Pain, heat, swelling, and redness. What experiences pop into your mind at the mention of these terms? Inflammation. That is right. Instinctively, your mind will conjure up past events such as stubbing your toe, scraping your knee, or being stung by that pesky mosquito. Those are typical examples of inflammation that occurs externally. Inflammation can also happen without an external agitator. Foods to reduce inflammation do exist but what are they?
Everyday Foods To Reduce Inflammation Naturally
Recall the last time you stubbed your toe. You probably rushed for an ice pack to alleviate the external pain and swelling. Likewise, you can use many foods to reduce inflammation levels in your body naturally and safely.
Inflammation is part of the immune system's response when your cells get damaged or when your body is under attack by pathogenic or toxic compounds . During the inflammatory process, the permeability of your vascular wall changes. Leukocytes are dispatched then recruited to the injury site, and there is a surge in inflammatory mediator release .
All these processes lead to the typical signs of inflammation, such as swelling and redness. During the acute phase of inflammation, events that occur at the molecular and cellular level act to minimize the damage, injury, or infection caused by pathogens or harmful compounds .
In short, inflammation is a crucial defense mechanism that mitigates injurious stimuli and instigates the healing process. However, acute inflammatory responses that spiral out of control can become chronic, leading to different long-term inflammatory conditions that are harmful to your health .
Some diseases strongly associated with chronic inflammation include inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma .
Research has also suggested a link between certain diseases and chronic systemic inflammation. These include cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and chronic kidney disease .
Anti-inflammatory foods are a practical tool in combatting the inflammation that causes these diseases. Altering your dietary habits is not an overnight miracle cure, but it may help tackle inflammation, alleviate symptoms and reduce the pain intensity of some conditions [5, 6].
We have collected a list of foods that have science-backed anti-inflammatory properties.
Top 6 Foods To Reduce Inflammation
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries possess anti-inflammatory properties due to compounds called anthocyanins.
These are water-soluble pigments that give berries their vibrant color, and at the same time, powerful anti-inflammatory effects.
However, other compounds such as ascorbic acid and phenolic acids are also responsible for the health benefits of berries. These compounds can have individual or additive therapeutic effects. As a result, research has discovered that berries can lower the risk of certain cancers and prevent cardiovascular diseases and medical conditions caused by inflammation [7, 8].
Broccoli is rich in sulforaphane, a compound that studies have labeled as a promising antioxidant. Due to its antioxidant effects, sulforaphane can reduce oxidative stress and tissue injury or damage.
Hence broccoli has been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, all-cause mortality, and cause-specific mortality [9, 10].
Turmeric is a popular Indian spice that gives certain foods like curry its yellow color.
The compound of interest in turmeric is called curcumin. Curcumin can substantiate potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and minimize the oxidative damage of proteins and DNA linked to various chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders.
These therapeutic effects of curcumin are most likely associated with its capability in inhibiting enzymes that mediate the inflammatory process .
Studies suggest that mushrooms have a vast range of therapeutic effects, including antiviral, anticarcinogenic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory effects, thanks to the bioactive compounds present in mushrooms.
However, the concentration of these compounds may vary depending on the species of mushroom, storage, processing procedure, and cooking method.
One study discovered that heating could reduce the anti-inflammatory abilities of mushrooms. Due to this, it may be better to consume lightly-cooked mushrooms if you want to maximize their anti-inflammatory effects [12, 13].
5. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish (such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and herring) are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, namely eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Research links EPA and DHA with decreased inflammation . Other than that, research has linked dietary consumption of these fatty acids to healthy aging, cardioprotective effects, and reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases [15, 16].
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene; a natural compound discovered to confer various health benefits such as preventing cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
Though lycopene's mechanism of action isn't fully understood, studies suggest that its therapeutic benefits are connected to its ability to inhibit pro-inflammatory mediators, cytokines, and enzymes.
Recent studies have also indicated that lycopene can induce the apoptosis (programmed cell death) of immune cells activated due to inflammatory response .
Inflammatory Foods To Avoid
On the flip side, if you have a chronic inflammatory condition, try to limit the consumption of foods that are likely to exacerbate your situation. These include;
- fried foods
- red meats
- highly-processed meats (sausages, salami, cured and smoked meat)
- refined carbohydrates such as white bread
- sweetened beverages, and
- foods high in sugar or saturated fats .
Who Should Take Anti-inflammatory Foods?
Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet may help to reduce inflammation.
You may consider including more anti-inflammatory foods into your daily meals if you have certain medical conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis), psoriasis, or Hashimoto's thyroiditis .
A person with metabolic syndrome may also reap benefits from the increased intake of anti-inflammatory foods. Metabolic syndrome encompasses conditions that are risk factors for arteriosclerosis.
They include Type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. If you have any of these conditions, consider adopting an anti-inflammatory diet to reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases .
Foods To Reduce Inflammation: Summing Up
The inflammatory response that occurs in your body can be a friend or foe. When your body fails to control an acute inflammatory response, this leads to chronic inflammatory diseases that can impact your functioning and ability to perform daily activities.
Your diet can play a vital role in controlling inflammation levels in your body. To inhibit inflammation, you don't always have to refer to medications. Berries, fatty fish, broccoli, mushrooms, and tomatoes are considered effective foods to reduce inflammation without reaching outside your kitchen.