Chronic inflammation is linked to a variety of health conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and gut issues. The good news is your daily dietary choices can play a big part in overall wellness and reducing levels of inflammation in the body.
A healthy diet of anti-inflammatory foods offers protective effects against oxidative stress, a trigger for chronic inflammation, and a variety of chronic conditions. Antioxidant-rich foods offer the added benefit of a boost to your immune system and overall wellness.
What is the fastest way to reduce inflammation in the body? The fastest way to reduce inflammation in the body is to get regular exercise, reduce stress, and eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
We’ve come up with an anti-inflammatory foods list to lower inflammation long-term and improve your health outcomes.
What foods are strong anti-inflammatories? Fruits, nuts, olive oil, fatty fish, and leafy vegetables are examples of foods that are strong anti-inflammatories.
You’ll find that many of these foods have the added health benefits of supporting gut health. Let’s take a closer look at how anti-inflammatories work and what to put on your next shopping list.
What are the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet?
The benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet are improved health conditions, including:
- Reduced risk of chronic illness
- Improved heart health
- Healthier gut
- Weight loss
While inflammation is a natural immune system and healing response, it’s well-documented that chronic inflammation contributes to chronic diseases. Changes to your diet that incorporate whole foods proven to boost anti-inflammatory effects is a natural first step in reducing persistent inflammation over time.
What foods reduce inflammation? Fruits and vegetables, a variety of nuts, and extra virgin olive oil are all foods that reduce inflammation.
We’ll go beyond the top 10 in our recommendations to give you options across every food group.
Fresh fruits are a great source of fiber and essentials like vitamin C, but there are quite a few with high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects. Here are a few you should add to your regular shopping list:
Leafy greens and cruciferous veggies are an important component of an anti-inflammatory diet. They’re also high in fiber and polyphenols, a key contributor to reduced oxidative stress. Here are our favorite anti-inflammatory vegetables:
- Collared greens
- Sweet potatoes
- Swiss chard
Legumes are low in fat, high in fiber, and have the added benefit of reducing high cholesterol. Substitute them for meat in your meals to fight inflammation and hypertension. Don’t miss these on your next grocery outing:
- Black beans
- Black-eyed peas
- Kidney beans
- Lima beans
- Pinto beans
If you have a lactose intolerance, skip dairy altogether in favor of plant-based dairy alternatives. For most healthy adults, dairy shouldn’t trigger chronic inflammation when consumed in moderation.
Limit high-fat dairy like whole milk, heavy creams, and full-fat cheeses, especially if you’re at risk for obesity, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease. Stick to low-fat milk and yogurts instead for gut-healthy probiotics and potassium.
Plant-based proteins and seafood options are best if you’re following an anti-inflammatory diet. Choose tempeh and soy products like tofu over red meat for overall wellness. For some variety, you can keep these on your menu:
- Lean meat
- Skinless poultry
Eggs are also fine in moderation, and a good source of protein. You can even keep the egg yolks. Try to find organic eggs for the best anti-inflammatory support.
Choose oily fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, the healthy fats your body needs for solid cardiovascular outcomes. Here are our top picks for fish:
- Rainbow trout
Many varieties of shellfish are also full of nutrients, like:
Minimally processed whole grains are an easy substitute for refined white breads and flours. If you’re sensitive to gluten, choose gluten-free options to keep your gut in check. Here are some excellent sources of whole grains:
- Brown rice
- Steel cut oats
- Whole rye
- Whole wheat
Nuts & Seeds
Sprinkle healthy nuts on your homemade granola or cereal for added fiber and healthy fats. Just watch serving sizes for each if you’re worried about weight gain. A little goes a long way! Here are our favorite nuts and seeds with anti-inflammatory properties:
- Brazil nuts
- Chia seeds
- Pine nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Butters & Oils
Butters and oils high in saturated fats can raise your bad cholesterol and trigger inflammation. Extra virgin olive oil tops the list as our favorite anti-inflammatory for everyday use, but here are a few more alternatives:
- Almond butter
- Almond oil
- Avocado oil
- Cashew butter
- Flaxseed oil
- Hemp seed oil
- Peanut butter
- Sesame oil
- Sunflower seed butter
- Walnut oil
Herbs & Spices
Herbs and spices make easy, flavorful additions to foods you’re already eating. Ginger is particularly powerful for those dealing with joint inflammation or mobility issues. Here are our favorite anti-inflammatory herbs and spices:
- Black pepper
- Cayenne pepper
Many bottled condiments are full of preservatives, added sugars, and saturated fats that don’t help the fight against inflammation. Try experimenting with homemade condiments instead for your salads and sandwiches.
