As we roll into a new decade, the science continues to come in regarding inflammation and the wide-ranging effects it can have on our health – often in previously unimaginable ways.
Inflammation of course is a natural bodily function that often helps to keep us healthy.
For instance, if you get a bee sting or sprain an ankle, the swelling and throbbing that result alert your body’s immune system to the damage and direct it to begin the healing process.
On the flip side however, there are a host of other types of inflammation that can cause a wide variety of negative results in the body.
Chronic inflammation is a hidden killer when it comes to a variety of diseases and conditions, playing a significant role in cancer, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, asthma and even Alzheimer’s disease, according to a recent report from Harvard Medical School.
While there is still much to uncover in understanding the finer points of how inflammation affects our health, we do know that in the overall picture there are a number of ways we can reduce our body’s susceptibility to inflammation.
For instance we know that the modern refined-food diet is a huge cause of inflammation of this kind, and that there are a wide variety of foods we can eat that will help alleviate inflammatory symptoms.
Here are 9 of the top foods you can eat to reduce inflammation and have a healthier year!
1. Green leafy vegetables
Hit the produce aisle to get started on the battle against inflammation, starting with stocking up on plenty of green leafy veggies. Spinach is a great one for anti-oxidant properties, as well as being a great source for vitamin C and vitamin K.
Blueberries especially are another top anti-inflammatory food, as they contain quercetin, the strong antioxidant that has also been studied as a potential ingredient in curing cancer.
The blueberry‘s anthocyanin – the pigment that gives it its distinctive color, and is also present in other foods that are dark red, blue or purple – also works to reduce inflammation and is thought to help reduce cognitive decline and oxidative stress.
Another great candidate for helping to stave off inflammation and the host of bodily discomforts and diseases it can cause is good old broccoli.
Along with other cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kale, it contains tons of antioxidants, and has been studied in association with a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.
4. Fatty Fish
Wild salmon and other fatty fish are well-known for their Omega-3s, but did you know that the EPA and DHA that make up Omega-3s can reduce the inflammation that leads to metabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease?
Omega-3s also appear to become highly concentrated in the brain, and are thought to help reduce cognitive decline.
One of the top natural sources for bromelain, a digestive enzyme, the pineapple has long been respected as a top anti-inflammatory food, although it is believed to take this action indirectly.
For instance, pineapple has been shown to reduce asthma symptoms by slowing the spread of inflammatory metabolites, and it may help to reduce post-exercise soreness and muscle inflammation by punching up your body’s potassium levels.
6. Raw Oats
Raw oats are made up of what is called a resistant starch, the kind that passes through your gut undigested.
Instead of feeding your body directly, they feed your gut bacteria, which in turn creates butyrate, a fatty acid that helps reduce inflammation and reduces insulin resistance as well.
7. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Not only does cooking with olive oil lend your foods a distinct, delicious flavor, it also has been shown to be one of the healthiest fats you can eat.
Its monounsaturated fats are a key component to the famously healthy Mediterranean diet, and have been linked to reduced risk of heart disease, brain cancer, and a radical reduction in inflammatory markers.
8. Dark Chocolate (70% minimum)
Now we’re getting somewhere! Don’t worry, your sweet tooth won’t go unsatisfied on an anti-inflammatory diet, as dark chocolate and cocoa are known to be loaded with antioxidants that reduce inflammation tremendously.
Dark chocolate in particular is packed with flavanols that keep the endothelial cells lining your arteries healthy. One study found that smokers who ate dark chocolate saw improved endothelial function in as little as two hours.
These guys are loaded to the gills with vitamin C, potassium and most importantly, lycopene, a powerful antioxidant whose anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to impact several types of cancer, as well as reducing inflammatory markers in people with excess weight.
Remember too that cooking with olive oil can help maximize the amount of lycopene you absorb. That’s because lycopene is a carotenoid, a kind of nutrient better absorbed with fat.
Cut out processed foods and get on the road to better health through reduced inflammation with these nine important foods!