The 13 Most Anti-Inflammatory Foods You Can Eat

Inflammation can be both good and bad.

On one hand, it helps your body defend itself from infection and injury. On the other hand, chronic inflammation can lead to weight gain and disease (1Trusted Source).

Stress, inflammatory foods, and low activity levels can make this risk even greater.

However, studies demonstrate that some foods can fight inflammation.

Here are 13 anti-inflammatory foods.

Berries are small fruits that are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Although dozens of varieties exist, some of the most common include:

  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • blackberries

Berries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins. These compounds have anti-inflammatory effects that may reduce your risk of disease (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).

Your body produces natural killer cells (NK cells), which help keep your immune system functioning properly.

In one study in men, those who consumed blueberries every day produced significantly more NK cells than those who did not (5Trusted Source).

In another study, adults with excess weight who ate strawberries had lower levels of certain inflammatory markers associated with heart disease (6Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Berries provide antioxidants known as anthocyanins. These compounds may reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Fatty fish are a great source of protein and the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.

Although all types of fish contain some omega-3 fatty acids, these fatty fish are among the best sources:

  • salmon
  • sardines
  • herring
  • mackerel
  • anchovies

EPA and DHA reduce inflammation that can lead to metabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).

Your body metabolizes these fatty acids into compounds called resolvins and protectins, which have anti-inflammatory effects (10Trusted Source).

Studies have found that people consuming salmon or EPA and DHA supplements experienced reductions in the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) (11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).

However, in another study, people with an irregular heartbeat who took EPA and DHA daily experienced no difference in inflammatory markers, compared with those who received a placebo (13Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Fatty fish boast high amounts of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have anti-inflammatory effects.

Broccoli is extremely nutritious.

It’s a cruciferous vegetable, along with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale.

Research has shown that eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).

This may be related to the anti-inflammatory effects of the antioxidants they contain.

Broccoli is rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that fights inflammation by reducing your levels of cytokines and NF-kB, which drive inflammation (16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Broccoli is one of the best sources of sulforaphane, an antioxidant with powerful anti-inflammatory effects.

Avocados may be one of the few supposed superfoods worthy of the title.

They’re packed with potassium, magnesium, fiber, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

They also contain carotenoids and tocopherols, which are linked to reduced cancer risk (19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source).

In addition, one compound in avocados may reduce inflammation in young skin cells (22Trusted Source).

In one study, when people consumed a slice of avocado with a hamburger, they had lower levels of the inflammatory markers NF-kB and IL-6, compared with participants who ate the hamburger alone (23Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Avocados offer various beneficial compounds that protect against inflammation and may reduce your cancer risk.

How to Pick the Perfect Avocado
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You’ve probably heard that green tea is one of the healthiest beverages you can drink.

It reduces your risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, and other conditions (24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source).

Many of its benefits are due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, especially a substance called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).

EGCG inhibits inflammation by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokine production and damage to the fatty acids in your cells (26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Green tea’s high EGCG content reduces inflammation and safeguards your cells from damage that can lead to disease.

Bell peppers and chili peppers are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants that have powerful anti-inflammatory effects (28Trusted Source, 29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source).

Bell peppers provide the antioxidant quercetin, which may reduce one marker of oxidative damage in people with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease (31Trusted Source).

Chili peppers contain sinapic acid and ferulic acid, which may reduce inflammation and lead to healthier aging (32, 33Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Chili peppers and bell peppers are rich in quercetin, sinapic acid, ferulic acid, and other antioxidants with strong anti-inflammatory effects.

While thousands of varieties of mushrooms exist worldwide, only a few are edible and grown commercially.

These include truffles, portobello mushrooms, and shiitake.

Mushrooms are very low in calories and rich in selenium, copper, and all of the B vitamins.

They also contain phenols and other antioxidants that provide anti-inflammatory protection (34Trusted Source, 35Trusted Source, 36Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source, 38Trusted Source).

A special type of mushroom called lion’s mane may potentially reduce low-grade, obesity-related inflammation (36Trusted Source).

However, one study found that cooking mushrooms lowered their anti-inflammatory compounds significantly. Thus, it may be best to eat them raw or lightly cooked (37Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Some edible mushrooms boast compounds that may decrease inflammation. Eating them raw or lightly cooked may help you reap their full anti-inflammatory potential.

Grapes contain anthocyanins, which reduce inflammation.

In addition, they may decrease the risk of several diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, and eye disorders (39Trusted Source, 40Trusted Source, 41Trusted Source, 42Trusted Source, 43Trusted Source).

Grapes are also one of the best sources of resveratrol, another compound that has many health benefits.

In one study, people with heart disease who consumed grape extract daily experienced a decrease in inflammatory gene markers, including NF-kB (43Trusted Source).

What’s more, their levels of adiponectin increased. Low levels of this hormone are associated with weight gain and an increased risk of cancer (44Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Several plant compounds in grapes, such as resveratrol, can reduce inflammation. They may also reduce your risk of several diseases.

Turmeric is a spice with a strong, earthy flavor that’s often used in curries and other Indian dishes.

It has received a lot of attention for its content of curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient.

Turmeric reduces inflammation related to arthritis, diabetes, and other diseases (45Trusted Source, 46Trusted Source, 47Trusted Source, 48Trusted Source, 49Trusted Source, 50Trusted Source, 51Trusted Source).

In fact, consuming 1 gram of curcumin daily combined with piperine from black pepper caused a significant decrease in the inflammatory marker CRP in people with metabolic syndrome (50Trusted Source).