Classic pesto is made with heart-healthy ingredients like fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil. Mash your own guacamole for a serving of healthy fats. If you can’t leave the ketchup behind, add a little turmeric for an antioxidant boost. Other options include:
Sweets & Sweeteners
Fresh fruits are your best source of anti-inflammatory foods if you’re craving something sweet. If that’s not cutting it, dark chocolate is a great alternative. Choose varieties that are 70% cocoa or above for the best heart-healthy dark chocolate.
What can I drink to reduce inflammation? You can drink green tea, turmeric milk, ginger teas, and bone broths to reduce inflammation.
When in doubt, drink a glass of water. A splash of citrus or infusion of mint can make it more exciting if you’re tired of plain water. Less alcohol is best, but limited red wine consumption may be fine for healthy adults.
If you’re not getting what you need out of your diet, gut health supplements and supplements that target chronic inflammation can help support you along your journey. Here are a few we recommend to supplement a healthy diet:
- B vitamins (riboflavin and thiamine in particular)
- Fish oil
- Ginger root
- Hemp oil
- Vitamin E
Foods That Cause Inflammation
You don’t need to cut out “bad” carbs and sweet treats completely, but if you’re adding more anti-inflammatories into your diet, it’s just as important to cut back on inflammatory foods. Foods that can cause inflammation include:
- Refined carbohydrates like white bread and pizza dough
- Vegetable oils
- Fried foods like French fries and fried chicken
- Processed meats like hot dogs and bacon
- Processed snacks like chips and crackers
- Processed cheeses like American cheese slices and nacho cheese
- Red meat
- Sugary beverages like sodas and sports drinks
- Margarine, shortening, and other spreads with trans fats
- Excess alcohol
As you start your wellness journey, you may find that some proven anti-inflammatories don’t agree with you. That may be due to allergies or food sensitivities.
For example, some people feel worse after consuming large quantities of nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplants. Limited research suggests nightshades can contribute to gut inflammation or autoimmune conditions.
Talk to your doctor or nutritionist about foods that may be causing you discomfort and whether an elimination diet is appropriate for you.
Who should try an anti-inflammatory diet?
An anti-inflammatory diet can improve health outcomes, including your gut health, and reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases. You may want to try an anti-inflammatory diet if you are currently dealing with conditions caused by inflammation like:
- Autoimmune conditions
- Crohn’s disease
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ulcerative colitis
Chronic inflammation has also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, certain cancers, and mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
You should always talk to your doctor about changes to your diet or testing for inflammatory markers. If you’re dealing with gut issues, a gut health test can be another positive step in getting to the root of your symptoms. You may need more than dietary changes alone.
5 Tips to Get Started
It can feel overwhelming to kickstart an anti-inflammatory diet, especially if you’re not already following a healthy eating plan. There are a few ways to make things easier and increase your chances of long-term success.
1. Go for variety.
Use the wide variety of anti-inflammatory foods to your advantage. If you’re not a big fan of one food, try another. Plan plates full of color and texture that are fun to eat. Fighting back against chronic inflammation is a long-term process, so try a variety of foods to fight food boredom.
2. Cut back on inflammatory foods first.
Start small. Introduce fresh fruits at breakfast rather than a sugary bowl of cereal or start following meatless Mondays. Keep healthy, fiber-rich snacks on hand over processed treats. It may get easier as you introduce smaller changes in your day-to-day habits.
