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The Best 8 Foods to Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is part of your immune system’s natural response to an injury or infection.


While this response can help your body heal and repair itself, chronic inflammation — which sticks around far after the threat or foreign invader is gone — can lead to a range of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.



Registered dietitians agree your best defense against chronic inflammation is a healthy, balanced diet. While some foods are known to cause inflammation, others contain specific nutrients that can help reduce inflammation.



Processed foods high in sugar, salt, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrates have been shown to trigger inflammation through changes in the gut microbiota. Not only that, but processed foods also tend to be high on the glycemic index, meaning they quickly spike your blood sugar — which can also lead to inflammation.



On the other hand many plant-based foods are packed   with fiber and phytonutrients, which reduce inflammation by fostering a healthy gut and scavenging harmful free radicals throughout the body.



With that in mind — if you’re looking to keep inflammation at bay, here are a handful of foods you’ll want to add to your shopping list



1. Walnuts



Looking for an anti-inflammatory snack? Reach for walnuts. A 2020 review found that eating walnuts significantly reduced signs of inflammation, including high LDL cholesterol.



Omega-3 fatty acids are well known for their anti-inflammatory properties, says Stephanie Wells, MS, RD, and walnuts are one of the best sources. In fact, a 1-ounce serving contains 2.5 grams of alpha-linolenic acid, which Wells notes is over 100% of the daily recommended value.



Plus, walnuts are also packed with a number of antioxidants, including ellagic acid, catechin, and phytic acid. Antioxidants help to prevent inflammation by protecting tissues from free radical damage.



2. Berries



Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries contain special antioxidants called anthocyanins, according to Bianca Tamburello, RDN, a nutrition specialist at FRESH Communications. Anthocyanins — which give these fruits their red, purple, and blue pigments — have been shown to help to fight inflammation.



“Strawberries and blueberries are also high in vitamin C, which can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation,” adds Wells.



They’re super easy to add to your diet, too: toss them into everything from salads and smoothies to overnight oats and yogurt parfaits.



3. Leafy greens



Whether you prefer kale, spinach, or collards, don’t be shy about loading the leafy greens onto your plate for some major anti-inflammatory perks.



“These vegetables contain cancer-fighting compounds, like carotenoids, that guard cells from free radical damage,” explains Johna Burdeos, RD.



Dandrea notes that leafy greens are also high in fiber, which helps to ward off inflammation by supporting a healthy gut.



4. Oily fish



Far and away, the best food sources of inflammation-fighting omega-3s are fatty fish — like salmon, cod, sablefish, and sardines.



Oily fish is especially high in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — two types of omega-3 fatty acids that the body can’t make on its own, which is why it’s crucial to get enough of them in your diet.



Some studies have even found that these fatty acids help to lower high levels of c-reactive protein, which is a marker for chronic and acute inflammation.



5. Mushrooms



Mushrooms are a verifiable superfood; in part, because they’re rich in a wide range of anti-inflammatory compounds like carotenoids, fatty acids, polysaccharides, vitamins, and biometals.



“Mushrooms contain polyphenols, selenium, and vitamin E, all of which are powerful antioxidants that help reduce the risk of inflammation and cell damage,” says Tamayo. “The beta-glucans, a complex oligosaccharide, also boasts some powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce the risk for illness and markers for disease.”



Fun fact: A 2018 review found that mushrooms in the Basidiomycota group — which includes chaga, shiitake, and lion’s mane mushrooms — have especially powerful anti-inflammatory properties.



6. Olives



Like oily fish and walnuts, olives are chock-full of heart-healthy fatty acids that can fight inflammation.



The benefits of olives for inflammation don’t end there,  They are also a good source of vitamin E, which is a potent antioxidant, and a phenolic compound called hydroxytyrosol, which has anti-inflammatory properties.



A 2021 review found that olive oil, too, can protect DNA from oxidative stress, thus reducing inflammation along with your risk of neurodegenerative diseases (like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s).



7. Beans



A 2017 review suggested that beans contain anti-inflammatory properties that may help prevent diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.



Beans are a rich source of gut-friendly fiber, protective antioxidants, and other beneficial phytonutrients.



8. Chia seeds



The anti-inflammatory powers of chia seeds are three-fold according to nutritionalists.



• They’re loaded with fiber, with 10 grams per ounce, for a healthy gut



• They’re high in omega-3 fatty acids



• They’re packed with polyphenols, a group of phytonutrients that act like antioxidants




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