Chronic inflammation, which persists in the body for many months or years, is linked to numerous health problems, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, inflammatory bowel diseases, allergies, autoimmune disorders, and more. Thankfully, eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help prevent these diseases or manage symptoms you may already have. The key components to an anti-inflammatory diet are eating a variety of foods (especially plants) that are high in antioxidants, fiber and healthy fats, lean proteins, and beneficial plant compounds. Keep reading for anti-inflammatory recipes that are loaded with ingredients known to help reduce the inflammatory state in the body — and are delicious to boot.
What are anti-inflammatory foods?
Anti-inflammatory foods include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, omega-3–rich nuts, seeds and fish, plus healthy fats like olive oil. Good news: You can even enjoy some dark chocolate, which contains good-for-you compounds called flavanols. These are different from inflammatory foods that may elevate your risk of disease, like highly processed carbohydrates, too many added sugars, processed meats, fried foods, or trans fats.
While there’s no concrete research that eating dairy causes or aggravates chronic inflammation, we left it out of these recipes since people with lactose intolerance or other medical conditions may have negative reactions to dairy. Because getting enjoyment out of your meals is such an important component to overall wellness, these recipes were created to be satisfying and delicious, too!
Cherry Smoothie Bowl With Blueberries, Dark Chocolate, and Almonds (Makes 2 Servings)
This thick and creamy smoothie is best scooped with a spoon instead of sipped with a straw. It’s packed with anti-inflammatory ingredients like hemp seeds (high in protein), cherries, almonds, and dark chocolate. You’ll even sneak in some veggies with antioxidant-rich red peppers (shhhh, no one will know!). Dark chocolate, blueberries, and almond toppings make it more interesting than your typical smoothie and add a big punch of fire-dousing goodness, too.
Cherries, red pepper, hemp seeds, almond butter, blueberries, almonds, dark chocolate
- 1 ½ cups unsweetened soy milk
- 2 cups frozen sweet cherries
- 1 medjool date, pitted and chopped
- ⅓ cup chopped red bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
- 1 tablespoon almond butter
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
For the Toppings:
- ¼ cup blueberries
- 1 teaspoon dark chocolate chips or chocolate shavings
- 1 tablespoon sliced almonds
- Add the ingredients to a blender and blend on high until smooth.
- Divide the mixture into two bowls.
- Top each serving with blueberries, chocolate, and almonds.
Bulgur Salad With Chickpeas, Roasted Peppers, Pine Nuts, and Honey Cumin Dressing (Makes 6 Servings)
Bulgur, a type of whole wheat that’s been cracked and parboiled first, shines in this whole-grain salad complete with protein-and fiber-rich chickpeas and toasted pine nuts. It’s punched up with a tangy dressing that has a slight kick, courtesy of cayenne. This is
a complete meal on its own or a great side to pair with a lean protein like chicken or fish.
Olive oil, red peppers, bulgur wheat, chickpeas, cayenne pepper
- 1 ½ cups bulgur wheat
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, diced
- ¼ cup minced fresh parsley leaves
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
For the Dressing:
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Cook bulgur wheat according to package directions.
- Drain thoroughly and place in a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, honey, cumin, salt, and cayenne together. Then, whisk in the oil until the dressing is smooth.
- Add the chickpeas, roasted peppers, parsley, and pine nuts to the bulgur. Drizzle the dressing over the bulgur mixture and toss to combine.
- Serve at room temperature or chilled. Store in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Crispy Cauliflower and Chicken Sheet Pan Meal With Tahini Herb Sauce (Makes 4 Servings)
Cauliflower is roasted to crispy, flavorful perfection along with juicy chicken thighs for a sheet pan meal that’s easy to prepare. The herby tahini sauce elevates this dish in terms of flavor and anti-inflammatory properties.
