You probably hear a lot about inflammation and inflammation dieting, but it can be hard to separate the facts from the noise.
Common health problems–everything from heart disease to arthritis to dementia–are linked to increased levels of inflammation and oxidative damage, which is why more and more people turn to anti-inflammatory foods. But even if you don’t have a reason to worry about inflammation, your body will still thank you for eating healthy, wholesome foods.
Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, recommends a few specific foods to help fight inflammation—here are the top four.
Inflammation busters include omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce C-reactive protein and interleukin-6, two inflammatory proteins in your body. Aim to eat three to four ounces of wild-caught salmon, tuna, cold-water fish, or anchovies two to three times per week.
Also Try: Herring. When’s the last time you had herring? Herring is a highly nutritious choice—high in omega-3s (which can help fight inflammation) and unsaturated fat (the good kind). Herring is also rich in minerals, providing you with 56 percent of the daily value (DV) for selenium (acting as an antioxidant) and 46 percent of the DV for vitamin D.
You’ve heard a lot about antioxidants—they essentially fight against free radicals, and that’s because you need antioxidants, like immune system-boosting blueberries and blackberries. Go for one to two cups of fruit, especially blueberries, blackberries, and cranberries, per day
Also Try: Exotic Superberries, like goji berries, schisandra, and elderberries. Schisandra is an adaptogen that is loaded with antioxidants, reducing oxidative damage and stress. Goji berries (less bitter) and elderberries (less popular) are also both very high in antioxidants.
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) offers an incredible amount of anti-inflammatory benefits, as it contains 36 phenolic compounds, all of which have known beneficial effects. According to a study in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, one specific compound in particular—oleocanthal—is the real workhorse of EVOO.
Oleocanthal is present in EVOO but not in any other vegetable oils, but that doesn’t mean you should overdo it (calories!). Just make sure that when do you grab EVOO, you’re getting is the real thing—cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil. Go for one-two tablespoons of olive oil when you use it.
Also Try: Virgin coconut oil. Olive oil is everyone’s favorite, but how about switching things up? Coconut oil has a remarkable range of health benefits; it is known to aid the digestive process and boost your gut health by fighting against bad bacteria and candida.
Spinach and broccoli are two particularly important foods that contain plenty of powerful antioxidants, so try to eat one or two cups of them with a meal each day. But if veggies of the chenopodiaceae or cruciferous sort aren’t really your thing, you do have another option!
Also Try: Kale. Kale deserves the hype it gets. A lot of people avoid it because they don’t know how to prepare it—but for those who like it, it’s a staple. As a dark leafy green, kale is naturally rich in vitamin K, an anti-inflammatory powerhouse.
Try cooked or steamed kale, which is easier on the gut and more nutritious. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and cook it until it’s soft, but not blackened or browned. Steam kale just long enough to yield bright green, tender leaves.