Inflammation. I know you hear about it…and believe me, it’s not just for health headlines. There’s reason why it’s talked about so much.
Scientists are measuring levels of inflammation in our bodies and finding that it can be pretty bad for our health; this is especially true when it’s chronic. Chronic inflammation has been linked to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, just to name a few.
But, instead of boring you with what it is, how it’s measured, and where it comes from; why don’t I focus on some foods packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants that are proven to help reduce it? AND, are delicious to eat!
Drum roll please…My top anti-inflammatory food recommendations!
Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries…oh my!
Why save the best for last? Perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods are a sweet favourite of yours?
Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fibre, antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese). And if you live in North America, they are also currently in season and extra delicious right now!
They are also full of phytochemicals that contain the antioxidants “anthocyanins” and “resveratrol” which help to further reduce inflammation. In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.
Anti-inflammatory Food #2: Broccoli and Peppers
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant “sulforaphane.” This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. If you find that broccoli leaves you gassy, try lightly steaming it – this often helps reduce it.
Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and quercetin (and did you also know that quercetin can be beneficial to people who suffer from seasonal allergies?). Just make sure to choose red peppers over the other colours. Peppers that are any other colour are not fully ripe and won’t have the same anti-inflammatory effect.
I pack these two super-healthy vegetables together in this week’s recipe (see below).
Anti-inflammatory Food #3: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, fatty fish)
Fat can be terribly inflammatory (hello: “trans” fats and omega-6s), neutral (hello: saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory (hello: omega-3s and unsaturated fats). This is why choosing the right fats is so important for your health.
The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, including omega-3s. These are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Opt for fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, small fish (e.g. sardines and mackerel), and wild fish (e.g. salmon). Oh and don’t forget the omega-3 seeds like chia, hemp, and flax.
Anti-inflammatory Food #4: Green Tea
Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG. EGCG is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer’s.
Drinking steeped green tea is great, but have you tried matcha green tea? It’s thought to contain even higher levels of antioxidants than regular green tea. Bonus is that matcha is also a natural energy booster so if green tea alone doesn’t give you a kick in the pants, the matcha certainly will!
Anti-inflammatory Food #5 – Turmeric
Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing spice turmeric? Nope, it wouldn’t! Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin. This compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, acute swelling (inflammation) as well as have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties. If inflammation is severe, you might want to also consider taking a curcumin supplement.
I’ve added it to the broccoli and pepper recipe below for a 1-2-3 punch, to kick that inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Dark Chocolate
YES! This *may* be slightly more decadent than my #1 pick of berries, grapes, and cherries…and possibly the broccoli and bell peppers. Who said that eating for health also meant boring, tasteless food?
Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants (namely “flavonols”). These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy. They’ve even been shown to prevent “neuro-inflammation” (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory, and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke. So go and get your dark-chocolate fix on my friends!
(Of course, this doesn’t include the sugary “candy bars.” You already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!)
Clearly, reducing inflammation with whole foods can be delicious and nutritious. They range from colourful berries, vegetables, and spices, to healthy fats, and even cocoa! So, what are you waiting for?
Recipe (Broccoli, Pepper, Turmeric): Anti-inflammatory Quinoa
photo credit: overtime cook
- ¾ cup dry quinoa (pre-rinsed to help reduce the bitterness)
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 2 cups broccoli, chopped
- 1 dash salt
- ½ tbsp turmeric
- 1 dash black pepper
- In a saucepan place 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the quinoa and simmer until the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).
- Melt coconut oil in a skillet. Add diced onions, turmeric, pepper and salt, and lightly sauté for a few minutes.
- Add broccoli and lightly sauté for 5-6 minutes, until it becomes softened.
- Add the cooked quinoa and stir everything together.
- Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Add some cayenne pepper or curry spice for an extra spicy kick.