By Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist
Anti-inflammatory foods and diet is all the rage. Science is discovering that inflammation is connected to a wide range of health conditions, diseases and even seemingly benign but disruptive everyday aches and pains. Cancers, autoimmune diseases like lupus, urticaria, diabetes, neurologic conditions, degenerative diseases, arthritis, are just a few chronic conditions now linked to inflammation.
Inflammation comes from more than diet. In fact, many aspects of modern lifestyle are promoting of inflammation, like the “always on the go, multitasking” mentality that is so pervasive. Excessive or lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyle, inadequate sleep, chronically elevated stress levels can all be promoting of inflammation, and without a balance of the opposite behaviors like meditation, relaxation, fun, proper sleep, healthy diet, relationships, connection and movement things can easily get out of balance.
Inflammation, like exercise, is certainly not an all or nothing thing. Indeed some inflammation is healthy and essential, like swelling when you cut your finger. It’s the tapping and draining of our immunity and resources over time without proper compensatory actions that can contribute to inflammation becoming detrimental.
Let’s break down the top 9 anti-inflammatory compounds and where you can find them, and enjoy them.
Found in Turmeric Root and dried Turmeric spice, curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory actions. Curcumin is one of turmeric’s naturally occurring phytonutrients, and has long been touted for its cancer preventive and immune-supportive properties. New research into curcumin’s anti-inflammatory nature is showing that it may also alleviate conditions like colitis. Combine a pinch of black pepper with turmeric in juicing, smoothies and cooking to enhance the body’s ability to absorb curcumin.
Recipes with Curcumin:
Bromelain is an enzyme with anti-inflammatory capabilities that’s commonly found in pineapple. Pineapple sure is sweet when it comes to health, especially for anyone suffering from joint pain. Drinking pineapple juice after a high fat meal has also been shown to help block certain inflammation promoting compounds like IL-7.
Recipes with Bromelain:
These include fats found in foods like walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, salmon (preferably wild) that have potent anti-inflammatory actions. These essential fats must be eaten and are important to balance out the excessive intake of Omega-6 foods in the diet, which has the opposite action of promoting inflammation. Both are important and essential to consume, but western diet’s ratio is way off – about 14:1 omega-6 to 3, instead of 4:1. While cutting back on Omega-6 foods like corn oil, soybean oil, wheat and the like, upping intake of omega-3s is just as important for balance and health promotion.
Recipes with Omega-3’s:
Phenolic compounds like oleocanthal from olive oil, a hallmark of the famed Mediterranean diet known for its heart disease preventive and cancer risk reducing benefits, is another amazing anti-inflammatory compound to consume.
Recipes with Phenolic Compounds:
Found in beets, these have been shown to exert anti-inflammatory benefits. Here’s more on these gems and why consuming them raw may be best. These compounds are not very heat stable, so enjoying beets in fresh juice or raw in salads can be of benefit. Roasted and cooked beets still have many benefits, so enjoy a wide variety of delicious recipes.
Recipes with Betaine and Batelaines:
Capsaicin is a well-known potent anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving powerhouse that may even help with weight management. It’s found in hot peppers like jalapeno, Serrano, habanero, etc.
Recipes with Capsaicin:
Flavanoids encompass many of the better-known antioxidants that occur naturally in our diet, like quercitin (apples) and anthocyanins (blue/purple fruits and veggies). Flavanoids are found in colorful fruits like berries, pomegranate, chocolate (the dark kind!), as well as tea.
Recipes with Flavanoids:
Selenium is a trace mineral with antioxidant, immune-supportive and anti-inflammatory properties. Selenium has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers in those with thyroid conditions. Selenium may also help with Post-CPR inflammation linked with increased mortality risk. Consumption in the Western Diet is often lacking. Brazil nuts are an excellent source with 5 per day touted the “magic number” to get about 200 mcg of this important nutrient.
Recipes with Selenium:
Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant which is also promising as an anti-inflammatory agent. Found in foods like almonds and avocado. Vitamin E has been shown to reduce vascular inflammation in cardiovascular disease and preserve lung function with age.
Recipes with Vitamin E:
Enjoy a plant-based diet full of naturally occurring anti-inflammatory compounds. Look for easy, delicious recipes rather than reaching for supplements, which are unregulated in the US and often linked to risk when taken in excess.
What are your favorite anti-inflammatory foods? There are SO many to choose from, others include garlic, ginger and cinnamon. Bon appetite!