A study in the Journal of Nutrition showed that eating blueberries daily could significantly reduce inflammation. And another study in the same journal found that fruit-based drinks could neutralize the inflammatory effects of high-fat, high-carb meals. Why is this exactly? Well berries contain a class of antioxidants called flavonoids, but it’s the anthocyanins, specifically, that contribute their anti-inflammatory effects by effectively turning off inflammatory and immune genes. And when it comes to anthocyanins, blueberries are king. On top of that, blueberries are rich in vitamin C and another polyphenol, resveratrol, which have both been found to promote anti-inflammatory responses through decreasing inflammatory free radicals.
Throw together a jar of overnight oats packed with dark chocolate, berries, nuts, and a dash of cinnamon, and you’ll be fighting inflammation and drastically reducing belly fat. The raw oats are a resistant starch, a type of carb that passes through your gut undigested. Instead of feeding you, it feeds your healthy gut bacteria, which in turn produce a fatty acid that encourages more efficient fat oxidation known as butyrate. Higher levels of butyrate reduce inflammation in your body and help reduce insulin resistance as well. Less inflammation means less bloating and a slimmer you.
Great news for all you chocoholics! A recent study found that antioxidants in cocoa prevented laboratory mice from gaining excess weight and actually lowered their blood sugar levels. And another study at Louisiana State University found that gut microbes in our stomach ferment chocolate into heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory compounds that shut down genes linked to insulin resistance and inflammation. To enhance the effects, try pairing your chocolate with some apple slices: The fruit speeds up the probiotic fermentation process, leading to an even greater reduction in inflammation and weight. Psst, make sure you’re choosing the right kind! Look for cacao content of 70 percent or above because these contain the highest amounts of antioxidants.
When it comes to fats, there’s one variety you definitely don’t want eat less of: omega-3s! These healthy fats are famous for their anti-inflammatory properties. And fatty fish are one of the best sources of this class of polyunsaturated fats. Wild salmon provides you with both EPA and DHA. And unlike plant omega-3s, these two fatty acids are already in an active form, meaning they’ll more efficiently attack excess inflammation through the increase in adiponectin—a hormone that enhances your muscles’ ability to use carbs for energy, boosts metabolism, and burns fat—which ultimately decrease inflammation markers.
Peppers are an anti-inflammatory superfood—but go red to reap the most benefits. Out of the three colors of bell pepper, red have the highest amount of inflammatory-biomarker-reducing vitamin C along with the bioflavonoids beta-carotene, quercetin, and luteolin, according to research in the Journal of Food Science. Luteolin has been found to neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation. Beta-carotene is a carotenoid, fat-soluble compounds that are associated with a reduction in a wide range of cancers, as well as reduced risk and severity of inflammatory conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. And allergy research has shown that quercertin acts as a mast-cell stabilizer, which decreases the number of cells reacting to an allergen. Mast cells are responsible for releasing histamine during inflammatory and allergic reactions.
You can thank curcumin for turmeric’s beautifully bright, yellowy-orange color—but that’s not all it’s good for. This active compound has been found to contain potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Studies have shown curcumin directly inhibits the activation of inflammatory pathways through shutting off production of two pro-inflammatory enzymes, COX-2, and 5-LOX. For this reason, curcumin has been implicated in a range of beneficial health effects, from preventing cognitive decline, liver damage, and heart disease, while easing joint inflammation and pain associated with arthritis.
This anti-inflammatory benefit could be linked to the sprouts’ glucosinolate content. These compounds help prevent unwanted inflammation when they’re converted to I3C—a compound that research has found to decrease the production of pro-inflammatory mediators on a genetic level. It’s also high in vitamin K, a vitamin found in many cruciferous and leafy green veggies, which can help regulate inflammatory responses in the body.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Add fighting inflammation to the list of Mediterranean diet benefits—right next to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and dialing up weight loss. While researchers initially believed many benefits were conferred by the presence of healthy monounsaturated fats, they also found that other oils with MUFAs, particularly oleic acid, did not exhibit the same health benefits. Now, researchers have found the key component is oleocanthal. This compound, found only in extra virgin olive oils (as these are unrefined and contain more phenolic compounds), has a significant impact on inflammation and helps reduce joint cartilage damage, working similarly to ibuprofen in that it prevents the production of pro-inflammatory COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes..
Pineapple contains bromelain, the enzyme which acts as a meat tenderizer as well as a powerful anti-inflammatory. What researchers have noted is that many anti-inflammatory foods act not necessarily by reducing inflammation directly, but by alleviating symptoms that can eventually cause inflammation. Bromelain has been found to be beneficial in reducing asthmatic symptoms through decreasing the spread of proinflammatory metabolites and relieving post-exercise inflammation by helping to repair and resolve muscle soreness through its significant levels of potassium. While all parts of the pineapple contain this magical compound, most of the bromelain in pineapple is in the stem. Because the stem is a little on the tough side, you can blend or juice the core with the sweeter flesh to reap the bloat-beating benefits.
Don’t dismiss bone broth as just another health fad—there’s solid evidence to back up its rightful place in your diet. To make it, bones are left to simmer in water for an extended period of time, extracting and breaking down their collagen and other nutrients. Some of that broken down material from the cartilage and tendons is glucosamine (which you may have seen sold as a supplement for arthritis and joint pain). According to a study published in the journal PLoS One, when overweight, middle-aged adults took a glucosamine supplement, they were able to decrease serum CRP (inflammation biomarker) levels by 23 percent more than those who didn’t take a supplement. The stock is also full of anti-inflammatory amino acids (glycine and proline), and the ample levels of gelatin will help rebuild your gut lining to further assist with your anti-inflammatory gut microbes.
If you’ve ever suffered from indigestion after eating, you’re familiar with the importance of digestion enzymes. But there’s another group of enzymes that’s also important to your health: proteolytic enzymes. These enzymes are essential when it comes to modulating the inflammatory response. They do so by helping to break down proteins and cellular debris and clears them out to reduce your body’s immune and inflammatory response. Raw honey is one of the best sources of these enzymes because—brace yourself—honey is made by bees’ enzyme-rich saliva. Multiple animal studies have found honey to be effective in alleviating symptoms of inflammatory diseases, such as IBS. Bonus: the sweetener is also full of anti-inflammatory polyphenols, carotenoids, antioxidants, and vitamins.