Inflammation isn’t inherently a bad thing. It’s actually your body’s natural response to invaders, and it helps protect you from infection and disease. The trouble comes in when you’re constantly inflamed. Chronic inflammation happens when we’re constantly exposed to immune-system-triggering substances like harmful chemicals, microbes, stress hormones, and pollutants. Even worse, being chronically inflamed can lead to conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and more.
The bad news is, many of the foods we eat are loaded with toxic stuff that trigger inflammation (click here for some of the most common offenders). The good news is, you can also use your diet to fight inflammation by eating more of the foods listed below.
The bright orange spice typically found in Indian cooking has received some acclaim recently for its anti-inflammatory powers. Turmeric has shown in studies to lower inflammatory markers related to issues like arthritis, diabetes, and more.
Add turmeric to your diet by using it in dishes like curries, or you can take a turmeric supplement. Just make sure the turmeric supplement you choose also has piperine, a compound that boosts its absorprtion!
Good news for all you chocolate lovers out there — dark chocolate is great for fighting inflammation. But keep reading before you reach for that candy bar.
Dark chocolate containing at least 70 percent cocoa is packed with antioxidants that fend off inflammation. Specifically, studies show that anti-inflammatory compounds in dark chocolate can protect your arteries and lower your risk of heart disease and other age-related conditions.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil, or EVOO, is another potent anti-inflammatory. Experts suggest that it’s also because of the antioxidants in this minimally processed oil. Research shows that compounds in olive oil may reduce your risk of conditions like brain cancer, insulin resistance, and heart disease. What’s more, diets like the Mediterranean diet, which pushes the use of EVOO, have shown to reduce inflammatory markers in the body, and even help you live longer.
Tomatoes, with their bright red color, are packed with anti-inflammatory compounds like lycopene, vitamin C, and potassium. Specifically, lycopene has been linked to a reduction in inflammatory markers related to differed types of cancer.
As far as beverages go, green tea might be your best bet if you’re trying to reduce inflammation. Green tea contains an antioxidant called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) which has shown to protect against cell damage by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines — the molecules released during an immune response. In doing so, green tea can help you fend off conditions like heart disease. Some research even shows that drinking green tea may protect your brain over time and reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s!
Green Leafy Vegetables
Realistically, most fresh fruit and vegetables contain anti-inflammatory properties for those who are not allergic to them. Green leafy vegetables in particular, however, contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals that have shown to reduce inflammation. Choose darker leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula, and beet greens for maximum benefits!
As far as fruit goes, berries are extremely anti-inflammatory thanks to antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins. Research shows that these compounds help your body produce more natural killer cells (NK cells), which keep your immune system functioning optimally. Not only that, but other research also shows that the inflammation-fighting compounds in berries may protect your heart, brain, and more.
So go ahead and enjoy as much of these foods as you like. Fending off chronic inflammation by incorporating them into your diet will ultimately lead to better health and more longevity. Here’s to a healthy, happy, long life ahead!
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.