While the seemingly magical, anti-inflammatory properties of berries, ginger and turmeric are widely recognized, there are many lesser-known foods that share a similar knack for keeping inflammation at bay. Not only do these nutrient-rich foods have powerful restorative properties, but many of them also enhance your immune health.
"Keep a look out for foods that have Omega-3 essential fatty acids to assist anti-inflammatory pathways and zinc to support naturally occurring enzymes,” says Dr. Chris Meletis. “Vitamin C is also important for maintaining a healthy immune response.”
If you often find yourself battling bloat, headaches or other symptoms of inflammation, consider trying some of the foods below:
Just in case you needed one more reason to go for that avocado toast. As a common source of healthy fats and antioxidants, avocados are a great staple of an anti-inflammatory diet. Recent studies even suggest that eating this versatile fruit can lead to a more diverse gut microbiome.
Not only are beans and legumes packed with antioxidants, but they are also high in fiber, which is crucial for sustaining the healthy bacteria in your gut. Magnesium is another key component that can help reduce inflammation and support bone strength.
These tiny, nutrient-dense superfoods are rich in fiber, protein and antioxidants, making them the ultimate choice for fighting inflammation. Regularly consuming chia seeds has also been linked to improved heart health and blood sugar levels.
Break out the dark chocolate! Raw cocoa is rich in both flavanols and polyphenols – two key components for fighting chronic inflammation. However, it's important to note that not all cocoa products are equal, as the many ways cocoa is processed (I.e., chocolate products) can disrupt the flavonoid content. If you’re here for the health benefits, unsweetened cocoa powder is your best bet.
Fish such as salmon, herring and sturgeon are all excellent sources of unsaturated fats, otherwise known as Omega-3 fatty acids. The two types of Omega-3s commonly found in these fish – EPA and DHA – are scientifically proven to have anti-inflammatory properties. Fish oil is another option if you’re not a big seafood fan.
If you’ve never heard of Guayusa, you’re not alone. This caffeinated tea comes from a species of holly tree in South America and has recently risen to prominence as a great source of antioxidants. In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, it's suggested that guayusa can improve mood and focus (likely a result of the concentrated caffeine content).
In addition to many seeds, nut varieties such as almonds, cashews and walnuts are great for battling inflammation. Cashews give you a hefty dose of iron, zinc and magnesium while walnuts contain more antioxidants and Omega-3s than most nuts. Almonds are also full of both fiber and Vitamin D—two key elements for maintaining proper gut health.
We said “surprising,” didn’t we? Unlike other breads, sourdough is fermented, giving it many of the anti-inflammatory properties that foods like yogurt and kimchi have. By consuming fermented foods, you’re helping restore the good bacteria in your gut, which can improve digestion and build immunity.
Though berries and citrus fruits may be the first foods that come to mind when we think of anti-inflammatory fruits, tomatoes are another superfood that can help combat inflammation. In addition to their antioxidant properties, they’re also rich in Vitamin C, which plays a crucial role in tissue repair and strengthening your immune system.
In the end, it’s important to remember that there are no strict rules when it comes to fighting inflammation.
“When you see terms like ‘anti-inflammatory diet,’ it seems like you have hit the jackpot for reducing aches, pains and other symptoms,” Meletis says. “But just because a food is trendy or recommended in scientific literature doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right food for your body.”
While indulging in that tasty slice of avocado toast may work for some, it’s not going to bode well for someone with a gluten (or avocado) sensitivity. Each person’s body is different and processes foods in a different way, so it's important to come up with a health plan that works best for you.