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5 Foods to Fight Inflammation and Optimize Your Health

As we learn more about the role that inflammation plays in overall health, the more we see that some of the best defenses against chronic inflammation are the things you do every day.

Lifestyle factors like sleep, exercise, and stress management all play a role—and the food you eat is no doubt one of the most important factors when it comes to preventing or reducing chronic inflammation in the body. Luckily, there are certain foods that fight inflammation, and when you know what to eat, you’ll be well on your way to improving your overall health.

Why inflammation matters

Inflammation is a natural process that helps your body fight foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria, infections, and so much more. But sometimes your immune system gets triggered for the wrong reasons, and if it stays that way, it can lead to health problems over time.

Inflammation is problematic when it becomes chronic, as this can lead to long-term damage of tissue and the development of many serious diseases. Examples of diseases associated with chronic inflammation include obesity , diabetes , dementia , heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms of chronic inflammation can vary, but in general, they can include achy joints, puffiness, weight gain, muscle soreness, anxiety , depression, bloating and brain fog . Our body communicates to us in the form of symptoms and it’s our job to tune into what it’s trying to tell us so that we can course correct.

Every time you eat, you have the opportunity to lower inflammation in the body with anti-inflammatory foods (food as medicine!) or exacerbate it with pro-inflammatory foods. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet is chock full of pro-inflammatory foods, like sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, vegetable and seed oils, and refined carbohydrates. When you consume these foods regularly, you put yourself at risk for chronic inflammation. You’ll want to work on replacing pro-inflammatory ingredients and foods, with foods that fight inflammation. Keep reading to find out the five key anti-inflammatory foods you should be eating.

1. Flaxseeds

Fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, but you can also get them from a plant-based source like flaxseed. Two tablespoons contain more than 140% daily value of omega-3 fatty acids and more lignans, a cancer fighting plant compound , than any other food in the human diet.

Tip: Add 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed to a smoothie or stir into oatmeal or coconut yogurt. You can also make a grain-free “oatmeal” dish with flaxseeds and chia seeds.

2. Dark leafy greens

Need another reason to eat more greens? They’re powerful anti-inflammatory foods that you can enjoy raw or cooked. Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collards contain high levels of anti-inflammatory compounds known as carotenoids , which may protect against certain types of cancer.

Tip: Add a couple handfuls to your smoothie—store frozen organic bunches in your freezer so that you always have them on hand. Make a big kale salad at the beginning of the week and add a handful to meals.

3. Berries

Berries are rich in so many good-for-you nutrients, like fiber , which feeds the good bacteria in your gut, gets broken down into short-chain fatty acids, and can act as a signal to calm the immune system . Berries like blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, tart cherries, strawberries, and cranberries are also rich in antioxidants known as anthocyanin that reduce inflammation.

Tip: Add 1/4 cup to your morning smoothie, oatmeal, chia seed pudding and salads. You can also swap pro-inflammatory high-sugar desserts with anti-inflammatory foods like berries. Pair with nuts or nut butter to help stabilize blood sugar.

4. Anti-inflammatory spices (turmeric and ginger)

Although not technically a food, turmeric and ginger deserve a spot on this list because of their powerful anti-inflammatory properties. They are relatively easy to incorporate into your diet, too, since you can add them to food, make drinks with them, or even take them in supplement form. The compound in turmeric called curcumin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Ginger also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Tip: Opt for teas made with these spices. You can also add turmeric and ginger to season roasted veggies. Because the body is not easily able to absorb curcumin, when using turmeric, add a sprinkle of black pepper, which has been shown to increase bioavailability by up to 2000 percent.

5. Green tea

Green tea is another anti-inflammatory food staple whether you love matcha lattes or regular green tea. Green tea contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) which lowers pro-inflammatory cytokine production and damage to cells inhibiting inflammation.

Tip: Add matcha powder to your smoothies for a boost or bake matcha powder into muffins and bars for a unique flavor and nutrient boost. You can also sip on matcha lattes or hot and iced green tea instead of coffee for a less jolting energy boost.

More ways to combat inflammation

While adding foods that fight inflammation into your diet is a start, you’ll also want to take a more holistic approach to managing inflammation in other areas of your life, too. One of the ways you can lower and monitor inflammation is by working with a health coach and doctor. Whether you’re dealing with an autoimmune condition , thyroid condition , or just want to prevent health issues down the line, lowering inflammation is an important step in your health journey. Your health coach and doctor can not only formulate a custom plan for your lifestyle and needs, but also help keep you accountable to lifestyle changes. Your doctor will also be able to test and monitor your inflammation levels with lab work over time.

In the meantime, know that including anti-inflammatory foods in your diet every day is a great step on your way to preventing and reducing inflammation as part of a holistic health plan.

Are you ready to take charge of your health? With my "Back to the Roots" program we will work together to manage conditions such as inflammation, fatigue, hormonal imbalance, among others. I will coach and guide you step by step to help you reach your goals in a healthy and sustainable way according to your individual needs. Schedule your first appointment.

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