Cauliflower, purple onion, olive oil, parsley, cilantro, tahini, lemon, cayenne pepper, sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 large head cauliflower, stem and leaves trimmed, cut into slices from top to bottom
- 1 small purple onion, sliced into quarters
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
- Fresh parsley for garnish
- Fresh lemon for garnish
For the Sauce:
- ⅓ cup tahini
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- ¼ cup fresh parsley
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3–4 tablespoons water
- First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, add the spices and mix together well.
- Add cauliflower and onion to a medium bowl and toss with half the spice mix and
2 tablespoons of olive oil until well coated. Arrange the cauliflower and onions, evenly spaced, on a sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes, turning once at 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, add the chicken thighs to the bowl and toss with the remaining spice mix and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside while cauliflower roasts.
- Remove the cauliflower from the oven and add the chicken thighs to the sheet pan, arranging them evenly between the vegetables. Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through to a temperature of 165 degrees. (Large chicken thighs may take a few minutes more.)
- While the chicken is cooking, make the tahini sauce. Add all ingredients except water to a food processor. Process until smooth, adding water as needed to thin to the desired consistency.
- Serve drizzled with the herbed tahini sauce.
Notes: Leftover tahini sauce is super-versatile and can be used as a spread for sandwiches, a dressing on salads, a dip for raw veggies, or a topping for chicken and fish. It’s worth the effort, but if you’re not feeling up to making the sauce, the roasted chicken and cauliflower in this dish are flavorful enough to stand on their own, thanks to the spice mixture. (You’ll just miss out on some inflammation fighters, including lignans in the sesame seeds.) You can also make a quick sauce by mixing Greek yogurt with olive oil and lemon juice.
Lentil Soup With Kale and Lemon (Makes 4–6 Servings)
Fiber-and protein-rich, chewy green lentils — which are also good sources of iron and potassium — combine with flavorful veggies and spices to create a satisfying dish. Kale adds even more anti-inflammatory power and a nice texture to the soup, which is partially blended to make it a little creamy even without dairy. Lemon juice pops up the flavor at the end, so don’t skip it! This freezes well, so make a double batch if you love soup.
Olive oil, carrots, celery, onion, lentils, kale
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 5 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
- 1 ¼ cups green lentils, rinsed and picked over
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
- 2 cups kale leaves, stems removed, rough chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, and celery and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook for another minute or until fragrant. Add the diced tomatoes, cumin, thyme, oregano, and red pepper flakes.
- Cook tomatoes for another 2 minutes, stirring to combine.
- Add the broth, lentils, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook for 20–25 minutes, or until the lentils are soft.
- Using an immersion (hand) blender, puree about one third of the soup, or remove 2 cups and transfer to a blender. Pulse until the mixture is mostly blended. Stir the pureed soup back into the pot. Add the kale and continue to cook on medium-low until the kale has wilted.
- Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice before serving. You can store this soup for up to three days in the fridge or freeze for up to four months.
Salmon With Chunky Walnut Parsley Pesto (Makes 4 Servings)
You’ll get a double dose of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids from salmon and walnuts in this flavorful dish. Parsley contains two types of potent antioxidants, along with vitamin C. This slow-cooking method of preparing the fish yields super-tender, delicious salmon, without running the risk of overdoing it.
Olive oil, salmon, walnuts, parsley, lemon
- 1 pound salmon filets
- ¼to ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the Pesto:
- 1 ½ cups flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel and place it skin side down on the baking sheet. Rub the top and sides with salt, pepper, paprika, and lemon zest. Drizzle lemon juice and olive oil over the top.
- Bake for 25 minutes, or until the salmon is tender and flakes with a fork. Cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of the filet.
- Make the pesto: Add parsley, walnuts, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and olive oil to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped but not completely blended smooth. Set aside.
- Top the cooked salmon with pesto.
- Serve alongside vegetables and a whole grain for the ultimate anti-inflammatory meal.
Stephanie Clarke, MS, RDN, is a recipe developer and food and nutrition writer near Washington, D.C.
A version of this article appeared in our partner magazine, The Complete Guide to Anti-Inflammation, in 2023.