (Okuyama et al. 19966).
And fatty fish is one of the best sources of this best class of polyunsaturated fats if it’s wild-caught.
Wild salmon provides you with both EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
In contrast to vegetable omega-3 fatty acids, these two are already present in fish. Moreover, the body can only synthesize small amounts of EPA and DHA from plant sources.
If the body has excessive inflammation, EPA and DHA help adiponectin to reduce it.
Additionally, this hormone has the property of stimulating metabolism and burning fat.
6. Krill Oil
Also, omega-3 fatty acids from the ocean can strengthen your immune system through resolvins.
And among pure omega-3 fats, krill oil has now replaced the well-known fish oil as the number one source. Why?
The tiny shrimp-like creature is at the bottom of the food chain. Hence, krill have fewer impurities than fish.
Furthermore, the resolvins in krill oil help fight infections and stop inflammation where it’s no longer necessary (Sommer et al. 20117).
Besides, as the highest quality source of omega-3, krill oil helps fight viruses and other infectious diseases (Alexander et al. 19868).
7. Coconut Oil
A less obvious advantage of coconut oil is its use as an anti-inflammatory food.
According to studies, the healthy fats in cold-pressed virgin coconut oil have strong anti-inflammatory properties (Intahphuak et al. 20109).
Thus, this food can act against inflammation, viruses, bacteria, and other microbes.
Furthermore, the lauric acid in virgin coconut oil supports the immune system to destroy viruses such as flu, HIV, measles, or herpes.
8. Cocoa Nibs
Although dark chocolate is known for antioxidants, few people know that the antioxidant effect of raw cocoa is about four times higher.
And a practical form of natural cocoa is pieces of cocoa beans – so-called cocoa nibs.
In addition to the detox effect, it is, above all, the high concentrations of vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, and K) and minerals that make cocoa an outstanding food against inflammation.
Moreover, so-called flavanols are responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect of cocoa and keep the endothelial cells lining your arteries healthy (Fisher et al. 200610).
9. Green Tea
Green tea helps against inflammation due to micronutrients. Like red wine or olive oil, green tea contains polyphenols like flavonoids.
Although green tea has 4000 active ingredients, most benefits come from a specific class of flavonoids called catechins.
For example, green tea’s primary catechin epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) helps against lung cancer and insulin-induced aging effects (Thielecke et al. 200911).
On the other hand, green tea strengthens the endothelial cell layer that separates the blood from the arterial wall.
Therefore, reducing inflammation helps prevent strokes, heart attacks, and atherosclerosis. Also, flavonoids can lower blood pressure (Hodgson et al. 201012).
As green tea contains more antioxidants than black tea, it protects against inflammation.
If you want to use green tea particularly effectively as an anti-inflammatory household remedy, drink it on an empty stomach or cold brewed.
Due to many bioactive substances, olives and olive oil have anti-inflammatory effects. Moreover, these polyphenols have antioxidant effects and reduce cancer risk (Notarnicola et al. 201113).
The oleuropein in olives strengthens the skin through antioxidative and UV-protective effects. Tyrosol, on the other hand, extends the life expectancy.
A clinical study has shown that flaxseed can significantly reduce inflammation in overweight people. The mother of omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid, is mainly responsible (Faintuch et al. 200716).
Although most omega-3 anti-inflammatory fatty acids come from marine sources, flaxseed offers a vegan alternative. Therefore, they are a must in the vegetarian pantry.
When freshly grounded, your body can best absorb omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseed. Therefore, it’s a proven trick to put them in a pepper mill.
This powerhouse is bursting with antioxidants with an ORAC value of over 127.000.
ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) stands for a food’s ability to render oxygen radicals harmless.
The main ingredient, curcumin, gives turmeric its characteristic orange color.
Additionally, curcuminoids in turmeric root are said to absorb free radicals more than five times stronger than vitamins C and E.
Furthermore, these molecules can absorb the free hydroxyl radical, considered the most reactive of all free radicals (Menon et al. 200717).
Also, curcuminoids help to cleanse and nourish the skin and balance its natural microflora, which protects you from infections.
Moreover, researchers consider curcuminoids one of the most effective cancer-fighting substances on the planet (Ravindran et al. 200918).
Because it down-regulates the inflammation-mediating COX-2 and MMP9 receptors, turmeric is a natural food reducing inflammation.
Since it belongs to the ginger family, turmeric is also called yellow ginger. Therefore, its anti-inflammatory properties probably run in the family.
