Everyone has their own list of kitchen staples. Foods that we turn to when we need to whip something up really quick, or just grab-n-go can make or break our health, not to mention our waistline. The next time you walk into your kitchen, take inventory of what’s in your cabinet or refrigerator. Get a pen and paper ready, because the next time you go to the store, you'll want to add a few of these go-tos because they're the best foods for inflammation.
What is an Inflammatory Diet?
Inflammation can get divided into two groups: acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation is necessary and good. It's what happens when we get a paper cut or sprain an ankle. Swelling, redness an pain occur - but usually only for a short period of time. Acute inflammation helps our body heal.
Chronic inflammation is hard on our bodies and harmful. It's like a fire that's constantly burning. When we experience chronic inflammation, we're putting immense stress on our body for prolonged periods of time. Chronic infections, arthritis, IBS and even obesity are all forms of inflammation.
It's nearly impossible for anyone to achieve long-term weight loss without getting inflammation under control.
Usually, our diets contribute greatly to inflammation. Processed foods, fried foods, unhealthy fats, excessive sugar, fast food, too many starchy carbohydrates and so much more can trigger an inflammatory response.
Eating anti-inflammatory foods is the quickest way to control inflammation and the fastest way to lose weight permanently.
So, what are the best foods for inflammation? You're in the right place. Here's the short list.
The Best Foods for Inflammation
Each of these foods has something really special about them that make them amazing for your body. They're also pretty easy to find in just about every grocery store.
1 - Lemons
Acidic in nature, lemons actually help to alkalize our blood. This is good because usually our bodies (and our blood) isn't alkaline enough. It's usually too acidic - which can create inflammation.
Think about your diet for a minute. Do you ever drink coffee, fried food or sugar foods? If you do, then you're eating foods that make your body more acidic.
Lemons help to balance this out. They’re also a great source of vitamin C. Did you know that the rind and pulp of the lemon can help to fight inflammation and lower bad cholesterol levels, too? Not sure how to use the rind? Check out this recipe for my Ruby Red Detox Smoothie that uses the whole lemon.
Practical Tip: You can also use real bottled lemon juice if it's more convenient that the fresh fruit! Try adding an splash to warm or room temp water in the morning to help start your morning off with an anti-inflammatory kick.
2 - Coconut Oil
Remember when we were told that we needed to stay away from all tropical oils? I remember this being a really big message when McDonald's used coconut oil to make their French Fries. It's no surprise that deep fried food (no matter what oil you use) is bad for us, but coconut oil is not.
If you’re not jumping all over coconut oil yet, here are a couple reasons you should. Coconut oil is full of medium chain triglyceride (MCTs). Considered the “athlete’s oil,” coconut oil gets metabolized and used for energy faster than any other fat. Coconut oil is also a good source of lauric acid, a known bacteria and virus-fighter.
Coconut oil is a great food for inflammation because it's loaded with a lauric acid. Lauric acid has the ability to fight bad bacteria, viruses and yeast. Not bad to have in your cabinet, right?
Stay healthy and put a little coconut oil on something everyday. Add to roasted or steamed vegetables, in oatmeal, or just about any baked good.
Practical Tip: Add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to rice, air-popped popcorn or steamed vegetables every time you make them. Coconut oil adds a truly delicious flavor!
3 - Avocado
Did you know that one avocado has about 10 grams of fiber? But that’s not the only reason this fruit makes the list. Avocado is a great source of oleic acid, which is incredibly beneficial for better heart health. Avocados are also a great source of potassium, as well as vitamins K and E. This alone makes avocado one of the best foods for inflammation (aside from the fact that it's guac-related).
Don’t you worry one little bit about the fat, my friend! A reasonable amount of healthy fat - especially from avocados - won’t make you fat…only beautiful. Enjoy morning, noon or night. Omelets, salads and chopped up in salsa are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy them.
Practical Tip: Try my Detox Guac. It's got a little kick from some spices your body will love.
4 - Carrots
Maybe I’m biased because I’ve always loved carrots, but this vegetable is high in fiber, affordable year around, great raw or cooked and incredibly portable – eliminating just about every excuse for why you can’t eat healthier.
Carrots are also a very good source of beta carotene, a phytonutrient that helps keep our vision in check. The combined nutrients in carrots' antioxidant properties have been shown to have a positive effect in the treatment of leukemia and prevention of lung cancer due to its high betacarotene properties.
Practical Tip: Whole carrots taste so much better than the minis! At the beginning of the week, chop up a pound or two of carrots, keep them in a container in the refrigerator and enjoy with mustard (my favorite) or this super healthy hummus recipe.
5 - Spinach
More to do with versatility than Popeye’s biceps, spinach makes the list partially because it’s easily added to stir fries, salads, smoothies, omelets, soups and everything in between.
Spinach is full of an array of vitamins, including A, E, B6, B2 and C. It's also a great source of lutein, which is considered "the eye vitamin". It's also a great source of iron, which helps with energy, and vitamin K, which helps with bone strength. Your hair, skin and bones reap the benefits, too. Take advantage of this leafy green, fresh or frozen!
Practical Tip: Spinach wilts down to nothing the moment it's heated. You could eat an entire bag in just one sitting. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but when you go shopping and you know you're going to cook with spinach, but a couple bags to make sure you have enough for leftovers or your family - if you're cooking for more than one.
6 - Eggs
The whole egg is where it’s at! Like other healthy dietary fats, eggs, including the yolk, are good for you and will have no impact on serum cholesterol levels, which are different from cholesterol in foods.
