The best inflammation-busting foods to add to your diet, according to experts.
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If you think inflammation is just another buzzy health term, think again. It's been linked to a broad range of bodily issues, from acne and skin redness to allergies to autoimmune disease—and, unsurprisingly, diet plays a huge role in both fighting and preventing it.
We're not talking about acute inflammation, such as a bit of swelling after an injury or redness from a scrape. "This kind of inflammation we don't need to worry much about," says Frank Lipman M.D., bestselling author and founder of Be Well and the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City. "Chronic inflammation is considerably more worrisome—and there aren't necessarily any visible signs that let you know it's happening."
In addition to avoiding common inflammatory foods and not ignoring warning signs from your body (like bloating, constipation, IBS, or joint pain), adding these superfoods to your daily diet will give your body a boost in its fight against free radicals. "Typically, foods known for their anti-inflammatory effects are rich in antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and nutrients, which help the body combat inflammation and supply the body with essential components that support optimal function," says Lipman.
Here are 15 of the best anti-inflammatory foods to add to your diet.
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"All berries, including raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are high in antioxidants called flavonoids," explains Tanya Zuckerbrot, M.S., R.D., a New York City–based registered dietitian, bestselling author, and founder of The F-Factor Diet. "Flavonoids contribute to anti-inflammatory effects by reducing free-radical damage to cells." The antioxidants in dark-colored berries like blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries have been shown to help fight cancer, slow cognitive decline, and also reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. There's really no reason not to try to up your berry intake. Zuckerbrot recommends aiming for 1 cup a day.
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In addition to its antibacterial, antiviral, and antioxidant properties, garlic also contains a sulfuric compound called allicin, which—you guessed it—has an anti-inflammatory effect, says Zuckerbrot. It's also a super-easy (and tasty!) addition to almost anything you're cooking up—veggies, soups, meat, sauces—and the finer you chop it, the more allicin is released. Bonus: Research shows it may also help you lose weight.
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This spice, which is part of the ginger family and traditionally used in Indian cooking, has definitely had a moment in the wellness world as of late, and for good reason. What makes it so potent, and also gives it its bright yellow color, is curcumin. "Curcumin has been the focus of intense research due to its potential to avert chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer's disease," explains Zuckerbrot. Pro cooking tip: Combining turmeric with black pepper increases the bioavailability of curcumin. If traditional turmeric dishes aren't your taste, try incorporating the superfood spice into your favorite go-to dishes—it's easier than you think.
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In the same plant family as turmeric, ginger helps tame inflammation by halting the body's production of cytokines, proteins that trigger chronic inflammation. The spice has also long been touted as a remedy for an upset stomach and general nausea, and research shows it may also help regulate blood sugar levels. Need some meal inspo? Try these six tasty recipes starring ginger.
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Research shows that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish like salmon, tuna, and herring help significantly decrease serum concentrations of inflammatory markers, Zuckerbrot says, in addition to boosting brain and heart health. Fatty fish is also rich in B vitamins, which are key in helping your body convert food into energy, and also in repairing your DNA. To reap the benefits of omega-3s, aim for 3 ounces of fatty fish twice a week.
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Leafy green veggies like kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, arugula, and spinach are rich in antioxidants that restore cellular health, as well as anti-inflammatory flavonoids, says certified doctor of natural medicine and clinical nutritionist Josh Axe, D.N.M., D.C., C.N.S. They also provided a concentrated dose of important vitamins and minerals like vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium. Swiss chard, in particular, is packed with antioxidants that can help protect your brain against oxidative stress caused by free-radical damage. As a general rule, the darker the shade, the more nutritious they are, so pile on all the greens!
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If you needed another reason to sprinkle some cinnamon atop your morning latte or bowl of cereal, here are three: This yummy, versatile spice has been shown to help reduce and balance blood sugar, improve working memory, and even make your period less horrible. Its high concentration of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds helps protect the body from oxidative stress, fight infections, and repair tissue damage, according to Zuckerbrot.
