As someone with lactose intolerance and celiac disease, I am well versed in the art of dealing with a sensitive stomach. But when I woke up last May with a pain in my back that wouldn’t go away, I knew it was more than my run-of-the-mill stomach issues and went to the ER. Six hours and many tests later, the doctors told me that the culprit of my pain was probably inflammation in my gastrointestinal tract, and that I should change my diet and see a gastroenterologist. Let’s just say that between the months-long waiting list to be seen and my aversion to “diet,” the past eight months have been filled with stress, pain, and tears. That’s why I decided to change my diet and focus on eating foods that fight chronic inflammation. Spoiler: Thanks to these changes, my stomach has never felt better, and (bonus!) I’ve seen a major improvement in my skin and eczema.
A quick note: The right anti-inflammatory diet will vary from person to person and this list is not a substitute for medical or professional advice. If you think you are suffering from inflammation, it is vital that you see a doctor. Likewise, we can all benefit from nourishing ourselves properly, and the foods below are packed with healthy, body-loving ingredients. Keep reading to learn the top seven anti-inflammatory foods my doctor has recommended I add to my diet to fight chronic inflammation, and how I integrate them into my life.
The Mediterranean diet has long been considered the healthiest diet there is, and it’s also one of the best for reducing inflammation. “The Mediterranean diet has been shown to be anti-inflammatory due to its focus on whole foods and omega-3 fatty acids,” Julia Zumpano, a registered and licensed dietitian, told the Cleveland clinic. This claim is supported by science: Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids dampen the response of macrophages, which are immune cells that live in the tissue of the organs and play a key role in causing inflammation.
A good source of omega-3 fatty acids is oily fish, and salmon is one of them best sources Outside. I love all seafood, but when it comes to fish, salmon is one of my favorite dishes these days. It goes well with anything: in a BLT for lunch, tossed with some pasta, on top of a salad, with rice and avocado or oven-roasted potatoes, and so on. Plus, whether or not you suffer from chronic inflammation, eating salmon regularly can help improve heart and eye health, aid digestion, and support your immune system and fertility.
2. Olive oil
I swap my dairy-free and vegan buttery spreads for olive oil because it’s packed with anti-inflammatory properties. There is an abundance of healthy monounsaturated fats in olive oil, but the most notable one is oleic acid. Research has shown that oleic acid can suppress inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin (IL)-6. When these markers are activated, they essentially tell your body to go into overdrive, which is how inflammation sets in. Olive oil also contains oleocanthal, a potent antioxidant that has been found to reduce or decrease cholesterol levels inflammation.
Nuts are one of the healthiest snacks out there, but I’m a candy girl through and through, which is probably why I’ve been sleeping on everyone’s favorite salty snack. That’s all about to change, of course: I stock my pantry with walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, and cashews. According to The Mayo Clinic, nuts are a great source of protein and rich in substances that promote a healthy heart and fight inflammation. These substances include monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber – another ingredient proven to help reduce inflammation. So while I will occasionally miss my sweet treats, my gut and digestive system will thank me for reaching for nuts when I get that hunger pang between meals.
The internet’s favorite fruit may even help reduce inflammation. Avocados are packed with nutrients as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, such as vitamins C and E, carotenoids and phenolic compounds. These substances have been found to have important antioxidant, neuroprotective and cardioprotective benefits. In addition, an article has been published on Healthline speculates that eating avocados regularly may help improve the body’s natural antioxidant defenses and better fight inflammation. Whether you spread it on toast, make avocado pudding or use it to enrich a meal, we can rest assured that we can all enjoy avocados knowing that they taste good and are good for us too.
I tend to only reach for berries in warm weather, but it’s time to break that habit and enjoy the health benefits of these fruits all year round. This is according to a study published on PubMed, berries are packed with polyphenolic compounds that have shown natural anti-inflammatory effects in humans. In addition, berries with distinctive colors of red, blue and purple contain anthocyanins, a powerful polyphenol compound and natural antioxidant. There are tons of berries which can fight inflammation, but the ones I lean on include strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and grapes. I keep them in my fridge so I can grab them whenever I need a snack or in the mood for a homemade smoothie.
Including vegetables in your diet is essential, but not all vegetables are created equal. When it comes to reducing inflammation, dark leafy greens like spinach are the way to go. Spinach is rich in beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant known for its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to brighten skin. “Studies have linked higher levels of beta-carotene in the blood to lower levels of an inflammatory marker called C-reactive protein (CRP),” Kim Yawitz, a registered dietitian and gym owner, explained to Eat this not that. The good news about spinach is that it pairs well with all kinds of foods, so it’s easy to incorporate into your diet. I like to use raw spinach in sandwiches or salads or saute it with banana peppers in olive oil and use it as a side dish with dinner or as an addition to pasta.
7. Raw garlic
Garlic is more than just a flavorful addition to your pasta dishes, it’s also a proven anti-inflammatory food.. Research has shown that sulfur compounds in garlic can reduce inflammatory markers, better protect the immune system and boost antioxidants. Furthermore, garlic also contains quercetin– a member of the flavonoid family and powerful antioxidant – which can naturally help the body fight inflammation.
I admit it was music to my Italian ears to learn all this – I’ve already put garlic in everything! But this year I’m focusing on eating more raw garlic to get it in its most natural form and absorb all the benefits it has to offer. I’m going to add raw garlic to salads, combine it with my favorite non-dairy cheese, put it in tuna or chicken salad, and so on. Don’t sleep on raw garlic, folks — it’s actually quite tasty and the perfect addition to any meal.