Inflammation. It’s not just a catch phrase for health headlines.
It’s a fact.
Scientists are measuring levels of inflammation in our bodies and finding that it can be devastating for our health and wellbeing on a lot of fronts. And this is especially true when it’s chronic.
Inflammation has been linked to some serious health concerns like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, just to name a few. Know someone who has arthritis? Inflammation. How about digestive issues like acid reflux, leaky gut or colitis? Inflammation. How about skin issues like eczema or psoriasis? Yep, inflammation.
Why is this so prevalent? We know some of the key culprits are a poor diet that includes highly processed foods and added sugars, stress, lack of sleep, and food intolerances to name just a few. Given our busy modern world and lifestyles – it’s no wonder we’re all on fire!
I could write a lot more about the origins of inflammation, how it’s measured, and where it comes from, but instead I want to focus on some foods packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants that are proven to help reduce it.
Here are my top anti-inflammatory food recommendations:
Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries
Why save the best for last? Perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods are a sweet favourite of yours?
Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fiber, and antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese).
Many antioxidants such as “anthocyanins” and “resveratrol” are found in these small and delicious fruits. In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.
Anti-inflammatory Food #2: Broccoli and Peppers
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant “sulforaphane”. This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.
Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and quercetin.
Choose red peppers over the other colours as they have the highest anti-inflammatory effect and contain lots of lycopene and astaxanthin, both powerful anti-inflammatories. While both yellow and orange peppers have a goodly share of antioxidants, green peppers are actually peppers that have just been picked when they are unripe and definitely won’t have the same anti-inflammatory effect.
I pack these two super-healthy vegetables together in this week’s recipe (see below).
Anti-inflammatory Food #3: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, fatty fish)
Fat can be terribly inflammatory (hello: trans fats), neutral (hello: saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory (hello: omega-3s), this is why choosing the right fats is so important for your health.
The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, including omega-3s. These are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
Opt for fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, small fish (e.g. sardines and mackerel), and wild fish (e.g. salmon). Oh and don’t forget the omega-3 seeds like chia, hemp, and flax.
Anti-inflammatory Food #4: Green Tea
Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG.
EGCG is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer’s.
Drinking steeped green tea – either hot or cold – is great, but have you tried matcha green tea? It’s thought to contain even higher levels of antioxidants than regular green tea.
Oh and I’m often asked about the caffeine levels in green tea. Yes, there is caffeine present, although it’s about half as much as black tea and about a quarter as much as coffee. And with the added health benefits of EGCG, I say a few cups of green tea a day is worth it.
Anti-inflammatory Food #5 – Turmeric
Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing golden spice, turmeric?
Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin. This compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, as well as have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties.
I’ve added it to the broccoli and pepper recipe below for a 1-2-3 punch to kick that inflammation to the curb.
Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Dark Chocolate
Ok, ok. This may be slightly more decadent than my #1 pick of berries, grapes, and cherries but how about dark chocolate?
Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa, is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants, namely flavonols. These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy. They’ve even been shown to prevent neuro-inflammation (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory, and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke.
So if you have a sweet tooth, adding an ounce of dark chocolate to your diet may be beneficial. But – make sure you avoid the sugary candy bars – you already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!
So there you go! There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious foods you can choose to get your daily dose of anti-inflammation. Like this yummy and easy salad for one. Great as a side dish – or top it with some protein and you’ve got a complete meal.
Anti-inflammatory Broccoli Quinoa Toss
- ¾ cup dry quinoa
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- ½ tbsp turmeric
- salt and pepper (optional) to taste
- 2 cups broccoli, chopped
Rinse quinoa well under running water for at least 5 minutes.
In a saucepan place 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the rinsed quinoa and simmer until the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).
Melt coconut oil in a skillet. Add diced onions, turmeric, red pepper and lightly sauté for a few minutes.
Add garlic and broccoli and lightly sauté for 5-6 minutes, until broccoli becomes softened.
Add the cooked quinoa, salt and pepper, and stir everything together.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Add some cayenne pepper or curry spice for an extra spicy kick.