7 Foods that Fight Inflammation

Monday Nov 11 | BY |
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Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Chronic inflammation is linked with diseases like Alzheimer’s and heart disease,
but can be tamed with certain anti-inflammatory foods.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to anything it thinks may be harmful. If you cut your finger, for example, the body rushes immune cells to the site to start the healing process. Blood vessels dilate, immune cells kill any invading microorganisms, and other cells signal the body to marshal all its forces for its own protection.

Acute inflammation occurs in response to an injury or a trauma, and usually subsides after the injury is healed. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, lasts days, months, and even years, and can cause tissue damage and life-threatening diseases.

Many scientists now believe that most, if not all, chronic diseases are triggered by chronic, low-grade inflammation, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, sleep apnea, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease, and more. Two studies published in the Lancet suggest that this type of inflammation could be why people with normal or even optimal cholesterol levels still suffer heart attacks and strokes.

Warning signs you may be suffering from chronic inflammation include the following:

  • A big belly—waist circumference above 35 inches for women, and 40 inches for men
  • High triglycerides and low HDL “good” cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • High fasting blood sugar
  • Chronic diseases like arthritis, MS, or inflammatory bowel disease
  • Allergies and asthma
  • Constant fatigue or lethargy
  • Ongoing, irritating pain in the muscles and joints
  • Skin problems and frequent acne

Fortunately, there are natural ways to tame inflammation in the body. The easiest and one of the most effective—eat anti-inflammatory foods.

Seven Foods that Decrease Inflammation

Some foods are known to increase inflammation. We did an article a few months ago on a study that linked asthma to fast food—a link scientists said was likely related to the fact that fatty foods increase inflammation. Sugars, trans fats, processed meats, and artificial food additives may all contribute to the level of inflammation in the body.

Other foods, however, can do just the opposite. Following are seven that you may want to try.

  1. Fatty Fish: A number of studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids from fish like salmon and anchovies stop inflammation in its tracks—and can even treat inflammation that is already present. A recent study published in July 2013 found that the fish oil compound DHA is a vital player in the production of molecules that turn “off” inflammation.
  2. Whole Grains: Consuming whole grains as opposed to refined, white bread, cereal, and rice can also help reduce inflammation. Whole grains have more fiber, which can reduce C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the blood. A 2007 study, for instance, followed over 27,000 postmenopausal women aged 55-69 for 17 years. They found that inflammation-related death was inversely associated with whole-grain intake—even more so than the researchers thought, originally.
  3. Dark, Leafy Greens: Preliminary research has found that people with asthma may be low in magnesium. Foods like spinach, kale, and other leafy greens are a good source of magnesium and folate.
  4. Walnuts: These contain alpha-linolenic acid, which is also in walnut oil and flaxseed oil. In a 2004 study, a diet rich in alpha-linolenic acid was found to lower cholesterol and decrease markers for blood vessel inflammation in men and women at risk for heart disease.
  5. Green Peppers: A study from the University of Illinois reported that a plant compound abundant in green peppers and celery (luteolin) can disrupt a key component of the inflammatory response in the brain. These could help deter aging and diseases like multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s.
  6. Beets: So exciting is the research behind beets and inflammation that scientists are looking into this food as a possible solution to arthritis pain. It contains a compound called “betelain” that contributes to the color and is also a remarkable anti-inflammatory, and has been found to lower enzymes that trigger inflammation.
  7. Onions: Along with garlic, onions have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. In a 2011 study, both provided anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Other studies have found that both may be effective against arthritis.

Do you try to eat anti-inflammatory foods? Please share your suggestions.

* * *

Lisa Collier Cool, “Inflammation: The Root Cause of All Disease?” Yahoo Health, January16, 2013, http://health.yahoo.net/experts/dayinhealth/inflammation-root-cause-all-disease.

“DHA, Fish Oil Compound, Could Decrease Inflammation Through Its Role In Production of Maresins,” Huffington Post, July 7, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/07/dha-inflammation-fish-oil-compound-maresins_n_3530458.html.

Logan Bronwell, “Groundbreaking Study Reveals New Mechanism Behind Fish Oil’s Health Benefits,” Life Extension Magazine, September 2012, http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2012/sep2012_Fish-Oils-Health-Benefits_01.htm.

David R. Jacobs, et al., “Whole-grain consumption is associated with a reduced risk of noncardiovascular noncancer death attributed to inflammatory diseases in the Iowa Women’s Health Study,” American Society for Clinical Nutrition, June 2007, 85(6):1606-1614, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/85/6/1606.long.

“ALA-rich walnuts reduce inflammation, shows small study,” Nutraingredients, November 9, 2004, http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/ALA-rich-walnuts-reduce-inflammation-shows-small-study.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2008, May 23). Plant Flavonoid In Celery And Green Peppers Found To Reduce Inflammatory Response In The Brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/05/080520094115.htm.

Etta Obryant, “The Particular Research Driving Beets and Arthritis Pain Relief,” Selfgrowth.com, http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/the-particular-research-driving-beets-and-arthritis-pain-relief.

Marcela Alejandra Vazquez-Prieto, et al., “Garlic and Onion Attenuates Vascular Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in Fructose-Fed Rats,” Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2011, http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jnume/2011/475216/.

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho. www.colleenmstory.com


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  1. Crissie says:

    I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis just under a year ago. I’m a vegan, so already had no dairy and meat in my system to cause inflammation, but still ate gluten. Over the past year, I’ve eliminated gluten and have slowly be migrating towards more of a raw vegan diet. My pain is all but gone, and I’ve been able to start running again! I’m doing yoga, biking, running, and hiking – and all because I was able to change my diet to fight inflammation. OH…and I don’t take any arthritis or pain meds – I don’t need to.

  2. Jacky says:

    Hi Colleen.. been trying to incorporate more dark veggies like kale and spinach and lots of salmon and lean chicken..been following Dr.Nicholas Perricone anti-inflammatory diet,,,His Greek salad is one of our staples great recipes even my kids luv…thx for posting

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