Inflammation is the body's natural way to fight infection and respond to harmful organisms, irritants, damaged tissue or toxic overload. However, this natural response to temporary problems should result in a system-wide "all clear" within a few days or weeks. If it doesn't, you could be suffering from chronic inflammation, which is far from natural or healthy. If you're having persistent trouble with swelling, redness, pain, fever, loss of appetite or general malaise, try alleviating your symptoms with these 10 foods that fight inflammation.
1. Fatty Fish
Start your anti-inflammation journey by heading to the seafood counter for fresh cuts of tuna, salmon and mackerel, then bake or boil them to keep things healthy. Keep in mind that, while whitefish such as cod and sole are beneficial sources of lean protein, they do not provide the same inflammation-fighting properties as their oilier counterparts.
In addition to being a great source of monounsaturated fats, avocado has the power to reduce inflammation. It's a much healthier source of fat than killer trans fats and goes well with many cuisines. Aim for five to seven servings of healthy fats per day, such as topping your salad with avocado, blending it into a dressing or just eating it plain.
3. Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens such as kale, broccoli and collards can amp up your body's inflammation-reducing abilities without changing your kitchen routine. Sub in a serving or two per day in place of lighter-colored leaves for the best shot at killing swelling.
This traditionally Indian spice is an anti-inflammatory superstar. Its historical use in Eastern medicine has proven its use in treating a variety of inflammatory conditions, such as toothache, bruises, rheumatoid arthritis and general joint swelling, according to The World's Healthiest Foods (1). Add a dash of it to your stir-fries or curries for an easy dose of its inflammation-fighting properties.
Like other tree nuts, walnuts impart a variety of health benefits to those who eat them regularly. They have anti-inflammatory as well as antioxidant properties and also possess important nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, copper, manganese, molybdenum and biotin. Shoot for an ounce, or about 14 walnuts halves, every day.
Both bell peppers and hot peppers provide a whole, healthy, colorful addition to your anti-inflammatory regime. The chemical capsaicin, found in a variety of spicy peppers, is often used in topical ointments geared toward reducing pain and inflammation, says Health magazine (2). However, peppers may provoke an even greater immune response in some people. The best idea when adding them to your diet is to keep your other food choices static and watch for any changes: If you notice an increase in symptoms, speak with a nutritionist or cut out the peppers.
7. Olive Oil
Aside from its raft of other health benefits, including weight loss and lowering cholesterol, olive oil helps reduce inflammation. However, studies referenced by The World's Healthiest Foods show that only extra-virgin olive oil obtained from the first pressing of the olives delivers these benefits, so stick with the good stuff (3).
Ginger not only fights inflammation but also works to stop it in its tracks by suppressing the formation of inflammatory compounds in the first place. Gingerols, the chemicals in ginger responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties, are reported to reduce pain and swelling in sufferers of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. For the culinarily adventurous, adding ginger requires nothing more than a fresh root and the will to do so; for the novice foodie, try adding a bit of ginger into your next smoothie.
Brightly colored and earthy-flavored, beets provide heart and cancer protection as well as vitamin C in addition to their power to reduce swelling. They taste fantastic roasted, boiled and grated raw on salads, and in summer are available in shades of red, orange, yellow and pink as well as multicolored varieties.
10. Holy Basil
Despite its highfalutin name, holy basil is actually an inexpensive and widely available herb. Look for it at specialty or Asian food stores, where it may also be labeled as tulsi or hot basil. Use it as you regularly would, but expect a kick.
Introducing foods that fight inflammation into your diet doesn't need to be difficult or stressful. Hopefully this list of whole foods will expand your grocery list and your health opportunities all at once.