Anti-inflammatory foods are so much more than a popular trend — and that has never more clear than it is right now. Recent research suggests that following an anti-inflammatory diet is actually linked to a longer life.
A September 2018 study, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, analyzed 68,273 Swedish adults and followed them for 16 years. By the end of the research, the participants who adhered most closely to an anti-inflammatory diet had an 18 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality, in comparison to people who didn't follow the eating plan. Anti-inflammatory dieters also had a 20 percent lower risk of cardiovascular mortality, as well as a 13 percent lower risk of cancer mortality.
"Our dose-response analysis showed that even partial adherence to the anti-inflammatory diet may provide a health benefit," said lead author Joanna Kaluza, PhD, in a press release.
So what is an anti-inflammatory diet, exactly? While definitions can vary, the basic idea is that you fill your daily meals with anti-inflammatory foods, aka foods that fight harmful inflammation in the body. Although our bodies rely on some level of inflammation to help fight off infections and heal sudden injuries, chronic inflammation is like a five-alarm fire that increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. That's why it's so important that you make plenty of anti-inflammatory foods a regular part of your diet if you haven't already.
What are anti-inflammatory foods?
Anti-inflammatory foods include several fruits and vegetables — but produce isn't standing alone here. Whole-grain bread, low-fat cheese, olive oil, and nuts also boast anti-inflammatory benefits. When you want to treat yourself, moderate amounts of chocolate and red wine make the cut for anti-inflammatory foods. And caffeine fans can rejoice: Tea and coffee are also included in the lineup.
But if you're looking to get the biggest benefits out of your food choices, researchers have now pinpointed several anti-inflammatory foods that can cut your risk of heart woes by as much as 50 percent — with almost no effort at all.
Whisk away trouble with chickpeas.
If you're not a fan of beans, then red-skinned peanuts and oats are great alternative options. All of these anti-inflammatory foods are packed with saponins, which are plant compounds that help your liver quickly disarm inflammation and excrete it before it can cause trouble. In fact, eating three cups of saponin-rich foods weekly is enough to lower your levels of inflammation and your heart disease risk by 25 percent in two weeks, say researchers at East Carolina University.
Regulate white blood cells with carrots.
Eating three cups of carrots, sweet potatoes, or other orange vegetables weekly could lower your risk of heart-damaging inflammation by 42 percent, making these anti-inflammatory foods as effective as aspirin, Harvard experts say. Credit goes to carotenoids, which are nutrients that help your white blood cells produce just enough inflammation to kill off viruses and other germs, but not so much that your own tissues are harmed.
Tame triggers with garlic and onions.
Sugar, white flour, trans fats, and chemical additives are common ingredients that can sneak into some of your meal, encouraging inflammation. Luckily, guarding against them is as easy as eating one clove of garlic or 1/4 cup of onions daily, Canadian researchers say. These anti-inflammatory foods are full of unique compounds that inhibit inflammation in the digestive tract, even on days when you eat foods that are inflammatory triggers. Bonus: A daily dose of garlic or onions will reduce your risk of stomach and colon cancer by 44 percent, European researchers say.
Time to add some anti-inflammatory foods to your next grocery list!