However, it may be hard to get enough curcumin to experience a noticeable effect from turmeric alone.

In one study, women with excess weight who took 2.8 grams of turmeric per day showed no improvement in inflammatory markers (51Trusted Source).

Taking supplements containing isolated curcumin is much more effective. Curcumin supplements are often combined with piperine, which can boost curcumin absorption by 2,000% (52Trusted Source).

If you’re interested in using turmeric in cooking, you can find it in most grocery stores or online.

SUMMARY

Turmeric contains a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin. Eating black pepper with turmeric can significantly enhance the absorption of curcumin.

Extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest fats you can eat.

It’s rich in monounsaturated fats and a staple in the Mediterranean diet, which provides numerous health benefits.

Studies link extra virgin olive oil to a reduced risk of heart disease, brain cancer, and other serious health conditions (53Trusted Source, 54Trusted Source, 55Trusted Source, 56Trusted Source, 57Trusted Source, 58Trusted Source, 59Trusted Source).

In one study on the Mediterranean diet, CRP and several other inflammatory markers significantly decreased in those who consumed 1.7 ounces (50 ml) of olive oil daily (57Trusted Source).

The effect of oleocanthal, an antioxidant found in olive oil, has been compared to anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (58Trusted Source).

Keep in mind that extra virgin olive oil offers greater anti-inflammatory benefits than those provided by more refined olive oils (59Trusted Source).

It’s easy to find extra virgin olive oil at your local grocery store, but you can also buy it online.

SUMMARY

Extra virgin olive oil provides powerful anti-inflammatory benefits, which may reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, and other serious health conditions.

Dark chocolate is delicious, rich, and satisfying.

It’s also packed with antioxidants that reduce inflammation. These may reduce your risk of disease and lead to healthier aging (60Trusted Source, 61Trusted Source, 62Trusted Source, 63Trusted Source, 64Trusted Source, 65Trusted Source).

Flavanols are responsible for chocolate’s anti-inflammatory effects and keep the endothelial cells that line your arteries healthy (64Trusted Source, 65Trusted Source).

In one study, smokers experienced significant improvements in endothelial function within 2 hours of eating high-flavonol chocolate (65Trusted Source).

However, make sure to choose dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa — a greater percentage is even better — to reap these anti-inflammatory benefits.

If you forgot to grab this treat on your last run to the store, you can always buy it online.

SUMMARY

Flavanols in dark chocolate and cocoa can reduce inflammation. They may also reduce your risk of several diseases.

The tomato is a nutritional powerhouse.

Tomatoes are high in vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene, an antioxidant with impressive anti-inflammatory properties (66Trusted Source, 67Trusted Source, 68Trusted Source, 69Trusted Source).

Lycopene may be particularly beneficial for reducing pro-inflammatory compounds related to several types of cancer (67Trusted Source, 68Trusted Source).

One study determined that drinking tomato juice significantly decreased inflammatory markers in women with excess weight — but not those with obesity (69Trusted Source).

Note that cooking tomatoes in olive oil can maximize the amount of lycopene you absorb (70Trusted Source).

That’s because lycopene is a carotenoid, a nutrient that’s better absorbed with a source of fat.

SUMMARY

Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, which may reduce inflammation and protect against cancer.

Cherries are delicious and rich in antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and catechins, which fight inflammation (71Trusted Source, 72Trusted Source, 73Trusted Source, 74Trusted Source, 75Trusted Source).

Although the health-promoting properties of tart cherries have been studied more than other varieties, sweet cherries also provide benefits.

In one study, when people consumed 280 grams of cherries per day for 1 month, their levels of the inflammatory marker CRP decreased and stayed low for 28 days after they stopped eating cherries (75Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Sweet and tart cherries contain antioxidants that reduce inflammation and your risk of disease.

In addition to filling your diet with nutritious anti-inflammatory ingredients, it’s important to limit your consumption of foods that can promote inflammation.

For example, processed foods like fast food, frozen meals, and processed meats have been associated with higher levels of inflammatory markers like CRP (Trusted Source76, Trusted Source77, 78Trusted Source).

Meanwhile, fried foods and partially hydrogenated oils contain trans fats, a type of unsaturated fatty acid that has also been linked to increased levels of inflammation (79Trusted Source, Trusted Source80).

Other foods like sugar-sweetened beverages and refined carbs have likewise been shown to promote inflammation (Trusted Source81, 82Trusted Source).

Here are some examples of foods that have been linked to increased levels of inflammation:

  • Junk foods: fast food, convenience meals, potato chips, pretzels
  • Refined carbohydrates: white bread, pasta, white rice, crackers, flour tortillas, biscuits
  • Fried foods: french fries, donuts, fried chicken, mozzarella sticks, egg rolls
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages: soda, sweet tea, energy drinks, sports drinks
  • Processed meats: bacon, beef jerky, canned meat, salami, hot dogs, smoked meat
  • Trans fats: shortening, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, margarine
SUMMARY

Certain ingredients like sugar-sweetened beverages, processed foods, fried foods, and partially hydrogenated fats can increase levels of inflammation in the body.

Even low levels of inflammation on a chronic basis can lead to disease.

Do your best to keep inflammation in check by choosing a wide variety of delicious, antioxidant-rich foods.

Peppers, dark chocolate, fish, and extra virgin olive oil are just a few foods that can help you combat inflammation and reduce your risk of illness.

Source: Healthline