Inflammation is the body’s natural response of our immune system invader pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, toxins, or chemicals or some kinds of foods. This process triggers inflammation by which your immune system protects your body. With acute inflammation, your immune cells kill or neutralize such inflammation-causing pathogen and cool off the process. But when inflammation becomes chronic or long-lasting it damages your health, tissues or organs. Chronic inflammation plays a role in the development of nearly all chronic diseases. (1) Here I have picked 13 powerful anti-inflammatory foods but lesser-known to protect your health.
Free radicals that are highly reactive molecules play roles in the continuation of inflammation. Free radicals damage cells, DNA, lipids or cholesterol and that further leads to the development of many diseases. Apart from reducing factors that trigger chronic inflammation as well as inhibiting inflammatory makers, neutralizing free radicals is another idea of reducing chronic inflammation.
13 powerful anti-inflammatory foods but lesser-known to protect your health
Although these foods can help you to fight against chronic inflammation, you must take control of some foods as well as factors that contribute to inflammation inside your body. Destruction takes lesser time than building. Therefore you must check those factors that contribute to inflammation.
Berries contain polyphenol compounds that have anti-inflammatory activity in humans. Anthocyanins are the most notable polyphenols in berries responsible for their distinctive colors of red, blue, and purple. (2)Blueberries, raspberries, acai berries, goji berries, strawberries, bilberries, Cranberries are some to consider.
Leafy green vegetables
Green vegetables contain a variety of nutrients, plant chemicals as well as fiber. Vegetables such as Broccoli, kale, cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc rich in sulforaphane help to reduce inflammation. (3) Sulforaphane may also prevent cancers as well as support the detoxification process. (4,5,6) These types of vegetables also contain a high amount of vitamin A, C, and K. Study among 1,005 women as published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that a higher intake of cruciferous vegetables reduced markers of inflammation up to 24.68%. (7) Broccoli is one of the healthiest.
However, some cruciferous vegetables contain a high amount of goitrogenic compounds that impair iodine uptake and may contribute to hypothyroidism in people with iodine deficiency. Read more about which vegetables have a higher goitrogenic compound and how to reduce it.
Fatty fish with omega 3
As your body can’t produce these essential omega 3 fatty acids you need to take through foods. Omega 3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation maintain the gut wall’s integrity, positively affect the gut-brain axis, improves immune function, maintain omega 3 to 6 ratio, prevent aging and many more.
Earlier we discussed the imbalance of omega 3 to omega 6 consumptions in relation to inflammation. Due to the increased ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 the cellular functions support more of the pro-inflammatory processes than anti-inflammatory processes. In the present world, the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio in the human body is becoming very high due to abandoned food sources of omega 6 as well as lesser food sources of omega 3. Therefore more importantly you need to take omega 3 fatty acids from food sources in an attempt to maintain this ratio. (8, 9)
Fish with Omega 3 include salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, krill oil, cod liver oil, tuna and some other. You should prepare such fish in low heat slow cooking like steaming or baking. Otherwise, you can opt for supplementation. Be sure that your fish source is not contaminated with heavy metal toxicity.
Some plant sources also contain omega 3 as ALA. Some animals convert ALA to more active form EPA and DHA form of omega 3 to a greater extent. But a human reported can convert only to a lesser degree of around 8% to EPA and 0-4% to DHA.(10) That’s why I prefer animal-based omega 3 over plant-based omega 3. The only vegan source of omega 3 that contains both EPA and DHA is algal oil from marine algae-in my knowledge.
Apart from other roles, EPA gives protection against inflammation whereas DHA promotes brain health. Due to anti-inflammatory roles, I prefer a higher percentage of EPA than DHA in omega 3 supplements.
Extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil predominantly contains a healthy monounsaturated fatty acid called oleic acid. Studies suggest that oleic acid reduces inflammation as well as prevent diseases. (11,12) A systematic review of 30 studies enrolling 3106 peoples found that olive oil consumption exerts beneficial effects in reducing inflammatory markers, C-reactive protein, and interleukin-6 as well as improves endothelial function. (13)
Extra virgin olive oil retains the highest quality of olive oil than refined. You can use olive oil in your salad as well as moderate temperature cooking. It also contains a modest amount of vitamin E and K.
Avocado is one of the superfoods that contain numbers of vital nutrients including potassium, magnesium, vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, protein, dietary fiber and more. It also posses a healthy source of fat mainly monounsaturated fatty acid like oleic acid. (14) In a study, the consumption of avocado reduced inflammatory markers NF-kappa B and interleukin-6. (15)
Nuts and Seeds
Although EPA and DHA are the preferred sources of omega 3 alpha-linolenic acid or ALA also has anti-inflammatory and other potentially beneficial properties. It also helps to main gut health and may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. (16,17,18)
Walnuts contain plant sources omega 3 (ALA), vitamin E, melatonin, polyphenols, dietary fiber and more. It has high antioxidant activity and also had positively affected gut health in the 2018 published clinical study. (19,20,21)
Pecan nuts contain a high amount of monounsaturated fats along with a considerable amount of polyunsaturated fat and other nutrients like proteins, fiber, vitamin B, Vitamin E and some other.
