Inflammation is a normal and beneficial process that occurs when the white blood cells and chemicals in your body work to protect you from bacteria, viruses, and other invaders, so that they will not wreak havoc on your system.
However, inflammation can become troublesome when it gets out of hand. Chronic inflammation can actually lead to obesity, cancer, and heart disease – believe it or not it’s actually the leading cause of death in the US.
It is important to understand that your diet actually plays a significant role on whether you become prone to chronic inflammation or not. By eating healthy, wholesome foods that help combat inflammation, you can help protect your body from becoming host to chronic illnesses.
So what are the best anti-inflammatory foods you should consume regularly? Here are some of Dr. Mercola’s top picks.
7 Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Add to Your Diet
These seven anti-inflammatory foods, according to Dr. Mercola, deserve a special mention for their ability to prevent inflammation:
- Leafy greens. Swiss chard, kale, spinach, and collard greens are some green veggies that contain powerful flavonoids, antioxidants, carotenoids, and vitamin C. These nutrients help protect against cellular damage. Dr. Mercola advises choosing organic, locally grown vegetables that are in season and eating them raw, such as in salads or as a healthy green juice.
- Animal-based omega-3 fats, like wild Alaskan salmon and krill oil. According to a 2012 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, dietary supplementation of krill oil (one of Dr. Mercola’s top omega-3 sources) helped reduce inflammation and oxidative stress effectively.
- Blueberries. Compared to other vegetables and fruits, fresh blueberries rate very high in antioxidant capacity. They also contain less sugar than other fruits.
- Matcha tea. This nutrient-rich green tea from Japan has as much as 17 times the antioxidants of wild blueberries, and seven times more than dark chocolate. Another great choice is tulsi tea, which is loaded with anti-inflammatory antioxidants and micronutrients that promote immune function and heart health.
- Traditionally fermented vegetables and other cultured foods. Dr. Mercola says that optimizing your gut flora is crucial for a well-functional immune system and warding off chronic inflammation. Some of the best fermented foods are pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, kimchi, natto, and kefir and yogurt made from raw milk. These foods are also effective chelators that help eliminate toxins, heavy metals, and pesticides that promote inflammation.
- Shiitake mushrooms. Ergothioneine, a compound found in shiitake, helps discourage inflammation by inhibiting oxidative stress. These mushrooms also contain unique nutrients like copper – in fact, copper deficiency can be a significant factor in the development of coronary heart disease.
- Garlic. There are over 170 studies that support the healing benefits of garlic. Known for its anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and antioxidant properties, garlic has been treasured for centuries because of its medicinal uses. Garlic’s healing properties come from its sulfur-containing compounds like allicin, which produces a free radical-scavenging compound called sulfenic acid.
Spice Up Your Diet with Herbs and Spices
Did you know that flavoring your meals with spices can actually upgrade their nutritional content without adding a single calorie? Herbs and spices actually contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can maximize the nutrient density of your meals. Most spices are also known for their unique medicinal qualities.
One week-long experiment conducted by researchers from three universities revealed the powerful benefits of herbs and spices. After feeding 10 to 12 subjects a small amount of a particular spice each day and studying their blood samples for antioxidant capacity, the researchers found that four spices were significantly effective at quelling the inflammatory response, even if consumed in “everyday” dosage amounts. These are:
Another earlier study, published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods, found that consuming spice and herb extracts is directly correlated to inhibiting glycation and blocking the formation of advanced glycation end compounds (AGEs), meaning these are potent preventers of premature aging and heart disease.
“Being liberal in your use of high-quality herbs and spices is one simple way to boost the quality of your food. They’re an inexpensive ‘secret weapon’ that just about everyone can take advantage of,” says Dr. Mercola.
Bottom Line: A Healthy Diet Can Reduce Your Risk of Chronic Inflammation
What you DON’T eat can also have a significant impact on your risk of chronic inflammation. So even if you consume healthy foods and add herbs and spices to your foods, you can still be at risk of inflammation if you continue eating highly processed foods loaded with damaging ingredients.
Remember, most processed foods today contain pro-inflammatory ingredients like soy, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), transfats, and other chemical additives. Dr. Mercola also advises avoiding:
- Refined sugar, processed fructose, and grains, which can wreak havoc on your insulin levels, and cause insulin resistance, a primary driver of chronic inflammation
- Oxidized cholesterol, such as from overcooked scrambled eggs
- Trans fats
- Foods cooked at temperatures using vegetable oils like corn, peanut, and soy oil
To help you get started on eating healthy foods, Dr. Mercola recommends following his Nutrition Plan, which will give you a step-by-step guide on switching to wholesome foods that will surely benefit your wellbeing.