10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods That Are Ridiculously Good for Your Health — And Surprisingly Delicious
Ah, winter. Why do you make me so tired? Sometimes, when we are stressed and eating a poor diet over a long period of time, the body can respond with chronic inflammation. Now normally, inflammation is a healthy response to injury — it's how we heal. But when it is a response to a diet that includes sweets and comfort carbs, inflammation can wreak havoc on your immune system. It causes our immune systems to work overtime, which in turn can cause fatigue, joint pain, and even damaged blood vessels.
This becomes especially true during the winter time. When it's cold outside, my days tend to be chock full of working late, eating too many take-out meals, and neglecting the gym. Yeah, maybe that's the reason for the sleepiness. Oops.
Instead of using unrealistic cleanses and diets to get back on track this new year, I have a different solution: calm your body down with foods that heal it! That way, your mind will be in a soothed, happy, energized place. I don't know about you, but it's much easier for me to exercise when I feel that way.
Add these 10 superstars to your diet slowly to fight inflammation and its energy-zapping side effects. These powerhouses should replace the culprit foods — like red meat, white sugar and flour, fried foods, and synthetic sweeteners found in packaged meals — that unnecessarily rev up the body's inflammatory response. With these foods in your fridge, you'll be a blissful babe by spring.
Dark Leafy Greens
Full of vitamin E, dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens are your BFFs when it comes to fighting cytokines — molecules that fuel inflammation. I like to get my daily greens at lunch in a side tuscan kale salad, recipe courtesy of Dr. Andrew Weil, one of the leading experts in anti-inflammation diets.
Dr. Andrew Weil has also noted that cooked mushrooms, especially Asian mushrooms such as shiitake, “may lower cholesterol, enhance immune function and reduce risk of several kinds of cancer.” They serve as an important part of this anti-inflammatory diet expert’s food pyramid.
Image: Martin Cathrae/Flickr
Ginger has been shown to ease inflammation in the intestines, so it’s no wonder it’s often a key ingredient in teas that help stomach problems. Adding it to soups and sautees is another easy way to reap the benefits of this spicy, flavorful root. Some studies have even suggested that just a few weeks of a turmeric-and-ginger-heavy diet can improve arthritis symptoms.
Used often in Asian and Indian cooking, turmeric is a medicinal powerhouse. According to the University of Maryland’s Medical Center, turmeric may help reduce inflammation and treat digestive problems, and it has even been shown to help prevent and fight some cancers. What a spice!
In addition to slowing the body’s inflammatory response, this common garden herb has been found to lower cortisol levels and reduce anxiety. Next time you roast chicken or veggies, add some of this mellow, piney herb to the pan. It will make your home smell delish, too.
Oats are not just a delicious, comforting breakfast — according to TuftsNow’s Julia Flaherty, they also contain special compounds called avenanthramides that seem to play a role in reducing inflammation. Another reason to eat your oatmeal: it quickly reduces cholesterol. I like mine with cinnamon and walnuts.
Black Cod and Other Fatty Fish
Garlic and Onions
This duo that serves as the base of so many winter recipes will actually heal you! Yay! Plus it’s yummy. Double yay! Anything in the onion family counts as an onion — red, white, yellow, shallot, scallion, and fennel all contain anti-inflammatory chemicals, like quercetin, which not only reduces inflammation, but also helps the body to fight free radicals.
Tart cherry juice has been found to increase athletes’ performance. Why? They contain chemicals that naturally reduce inflammation and muscle pain. If you enjoy that sweet/tart flavor, add these to your diet and let them do the work for you!