Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Sept. 26, 2023. It has been updated.
Inflammation can be your body’s response to infection, but it can also be a response to “unwanted substances in the body, such as toxins from cigarette smoke or an excess of fat cells (especially fat in the belly area),” according to Harvard Health Publishing.
The latter type of inflammation, known as chronic inflammation, can have some health risks. There are some foods that can help fight inflammation.
Here’s a look at some foods and recipes you can adopt into your routine to eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
What foods fight inflammation?
Fruits, vegetables and spices are among the foods that fight inflammation, according to Heathline. These foods have anti-inflammatory properties which may be able to help decrease chronic inflammation.
While some have said nightshade vegetables like tomatoes can contribute to inflammation, it doesn’t seem like that’s the case. Tomatoes have lycopene and vitamin C, which has the potential to reduce inflammation, according to WebMD.
Spinach and other leafy greens are known to help reduce inflammation. One 2020 study showed that thykamine extracts from spinach are helpful for reducing inflammation. The vegetable is also rich in vitamin E, which, according to UPMC Health Beat, can help reduce inflammation.
Since kale is rich in vitamin K, it has anti-inflammatory properties, according to a study published in Microorganisms. Kale also has omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to reducing inflammation, per Mind Body Green.
Salmon is a fish rich in omega-3s, which makes it important for reducing inflammation. Other fatty fish like tuna and mackerel also have anti-inflammatory properties, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Dark chocolate contains flavanols, polyphenols and theobromine. Some of the benefits of dark chocolate include reducing inflammation, reducing insulin resistance, lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow, according to Medical News Today.
Other foods that may contribute to reducing inflammation are strawberries, cherries, almonds, oranges, pineapple, garlic, broccoli, grapes and extra-virgin olive oil. Whole grains, oatmeal, brown rice, beans, nuts, herbs and spices are also thought to be anti-inflammatory foods, according to Web MD.
What percentage of dark chocolate is healthy?
Dark chocolate is full of flavanols, iron, zinc, copper, magnesium and phosphorus, according to Harvard School of Public Health. The optimal percentage of dark chocolate to choose is 70% or higher because it contains the most flavanols. The bitterness goes up as the percentage goes higher, but you can pair it with Greek yogurt and fruit if you would like to reduce the bitter taste.
What foods can cause inflammation?
Fatty meats, ultra-processed foods, sugary drinks and coconut and palm oil are four categories of foods that can cause inflammation, according to CNBC. This includes foods like beef, white bread, hot dogs, many fried foods, soda, milkshakes, packaged cookies and other similar kinds of foods.
Johns Hopkins Medicine provides a list of foods that cause inflammation and it includes: hamburgers, steaks, white flour pasta, snack cakes, brownies, sausage, lunch meat, bacon, microwave popcorn, refrigerated biscuits, French fries, donuts, fried chicken, sports drinks and other foods.
The way that you cook your food also matters.
“When you want to reduce inflammation, baking, steaming or fast stir-frying are preferable to deep frying or grilling,” according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Basically, avoiding cooking meat at high temperatures may be important to reducing inflammation, according to Healthline. “Consuming meats cooked at high temperatures — including processed meats like bacon, sausage, ham, and smoked meat — is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.”
“Other high heat cooking methods include grilling, barbecuing, roasting, frying, toasting, and searing,” Healthline reported.
If you’re looking to put anti-inflammatory foods to work, here’s a look at some anti-inflammatory recipes you can try.