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Coconut oil has long been touted for its wide-ranging health and medicinal benefits, and coconut beauty products are garnering lots of attention. But with all of its amazing uses, it's easy to forget that simply cooking with the stuff is one of the best ways to utilize this versatile oil. The unique type of fatty acids found in coconuts are more easily metabolized by the body than fats from other oils, making coconut oil a great source of energy and also a potent weight-loss tool. It also contains lauric acid, which, when digested, helps fight off harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi in the body. Bottom line: Coconut oil is a tried-and-true superfood, and definitely a pantry staple.
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These tiny seeds are small but mighty. With a good ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, and a high fiber and protein content, chia seeds can help reverse inflammation, regulate cholesterol, and lower blood pressure, says Axe. In addition to their heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory powers, chia seeds are also super easy to incorporate into your diet—try these quick and easy chia seed recipes for inspiration.
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Your mother was on to something when she told you to always finish your broccoli. In addition to being high in minerals like potassium and magnesium, broccoli contains antioxidants with particularly potent anti-inflammatory powers, says Axe. It also contains sulforaphane, a compound found in cruciferous veggies (think Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower) that has been shown to lower oxidative stress, battle chronic inflammation, and reduce the risk of developing cancer. You can cook broccoli in so many ways, that show off the versatility of this OG-green veggie. Try it in soup, pesto, coleslaw, stir-fry, salad—the list is endless.
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Much more than just a woo-woo wellness trend, bone broth is chock-full of body-boosting minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous, as well as glucosamine, which has been shown to help protect joints and strengthen bones. It might also help you look and feel a bit younger because it's loaded with collagen, a naturally occurring bodily protein that helps keep skin plump and firm. And collagen isn't just important for glowing skin. It's crucial to overall health, making up almost one-third of all proteins in the body, says Axe. Found in our ligaments, tendons, bones, and much more, it's the "glue" that holds us together. Sip on a warm cup in the morning, or use it as a soup base or to cook your favorite grains, like quinoa or even rice. If you don't have the time or means to make your own, try a powdered form. (Related: Should You Be Adding Collagen to Your Diet?)
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Moringa (full name moringa oleifera) is a superfood spice gotten from trees grown in West Africa, India, and South America. The leaves are loaded with antioxidants, protein, iron, and tons of vitamin C, making it very nutrient dense—which is why adding even just a small amount of its powdered form into your diet can have major benefits. According to research, it may also be helpful for people with diabetes because of its ability to help regulate glucose levels. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of the bright green powder to your morning smoothie, oatmeal, or granola, or try it in savory dishes like hummus and pesto.
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Nuts like almonds and walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which, in addition to keeping your heart healthy, also play an integral role in keeping your eye and brain function healthy. A recent study also linked eating walnuts to lowered risk of developing breast cancer. Since they're also loaded with fiber and protein, nuts can help you feel fuller, so they may be a helpful weight-loss tool. To up your intake, snack on homemade trail mix, add some almond butter to your smoothies, or sprinkle some nuts on top of a salad or savory entrée dish. Go nuts!
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In addition to their high vitamin and mineral content, beets also contain an amino acid called betaine, which helps protect the body from environmental stressors. The phytonutrients found in beets, which give them their bright color, have also been shown to have cancer-fighting properties. Beets are also brain food. Recent research found that drinking beetroot juice can help increase blood flow to the brain.
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You probably already know that olive oil is rich in heart-healthy fatty acids. It also contains free-radical fighting antioxidants called polyphenols, which help tame inflammation. Research has found that extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO—the highest quality of olive oil you can buy), can help reverse age- and disease-related inflammation. Olive oil is also a good source of vitamin E and is naturally free from cholesterol, sodium, and carbohydrates. Drizzle it over your salad, cook with it, even make a stir-fry—there are endless ways to use more olive oil in the kitchen.
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