10 of the best inflammation fighting foods

By Alive & Well


Ah, the Yin and Yang of inflammation. It’s a wonderful thing when it’s part of the solution, not so hot when it’s part of the problem.

We love it when inflammation occurs as part of the body’s natural healing process. Like when you get a head cold and your body brings on a fever (aka inflammation) to help eliminate the virus or bacteria that’s causing the cold, thereby restoring you to good health. Injuries, stress, foreign substances and irritants all create the same response, which is a normal and helpful process. It’s basically your immune system looking after you. So, you know, thanks immune system!

Problem inflammation? Not so much. Background, low-grade, ongoing inflammation is believed to be one of the leading causes of disease, including arthritis, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, some bowel conditions, heart disease and high blood pressure. So it’s really important to keep this type of inflammation under control.

fighting inflamationFighting the ‘bad’ inflammation fight

There are some well-known, well-established ways to fight ongoing inflammation, such as rest, reducing stress (I know, not always easy), getting enough sunshine and avoiding energy-draining, processed non-foods like sugar.

But there are other ways too. Nature’s bounty provides us with lots of wholefoods that have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and incorporating them into your diet can help bring your body into balance.

Here are 10 of the very best inflammation-fighting foods (in no particular order):

  1. Broccoli is packed with vitamins, calcium and other nutrients such as sulforaphane which helps eliminate potentially carcinogenic compounds. Some people like it raw, for others a light steam is best. Your body will tell you what works for you. Another green vegetable that is fantastic is spinach. You can’t eat too much of these two lean, green fighting machines!
  2. Garlic includes sulfur compounds that kickstart your immune system to fight intrusions. Onions are great too because they have quercetin, a mighty antioxidant that zeroes in on inflammation.
  3. Turmeric is an Asian spice that looks a lot like skinny ginger, but is bright orange inside. It contains curcumin, which has been found to have the anti-inflammatory strength of pharmaceutical drugs – without the side effects of course. Ginger is also an inflammation fighter and is particularly good for colds and nausea.
  4. Shiitake mushrooms have been used in Asian cultures since ancient times to boost the immune system. Some friends of the mushroom, like oyster and enoki, are also fantastic.
  5. Papaya/pawpaw and pineapple contain papain and bromelain respectively (enzymes that aid digestion and inflammation reduction), along with tons of vitamins and minerals. And they’re delicious! What’s not to like?
  6. Speaking of fruit, berries, including blueberries, cranberries, goji and acai berries, are high in inflammation-busting phytonutrients. Blueberries have also been found to offer protection from dementia and Alzheimer’s.
  7. The good oils such as cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil and hemp oil contain polyphenols and Omega 3 fatty acids that the body turns into inflammation-fighting ninjas. Note: the cold-pressed part is really important – heat renders the oil hydrogenated and unhelpful to the body, so make sure you look for this on the label.
  8. Walnuts are packed with Vitamin E and Omega 3 fatty acids. Some people love ’em neat, others find them a bit hard to digest; if that’s you, try soaking them in water overnight and then dehydrating them by sticking them in an oven at just below 100 degrees C (about 210F) for a day. Or if you have a dehydrator, you can drop the temperature down to 46 degrees C (about 115F) for a long, slow bake – keeping as much nutritional value as possible. Whichever way you do it, the process ‘activates’ the nuts by simulating what happens in nature when they’re germinating, so they move from being dormant to shedding their protective enzyme coating and getting into their growth phase, releasing all their goodness as they go. They’re more easily digested, and I think tastier too.
  9. Seaweeds such as kombu, wakame and arame contain fucoidan, an antioxidant complex carbohydrate that kicks inflammation to the curb. It’s important to know the source of your seaweed though, to ensure it grew in unpolluted sea water, otherwise you might pick up some toxins you hadn’t bargained for.
  10. Last but not least, salmon, mackerel and sardines are the only ‘meats’ that are recognised for their anti-inflammatory properties. They contain eicosapentaenoic acids (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acids (DHA) – tongue-twisters, yes, but also Omega 3 fatty acids that are seriously effective against inflammation and have also been shown to prevent heart and autoimmune diseases.

Yowser. That’s a lot to (ahem) digest. Help!

It’s really easy to start incorporating these wonder foods into your regular diet. Here’s how:

  • Choose one to start with – something that seems familiar and doable
  • Once you are eating that one a few times a week, pick another and get used to having that one
  • And so on and so on until you’ve got an army of fighting foods in your diet on a regular basis.

Small, sustainable steps can help make an otherwise overwhelming task manageable. Remember that ancient Chinese proverb about the journey of a thousand miles? It begins with one step.

Do you have a favourite inflammation-busting food, recipe or remedy?