A healthy diet is all about balance, and you’ll set yourself up for failure if you never allow room for foods that may not fit an anti-inflammatory diet. It’s important to stay on track most of the time, though, and get to know foods that make you feel your best.
3. Try an established diet plan.
If you already follow a classic Mediterranean diet, you may know the power of foods rich in anti-inflammatory properties. Meal plans are typically big on whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, fish, and healthy fats.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan is another option. While it was created for those interested in lowering their blood pressure, it does that by limiting inflammatory foods like red meats and sweets in favor of whole grains, nuts, and legumes.
4. Keep a food journal.
Keeping track of what you eat is a good way to make sure you’re getting enough of each food group. Fruits and vegetables are great, but you want to get enough protein along the way, too.
A food journal can also help identify food triggers. Certain foods may not cause inflammation, but they could be causing you gastrointestinal stress or other symptoms. Elimination diets may help you pinpoint foods that are at the root of your issues.
5. Keep your healthcare provider in the loop.
Your primary care doctor should be your partner in any dietary changes, especially if you’re treating pre existing conditions. If you want to explore a fresh, individualized approach to overall health, our experts at Sano Health Club can help you get there.
Schedule a discovery call with a care team member to learn about our practice and to sign up for a membership. If you’re not ready to talk to someone just yet, join our mailing list to subscribe to our blog or follow us on Instagram.
- Hussain, T., Tan, B., Yin, Y., Blachier, F., Tossou, M. C., & Rahu, N. (2016. Oxidative stress and inflammation: What polyphenols can do for us. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity.
- Juárez-Chairez, M. F., Meza-Márquez, O. G., Márquez-Flores, Y. K., & Jiménez-Martínez, C. (2022). Potential anti-inflammatory effects of legumes: A review. British Journal of Nutrition, 19, 1-12.
- Hess, J. M., Stephensen, C. B., Kratz, M., & Bolling, B. W. (2021). Exploring the links between diet and inflammation: Dairy foods as case studies. Advances in Nutrition, 12, 1S-13S.
- Mahmoudi, M., Ebrahimzadeh, M. A., Pourmorad, F., Rezaie, N., & Mahmoudi, M. A. (2013). Anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of egg yolk: A comparison between organic and machine made. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, 17(4), 472-6.
- Yu, Z., Malik, V. S., Keum, N., Hu, F. B., Giovannucci, E. L., Stampfer, M. J., Willett, W. C., Fuchs, C. S., & Bao, Y. (2016). Associations between nut consumption and inflammatory biomarkers. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 104(3), 722-8.
- Hsu, E. & Parthasarathy, S. (2017). Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of sesame oil on atherosclerosis: A descriptive literature review. Cureus, 9(7).
- Bartels, E. M., Folmer, V. N., Bliddal, H., Altman, R. D., Juhl, C., Tarp, S., Zhang, W., & Christensen, R. (2015). Efficacy and safety of ginger in osteoarthritis patients: ! meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 23(1), 13-21.
- Higginbotham, E. & Taub, P. R. (2015). Cardiovascular benefits of dark chocolate? Current Treatment Options in Cardiovascular Medicine, 17(12), 54.
- Menezes, R. R., Godin, A. M., Rodrigues, F. F., Coura, G. M. E., Melo, I. S. F., Brito, A. M. S., Bertollo, C.M., Paulino, T. P., Rachid, M. A., Machado, R. R., & Coelho, M. M. (2017). Thiamine and riboflavin inhibit production of cytokines and increase the anti-inflammatory activity of a corticosteroid in a chronic model of inflammation induced by complete Freund’s adjuvant. Pharmacological Reports, 69(5), 1036-1043.
- Hewlings, S. J. & Kalman, D.S. (2017). Curcumin: A review of its effects on human health. Foods, 6(10), 92.
- Soltani, S., Chitsazi, M. J. & Salehi-Abargouei, A. (2018). The effect of dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) on serum inflammatory markers: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. Clinical Nutrition, 37(2), 542-550.