Okay, so far I’ve bummed you all out by telling you how dangerous it is for your body to be in a state of chronic inflammation. I’ve also educated you on why it is so important to avoid certain ingredients that are quite prevalent in the standard American diet (SAD). I think it is finally time for some good news. It’s time to discuss the top foods to fight inflammation. I consider this good news because many of ingredients are extremely tasty. You also probably have quite a few of the top foods to fight inflammation already sitting in your fridge or pantry. Woot!
Please note that all herbs, spices, and vegetables have anti-inflammatory properties. In addition to the top foods to fight inflammation listed below, it is also important to include a wide variety of all herbs, spices, and vegetables in your diet. Please don’t exclude a veggie just because it is not listed below.
Now that we’ve got that covered, it’s time for Eating to Fight Inflammation — Part Three…
Top Foods to Fight Inflammation
AVOCADO: Thanks to an unusual source of fat called phytosterols, regularly consuming avocado helps lessen the amount of pain and inflammation in both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. They are also rich in glutathione, which helps slow the signs of aging and prevent cancer cells from multiplying. Avocados are great in smoothies, on salads (this fennel and arugula salad is one of my favorites), and of course, Holy Moly, Guacamole.
100% GRASS-FED BEEF: Red meat has gotten a bad wrap over the past few years. If you are consuming conventional beef that has been raised in a factory where the cows are fed genetically modified grains and never exposed to sunlight, the studies you read about ground beef are spot on. However, if you source cows that are 100% grass-fed and grass-finished on open pastures, red meat is actually a health food. Let’s take a minute to unpack this….
For optimal health, we need to have an omega-6 to omega-3 ration of less than 4:1. Grass-fed beef has an omega-6 to omega-3 ration of 3:1, while grain-fed beef has a ratio of around 20:1 (similar to that of the typical American). Bringing down your ratio by eating leass omega-6, and more omega-3, can help in the prevention and treatment of autoimmune disease, many types of cancer, obesity, and heart disease. Switching to grass-fed beef is a simple way to do so.
Grass-fed beef is also higher in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which aids in weight loss (lose weight eating beef?!?), and helps prevent cancer and immune disorders. Grass-fed beef is almost always hormone and antibiotic free, primarily because the cattle are less prone to illness, and the farmers have a higher level of dedication to sustainable living. This is a direct result of the cows being able to exercise, enjoy healthy greens, and breathe fresh, clean air.
(I’m fairly certain I don’t need to offer you ideas for enjoying beef….)
BEETS: Rich in a compound know as choline, eating beets is a great way to fight inflammation on a cellular level. They are also full of foods that help detoxify the liver and increase the amount of oxygen in the blood. Beets are one of the strongest natural detoxifiers one can consume. Anytime you eat detoxifying foods, the amount of inflammation in the body will naturally decrease. Shred raw beets into salads, or roast beets and serve with goat cheese and pistachios for a decadent side item. (How to roast beets.)
CINNAMON: In ancient egypt, cinnamon was so valuable that it was often considered more valuable than gold. This is because of it’s large array of culinary, medicinal, and embalming agents. The regular consumption of cinnamon has been shown to increase mobility in arthritis patients, largely in part to it’s anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps regulate blood sugar, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, and is a natural food preservative. Add a teaspoon to oatmeal, baked sweet potatoes, Indian and Asian foods, or baked apples. (Save money by buying organic cinnamon in bulk.)
TART CHERRIES: In 2012, Oregon’s School of Health and Science named tart cherries as having the “highest anti-inflammatory content of any food”. Fresh tart cherries are hard to find in stores, so I prefer to buy the dried variety or to drink tart cherry juice. (You can check out some of my favorite tart cherry products here.)
CULTURED FOODS: Cultured foods are rich in healthy bacteria called probiotics. Probiotics help build a healthy ecosystem inside your digestive tract, and a healthy digestive tract is one of the best ways to fight inflammation. Cultured foods rich in probiotics include sauerkraut, homemade pickles, kombucha, yogurt and kefir that contain the “live and active culture seal”, and unfiltered apple cider vinegar. When purchasing yogurt, it is best to buy the plain variety and then to sweeten it yourself with “no sugar added” jam or honey. (These are our favorite brands of probiotic supplements.)
GARLIC: The compounds in garlic work similar to NSAIDs, but naturally, shutting off the pathways that lead to inflammation. Press a clove (or more) into scrambled eggs, soups, salad dressing, and hummus.