Prof. Atanas G. Atanasov and their team are presently giving extensive interest in Natural Products in relation to health. In a recent reviewed paper from them- pecan nuts contain antioxidant polyphenols epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) The consumption of pecan nuts can ease inflammation by reducing the extent of the synthesis of inflammatory mediators molecules. Also, the growing body of evidence suggests including pecan nuts into obesity management strategies. Additionally, pecan nuts consumption is associated with reduced risk of metabolic or cardiovascular disorder. (22) In a four-week study pecan nut consumption showed improved antioxidant status. (23)
Another highly researched nut almond has a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids, proteins, fiber, and other minerals and vitamins like vitamin B, E, folate, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and more. And it also contains a decent amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids. It has very good antioxidant properties and helps to protect against oxidative damage, inflammation, premature aging and disease like cancer. (24,25,26)
You need to make nut water socked before consuming to reduce the anti-nutrients parts.
Both chia seeds and flax seeds have a very high source of plant-based omega 3 ALA. Also, they have excellent sources of beneficial nutrients like proteins, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, B vitamins and more. They also contain high antioxidant properties. (27,28,29, 8)
How to use these seeds?
Opt for ground flax seeds rather than whole as your intestine can’t break the hard shells of flax seeds. Also as it is difficult to sprout or make water socked the anti-nutrients parts remain there. Alternatively, you can opt for cold press flax seeds oil contained in opaque or dark bottles or containers and stored in cold places. You can add water socked whole chia seeds in topping, puddings, smoothie, salad and many others. Personally I prefer chia seeds over flax seeds.
Tomato contains plant nutrients lycopene. Lycopene contains powerful antioxidant properties to neutralize harmful reactive free radicals as well as gives protection against numerous diseases. However, your body can’t absorb lycopene better when you eat a raw tomato. Remember you are what you absorb rather than what you eat. Steaming or cooking enhances the bio-availability of lycopene and helps you to absorb better. Also, add olive oil or coconut oil or other goods quality oil as lycopene has fat-soluble properties.
Whatever you call herbs or spice, the mighty turmeric has many health benefits. Curcumin the active compound of turmeric is known for its strong anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory for different health beneficial effects. In addition, several studies have demonstrated that curcumin is safe even at dosages as high as 8g per day. (30) However, curcumin is poorly absorbed in the intestine. Combining a small amount of piperine with curcumin boosts the absorption of curcumin in the intestine. A study found piperine increased bioavailability of curcumin by 2000%. (31) Another clinical study found one gram of curcumin daily in combination with piperine from black pipper significantly reduced inflammatory marker CRP in circulations as well as improved oxidative status. (32)
However, cooking degraded curcumin and also when combines with fruits and vegetables with alkaline ash. Due to the fat-soluble property of curcumin, adding a small amount of fat helps to process further in your body.
Green tea is known for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It may prevent numbers of diseases including cancer as well as cardiovascular disease. Green tea contains a plant polyphenol called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). (33) Researchers found green tea polyphenols reduce cellular damage by lowering the inflammatory reaction as well as oxidation of fats. (34,35,36) Remember excessive consumption can have toxic effects. Research suggests that matcha green tea has a much greater antioxidant profile up to 137 times than regular green tea. (37)
If your gut is inflamed nearly your whole body can go inflamed. And unhealthy gut or altered gut bacteria can promote gut inflammation as well as relate to numerous health disorders such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diabetes, obesity, cancer, cardiovascular, central nervous system disorders, arthritis and more. (38,39)
Probiotic foods such as kefir, yogurt or curd, kimchi, etc with friendly bacterial culture can help to restore gut health, reduce gut inflammation as well as may prevent diseases. (40, 41, 42, 43) However, if you are critically ill don’t use probiotic foods without consultation with your healthcare provider. In general prebiotic foods like fiber help for gut health however, in condition like SIBO low FODMAPs work better.
Edible mushrooms possess a vast diversity of bioactive compounds with a wide range of therapeutic effects such as antioxidant, and anti-inflammation, anticarcinogenic, immune-modulatory and more. Edible mushroom had shown an anti-inflammatory effect through inhibition of inflammatory marker NF-κB signaling. (44,45)
However, a study reported significant lowering anti-inflammatory compounds of mushroom with cooking. (46) Therefore slow or light cooking can help to retain anti-inflammatory compounds than excessive cooking.
Dark chocolate contains several antioxidant compounds that give protection to the cells against oxidative damage. It may help to reduce inflammation in the body and also improve blood vessel function as well as keep your artery healthy. (46,47,48) Darker is the better. Choose dark chocolate with less sugar content. Know why you need to avoid sugar, hidden names of sugar in foods and sugar alternatives.
Citrus foods, such as lemon and limes, oranges, grapefruit, etc has rich sources of vitamin C along with other nutrients. You need this water-soluble vitamin on an everyday basis in general. Apart from many other benefits, vitamin C has an excellent free radicals scavenging capacity that promotes inflammation. (49, 50)
As vitamin C is water-soluble and heat-sensitive, it can leach from foods when combined with hot water. A cooking method like boiling can reduce vitamin C content by up to 50%. (51) Vitamin C loss also in storage. (52)You need to consume as early as possible to prevent loss.
Also, read 7 steps towards a perfect health
These powerful anti-inflammatory foods can help you to protect your health from chronic diseases. You can also have many other foods that help you to fight with inflammation in a more or less way. Remember taking a large dose for a longer time of anything even as highly health beneficial foods may affect negatively. Moderation and variations are the keys. And if you have information about anti-inflammatory functional foods please share it with me.
Disclaimer: Information provided here are generalized information for educational purpose only, not intended to provide one to one health consultation or replace practice of a qualified practitioner. Different people may have different health condition and may have different reaction to the same food. Hence it has been advised to consult with health care provider before application of any of above information Source and references: 1. Philip Hunter,The inflammation theory of disease.The growing realization that chronic inflammation is crucial in many diseases opens new avenues for treatment, EMBO Rep. 2012 Nov; 13(11): 968–970 2. 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