Whether you use it fresh, dried, ground, cooked, or in the form of an oil, this root offers a variety of anti-inflammatory effects.
According to studies, ginger as natural food is just as effective against inflammation as anti-inflammatory drugs. However, ginger causes fewer side effects (Grzanna et al. 201519).
Since ginger inhibits the induction of genes in the inflammatory response, it can influence biochemical pathways activated in chronic inflammation.
Thus, ginger not only brings a sharp kick to your meals but also represents one of the best anti-inflammatory foods in your pantry.
Oregano ranks second among herbs with an ORAC value of over 175.000.
The primary antioxidant components are phenolic acids and flavonoids, which we already know from green tea.
Due to its high thymol content, a potent food phenol, oregano oil has an incredible antibacterial effect.
Additionally, in a recent study, oregano has proven to be the most effective against MRSA staphylococcal infections, surpassing all 18 currently used antibiotics (Kavanaugh et al. 201222).
Oregano oil has traditionally been used as a disinfectant and natural remedy for ear, nose, throat, and respiratory tract infections. Furthermore, people use it for various bacterial or viral diseases.
Furthermore, oregano can inhibit inflammatory mediators and the production of cancer cells.
Although oregano oil is more potent than dried herbs, it offers health benefits and spice to various dishes.
Inflammatory Foods to Avoid
Now that you know which foods are effective against inflammation in the body, limiting the consumption of foods that promote inflammation is vital.
Refined Carbohydrates and Sugar
Foods and beverages sweetened with sugar or containing other refined carbohydrates cause numerous health problems. Likewise, they promote inflammation in the body (Buyken et al. 201423).
Accordingly, here is a summary of these inflammatory foods to avoid:
- Sweet drinks (cola etc.)
- Sports drinks
- energy drinks
- Sweetened tea and coffee drinks
Vegetable Oils and Trans Fats
During the processing of most vegetable oils, fragile omega-6 fatty acids oxidize through heat, light, air, and pressure (DiNicolantonio et al. 201924).
Hence, these processes cause a chemical change in the fats that serve as building blocks for your cells. Consequently, they promote inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and mortality in general (Ramsden et al. 201325).
Therefore, it is crucial to avoid these oils, fried foods, and especially chemically hardened trans fats such as margarine:
- Partially hydrogenated vegetable
Foods High in Lectins
Lectins are plant toxins hiding in seeds, grains, skins, leaves, and food rinds.
Refined carbohydrates, sugars, and refined vegetable oils have eliminated many foods containing lectins. In particular, nightshades and legumes are among the other prominent representatives:
- Grains (incl. whole grain)
Since highly processed foods are a “best-of” of the previous inflammatory foods, it is unsurprising that you should avoid them (Lopes et al. 201928).
Hence, the rule of thumb is: Stick to real food, like on my list of best anti-inflammatory foods!
Never trust the food in a colorful package! And read the labels carefully before you consider buying this processed junk:
- Convenience meals
- Candy bars
- Fast food
Since even low inflammation values can lead to diseases in the long run, it is up to you to keep inflammation in check.
Therefore, you can use these anti-inflammatory foods as a list that brings variety to your diet.
Moreover, this top list of natural superfoods can also have various other positive side effects.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What are the best anti inflammatory foods?
Fatty fish 🐟, olives, and turmeric are among the best natural anti-inflammatory foods. You will find the 15 best anti-inflammatory foods in this article.
What is the best natural anti inflammatory?
Ginger, turmeric, and marine omega-3 fatty acids 🐟 are among the most potent natural anti-inflammatory sources. But you will find more of the best anti-inflammatory foods in this article.
What is the fastest way to reduce inflammation in the body?
The fastest way to reduce inflammation is to stop eating refined carbohydrates 🥪, sugar 🍬, and industrially processed vegetable oils. Instead, incorporate my list of anti-inflammatory foods into your diet.
What foods cause inflammation in the body?
Refined carbohydrates 🥪 and sugar 🍬, processed foods, industrially processed vegetable oils, and foods rich in lectins can cause inflammation in the body.
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Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc. is an author and blogger from Austria who writes in-depth content about health and nutrition. His book series on Interval Fasting landed #1 on the bestseller list in the German Amazon marketplace in 15 categories.
Stephan is a true man of science, having earned multiple diplomas and master's degrees in various fields. He has made it his mission to bridge the gap between conventional wisdom and scientific knowledge. He precisely reviews the content and sources of this blog for currency and accuracy.
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