Eggs are great for snacks and as a part of any meal. I always keep eggs hard boiled in the refrigerator so I can grab one if I’m ever hungry. Research has shown that eating eggs in the morning helps keep you satisfied longer throughout the day, leading to improved weight control.
Practical Tip: Eggs make a great snack as well as they do a meal. Boil a half dozen eggs to keep in your refrigerator. The next time you have a craving for something savory, peel an egg, sprinkle with a little sea salt and enjoy.
7 - Garlic
A little bit of fresh garlic goes a long way…especially when it comes to detoxifying our bodies. What’s more, garlic is one of nature’s most potent antibiotics. It’s antiviral and antibacterial properties make it very easy for you to literally eat yourself healthier. The Belly Burn Plan is full of garlic-loaded recipes, including my amazing Cleanse dressing (yum!).
The benefits of garlic can't be overstated enough. In fact, the research behind garlic and cancer prevention is enormous, One study showed people who ate raw garlic just twice a week had a 44% lower risk of developing lung cancer, and has proven to be effective in preventing stomach, breast and prostate cancer.
Practical Tip: Eating raw garlic may not be the most enjoyable thing. Here's how to make it easier. Smash a clove of garlic with the side of a knife. Allow the smashed clove to sit for a few minutes. This will activate the properties of garlic that make it so powerful. Then place on a teaspoon, cover with a little bit of honey or maple syrup and down the hatch!
8 - Cinnamon
Need help controlling sugar cravings? Load up on cinnamon and use it liberally! Let’s face it, we’re hit with a barrage of refined, fast-digesting sugary foods each and every day. We need all the help we can get to keep our insulin (aka fat-storage hormone) where it needs to be.
Cinnamon not only helps type 2 diabetics control their blood sugar levels, but also helps reach more optimal cholesterol levels, too. Add cinnamon to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, on top of fresh fruit or in herbal tea. I'd throw cinnamon on everything, if I could. Personally, it's at the top of the list for foods that helps tip inflammation.
Practical Tip: If your grocery store has a bulk section for spices, buy cinnamon in bulk. It's much more affordable than buying an expensive bottle. And hang on to your old spice bottles. You can refill them with bulk spices you buy at the store!
9 - Apple Cider Vinegar
Like lemons, apple cider vinegar (ACV) is thought of as being harshly acidic…and technically, when it’s outside our body, it is! But after ACV is in our body, it has the amazing ability to alkalize our blood.
Like garlic, ACV has strong antibacterial properties. ACV also happens to help aid in weight loss and maintain better blood sugar levels. ACV can also help you absorb more nutrients from your foods. This doesn't mean that you have to eat ACV with everything you eat, but getting it into your system once a day can be extremely beneficial.
Practical Tip: Get your daily ACV in the morning diluted with water, or blended into your favorite homemade salad dressing.
10 - Olive Oil
No kitchen should be without a really good bottle of olive oil. Olive oil is mostly monounsaturated fat, and, like avocados, a great source of oleic acid.
Oleic acid helps to control blood pressure, protect your body from free radicals that can cause damage (aka: making you look and feel older), and helps your brain function a little better! Never bake or fry with olive oil. Because it’s not a saturated fat, like coconut oil, it oxidizes at high heat. Instead, use olive oil to sauté, make salad dressings or cook up to medium heat.
Practical Tip: Instead of using a store-bought salad dressing, use apple cider vinegar and olive oil. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and you've got the perfect salad dressing.
11 - Walnuts
One of the big reasons walnuts are a great food for inflammation is because it's a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. A body that doesn't get enough omega 3 fatty acids is almost alway inflamed, so it's really important to load up on this nutrient.
Walnuts have been much touted for their ability to fend off cancer cells, improve blood sugar levels as well as boost brain function. The best way to eat walnuts is in their raw form. I like to add a small handful of walnuts to my morning oats, in smoothies or on top of salads. They’re a handy snack to have around if you feel hunger coming on, too!
Practical Tip: Omega 3 fatty acids are so important. If you don't have walnuts available, ground flax seeds, chia seeds or fish oil are good substitutes.
12 - Honey
What good would this list be without something sweet? Aside from being a great anti-inflammatory food, honey has impressive anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. I use honey in many of the 65 recipes in The Belly Burn Plan.
Honey is also a great prebiotic, meaning it helps to feed to good bacteria in our gut! It's also been shown to improve bad cholesterol and lower high triglycerides.
Practical Tip: Instead of buying sugar-sweetened yogurt or oats, buy them plain. Add honey to unsweetened foods so you can control the amount of sugar you eat. Controlling the amount fo sugar in your diet is probably the best way to reduce inflammation.
Need a little more help figuring out what's right to eat for your body? The Belly Burn Plan has a nutrition plan, not a diet, that's right for your body type! The book starts with a simple, short cleanse and moves into a combination fitness and meal plan. The perfect book loaded with foods for inflammation. Check out this review:
Over a year ago, I really wasn't sure what just a book could do to change a life. Well, 13 months and 64 pounds less, this book has change my life! Traci has changed my life, I hope someday to tell her. This book isn't easy, it's hard. It's easy to understand. It takes everything you have to give at changing your lifestyle to be healthier. And, at over 50, you can get healthier. Every measure in my body from glucose level, cholesterol, even reducing a CPAP machine halving blood pressure medicine, it can all change! If you don't have the self-will to follow what's in this book, get a partner. Commit to the change in diet and the regular exercise and you will see a change. Best book I've ever bought on Amazon!
~ M. Henry