GINGER: Did you know that 80% of your immune system is in your digestive tract? Including fresh ginger in your diet is not only a great way to fight inflammation, it also helps heal leaky gut. If you or a loved one is a victim of the standard American diet (SAD), this is a condition you need to worry about. If your digestive tract isn’t running properly, you are vulnerable to a wide range of chronic illnesses. Drink ginger tea, add minced ginger to stir-fry sauces, fried rice, and fruit desserts. (For an extended shelf life, be sure to store your fresh ginger in the freezer.)
KALE: Kale is certainly enjoying it’s fifteen minutes of fame, and for good reason! Eating just 1 ½ cups of kale two to three times a week can help lower chronic inflammation, has been shown to reduce cancer cells in at least five different types of cancer, regulates cholesterol levels, and is a great source of natural energy. These benefits are largely due to kale’s rich amount of glucosinolates, cartenoids and flavonoids. Glucosinolates help regulate the metabolism, and cartenoids and flavonoids are powerful antioxidants known to help balance the digestive tract. Many of these nutrients are need a bit of healthy fat in order for your body to fully assimilate them, so be sure to eat kale drizzled with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, walnut oil, avocado, or nuts.
PINEAPPLE: Pineapple has been one of my favorite fruits for as long as I can remember. I can’t help but wonder if I subconsciously knew that it was helping my body fight my arthritis even before I knew the facts. Who knows? Pineapple is rich in a compound called bromelein. Studies have shown that the bromelein in pineapple can drastically reduce the symptoms of inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, irritable bowl syndrome, and even acne! I like to eat my freshly cut pineapple with a scoop of cottage cheese to prevent my blood sugar from spiking. It is also tasty on grilled chicken or in place of tomatoes in salsa.
QUINOA: Quinoa (KEEN-wa) is an ancient “grain” that has recently been rediscovered, and is now cansidered by many as one of the top “superfoods”. After doing further research, I discovered that quinoa is actually not a grain at all. It is technically an edible seed, and is a member of the chenopod family (the same one as spinach.) It is also absolutely packed with anti-inflammatory properties! The list of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in quinoa is now known to include: polysaccharides like arabinans and rhamnogalacturonans; hydroxycinnamic and hydroxybenzoic acids; flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol; and saponins including molecules derived from oleanic acid, hederagenin and serjanic acid. Small amounts of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), are also provided by quinoa (www.whfoods.com). In animal studies, consuming quinoa on a daily basis has even shown a reduction in obesity! Try making a spiced quinoa topped with a runny egg for breakfast, use it instead of rice in risotto, as a bed for chicken, fish or stir-fries, or with cinnamon, walnuts and honey for breakfast! (Order quinoa in bulk here.)
TURMERIC: Turmeric is hands-down one of the most effective natural anti-inflammatory foods around. If turmeric is unfamiliar to you, it is the bright yellow spice that makes mustard yellow and gives curries their distinct color. Consuming turmeric on a daily basis can provide noticeable relief from irritable bowl system, rheumatoid arthritis and cystic fibrosis. It also helps prevent cancer cells from multiplying. I not only take it daily in capsule form, I also add a pinch to scrambled eggs, quinoa, curries, soups, and stews.
WALNUTS AND WALNUT OIL: Walnuts are a tasty way to add flavor and nutrients to a variety of meals. Thanks to their high amount of omega-3 fatty acids and other anti-inflammatory properties, regularly eating walnuts can help prevent thickening of the arteries, stabilize blood sugar, and lower cholesterol. Walnuts also contain manganese, which helps reduce the symptoms of eczema, and boosts your cognitive abilities! We like to sprinkle walnuts on are salads, use walnut oil as a salad dressing, or just snack on the nuts plain.
As you can see, it is entirely possible to be a both a health nut and a foodie. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is one of the very best things you can do for your overall health and well being. Inflammation is at the root of nearly all of our modern lifestyle diseases. Adding just a few of these ingredients to your everyday routine will give your body the assistance it needs to fight inflammation and keep chronic illness at bay!
For your convenience, I created an Amazon store where you can see the top anti-inflammatory brands and products our family uses. You can also go to the Truestar Health website to profile yourself for free, create anti-inflammatory meal plans, and learn about the brand we use for supplementation.