Clinically Reviewed
Clinically Reviewed

Feeling inflamed? Understand why + 5 foods that can help.

Inflammation is a hot topic, literally. As we understand this process and its triggers, research continues to suggest that lifestyle modifications—especially what we eat—can help either feed or quiet the fire.

Understanding inflammation

First, let’s be fair: Despite its fiery reputation, inflammation is not always a bad thing—it’s actually how your body heals. When your body senses an injury or infection, the inflammation process awakens your immune system and innate healing powers. With the help of your body’s protective cells and organs, inflammation helps remove germs and mend wounds.

Chronic inflammation, however, is another story. If left unchecked, the inflammation process can cause more harm than good by accidentally targeting healthy tissue in your body. This immune system misfire underlies a host of chronic conditions that plague our society including arthritis, allergies, asthma, and even certain types of cancer.

Fight back with a superpowered diet

If you suffer from chronic inflammation, thankfully what you eat can help. Certain foods—especially in the right amounts—can naturally dampen an over-active immune system and the discomfort it may be causing (Medonca, 2020).

Try these five tips to pack your diet with an anti-inflammatory punch:

Eat the rainbow.

To keep inflammation at bay, eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day; each food measures differently as a serving, so check beforehand to find the right portion. Topping the list of nutritional powerhouses are:

  • Berries (one-half cup), alluringly colored with inflammation-fighting anthocyanins;
  • Cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and kale), which have been shown to decrease cancer risk and heart disease mortality; and,
  • Mushrooms (one cup raw or one-half cup cooked) which have long touted many medicinal benefits (Joseph, 2014; Murillo, 2001; Zhang 2011; Jayachandran, 2017).
PRO-TIP:
For the biggest anti-inflammatory boost, studies suggest eating mushrooms raw or lightly cooked (Gunawardena, 2014).

Pick the right proteins.

As some studies link the saturated fat in red meat to a pro-inflammatory state, bank your protein game on fish, lean poultry, and legumes (Ley, 2014). To reel in an added anti-inflammatory boost from omega-3 fatty acids, opt for fish like wild caught salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and herring (Ellulu, 2016). When meat is on the menu, look for free-range, organic turkey and chicken for another source of omega-3 powers. For a vegetarian dish, rely on legumes and pulses (such as lentils, peas, and beans); they not only pack in protein, but also anti-inflammatory fiber and magnesium.

PRO-TIP:
Unless your dietary needs otherwise specify, there’s no need to go cold turkey on red meat; we recommend limiting your intake to once per week.

Pick the right proteins.

As some studies link the saturated fat in red meat to a pro-inflammatory state, bank your protein game on fish, lean poultry, and legumes (Ley, 2014). To reel in an added anti-inflammatory boost from omega-3 fatty acids, opt for fish like wild caught salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and herring (Ellulu, 2016). When meat is on the menu, look for free-range, organic turkey and chicken for another source of omega-3 powers. For a vegetarian dish, rely on legumes and pulses (such as lentils, peas, and beans); they not only pack in protein, but also anti-inflammatory fiber and magnesium.

PRO-TIP:
When selecting breads and pasta, check the label and choose options that list a whole grain as the first ingredient.

Don’t grain on your parade.

Instead of refined grains like white flour and white rice, choose whole grains (like oats, farro, quinoa, and brown rice), which are high in anti-inflammatory fiber.  

PRO-TIP:
When selecting breads and pasta, check the label and choose options that list a whole grain as the first ingredient.

Spice it up.

To add flavor to your meals, use fresh or dried herbs and spices—especially ingredients linked to low inflammation such as garlic, ginger and turmeric—instead of seasonings with extra sodium and preservatives like MSG. Curcumin, the active component in turmeric, contains anti-inflammatory properties that studies show can help improve pain and mobillty for people with artihritis (Daily, 2014).

PRO-TIP:
Toss in turmeric to add a golden color and earthy flavor to eggs, smoothies, main dishes, and rice or whole grain recipes; sauteed garlic is a flavorful ingredient to add to pretty much any savory recipe and ginger is a great addition to Asian-inspired recipes and teas.

All fats are not created equally.

When cooking or baking, swap the potentially pro-inflammatory saturated fats found in margarine and canola oil for healthier fats found in olive oil, avocado or nut/seed oil.

PRO-TIP:
Use a light olive oil to sauté vegetables and reserve the bold flavors of extra-virgin olive oil (or avocado/nut/seed oils) for salad dressings, marinades, or as a delicious finishing drizzle to main dishes.

Take a comprehensive approach

While reaching for the right foods is a strategic start to reducing inflammation, taking a comprehensive approach—including lifestyle changes like stress reduction and healthy sleep habits—will likely yield stronger results. With an integrative care team, like the practitioners at Vori Health, you can personalize an anti-inflammation plan that fits your life. Learn how you can start owning your health today.

Bowl of butter nut squash soup.

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