Inflammation is such a buzzword at the moment, with our modern day hectic lifestyles driving up our inflammatory markers and irritating our guts, we’re all looking for ways to reduce inflammation. Inflammation occurs when an irritant has stimulated the immune response; it’s the body’s way of fighting off unwanted intruders. Based on this, to some degree inflammation is a vital part of the healing process although at the same time chronic inflammation can leave us with impaired gut function, swelling, pains and redness. Inflammation can be caused by illness, disease, high intensity exercise and pathogens. Chronic inflammation can be caused by autoimmune diseases, chronic stress, over-exercising and digestive issues.
Diet does play a role in inflammation and certain foods may help to reduce inflammation but you should know that these foods alone are not a magic cure. You’ll also need to assess other aspects of your diet, your exercise regime, sleep, stress levels and other lifestyle factors such as smoking.
So what are the top 10 foods with anti-inflammatory properties:
I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that the active ingredient curcumin in turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties as it has been shown to up regulate PPAR-ƴ which inhibits the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and encourage immune cells to produce more anti-inflammatory characteristics.
2. Green leafy vegetables
Think kale, spinach, swiss chard, rocket (you get the idea). Green leafy vegetables are rich in Vitamins A, C and K which are all potent antioxidants. Antioxidants remove free radicals by donating one electron from their outer-shell to the free radical which stabilies them. Free radicals can contribute to inflammation, cell damage and cell death. Try swapping your iceberg salad base for the more nutrient dense spinach or kale.
3. Oily fish
It’s no secret that oily fish is a considerable source of omega-3. Omega-3 has been associated with reduced inflammation in many chronic inflammatory diseases e.g. Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and arthritis.
4. Dark coloured berries
These types of berries contain a polyphenol known as quercetin which has been found to modulate two phases of an inflammatory response and promote immunity, although the exact mechanisms are yet to be fully understood. I recommend snacking on Greek yoghurt (or a diary free alternative) and berries for an afternoon pick-me-up.
5. Bone broth
This new trend is rich in such a variety of nutrients including collagen which has been suggested to help support the gut lining. This is a relatively new trend (despite being a key component of our ancestors’ diets) and more research is required on it.
6. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is rich in polyphenols which have been shown to elicit anti-inflammatory properties. Dark chocolate is also lower in sugar than milk chocolate and its richness makes it more difficult to over consume too!
7. Green tea
Green tea is a source of flavanoids (naturally occurring group of chemicals found in plants) which has been shown to mediate some pro-inflammatory markers in particularly C reactive protein which plays a key role in the inflammatory process. Remember however that green tea is a source of caffeine and if you have trouble sleeping it’s recommended to avoid it in the evening.
8. Foods rich in pre and probiotics
Foods to support your gut bacteria are vital in helping to reduce the risk of inflammation. Often an irritated gut comes as a result of an impaired gut microbiome so ensure you’re consuming a variety of pre and probiotic foods such as bananas, onions, leeks, garlic, sauerkraut and yoghurt. For individuals with specific gut health issues not all of these foods may be as well tolerated so it’s important to seek personalised advice.
The combination of the antioxidants lycopene and vitamin C found in tomatoes have shown anti-inflammatory properties and reduced CRP levels (inflammatory markers).
The bioactive compound in garlic, allicin has been found to relieve gut inflammation in some individuals. However doses used in scientific studies are considerably higher than those that you use in your dinner (and for the sake of your social life – I don’t recommend overdoing it).
There you have 10 foods which have been found to elicit anti-inflammatory effects. Remember though, these foods alone are unlikely to cure chronic inflammation and you’ll need to assess your diet and lifestyle as a whole.
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