8 Great Anti-Inflammation Foods
Inflammation today encompasses more than the arthritis suffered by your grandparents. Does your stressful work and lifestyle sometimes seem to drain you? Do you get a stiff neck in the office? After hitting the gym, do you have consistent pain in your muscles and joints, and does it feel like it’s taking forever to recover? Do you constantly wake up feeling stiff and sore? Are sitting on heating pads, or looking for a good massage therapist, your normal ways to relax? These symptoms, too, indicate inflammation.
More seriously, inflammation is linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
The reality is, inflammation is a naturally occurring process. If you cut yourself, inflammation (pain) is triggered so extra blood can flow to (and scab over) the affected area so you don’t bleed out. It helps you heal.
Damage can occur inside the body, too. A similar process of healing takes place, but sometimes it can get out of control and lead to disease.
What we’ve learned in recent years is that a rich bioactive compound (BAC) diet, filled with antioxidants and polyphenols, can reduce inflammation.
Functional ingredients, like moringa, turmeric, and cherries, have been used successfully in studies to prevent chronic pain by reducing free radicals or other causes linked to inflammation formation in the first place.
You, too, can battle against chronic inflammation by adding these eight foods to your diet!
The rising popularity of moringa owes much to it’s amazing plethora of health benefits. One benefit that’s been thoroughly confirmed happens to be it’s anti-inflammatory uses. “Various studies on Moringa plant have been shown to possess antiinflammatory activity.”1
Specific parts of the moringa plant are still being studied to find out more about what exactly is responsible for its ability to reduce inflammation. One area researched is the leaves. One study with rats “revealed that the water extract of the leaves of Moringa oleifera showed a dose-dependent anti-inflammatory activity in acute models of inflammation.”2
Additionally, the roots of the plant seem to aid in healing both acute and chronic pain. “The root of Moringa oleifera contains anti-inflammatory principle(s) that may be useful in the treatment of both the acute and chronic inflammatory conditions.”3
Moringa products include teas and powders, making them versatile enough to take acai bowls to the next level, for instance.
Who wants Indian food? The primary polyphenol of turmeric is curcumin. It gives the spice, and your curry dish, that characteristic yellow color. But that’s not all. “Curcumin is known to possess potent anti-inflammatory and antiarthritic properties.”13
This spice seems to reduce all types of inflammation. “Research suggests that curcumin can help in the management of oxidative and inﬂammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and hyperlipidemia. It may also help in the management of exercise-induced inﬂammation and muscle soreness, thus enhancing recovery and subsequent performance in active people.”14
Best of all, there’s no side effects reported from using turmeric. “Curcumin has been demonstrated to be safe in six human trials and has demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity. It may exert its anti-inflammatory activity by inhibition of a number of different molecules that play a role in inflammation.”15
Fruits like cherries contain polyphenols that help fight inflammation. Tart cherries contain more than other varieties, it seems. “Tart cherry-enriched diets were associated with significantly reduced body weight, abdominal fat, reduced blood lipids, reduced plasma inflammation, and reduced fasting glucose.”7
Additionally, “The significant decrease of markers of inflammation and oxidative stress afforded by cherries and derivatives may have implications for the management of clinical pathologies associated with high levels of inflammation and oxidative stress.”8
Another study specifically looked at how cherries affect plasma concentrations. “In conclusion, changes in the plasma concentrations of the biomarkers in our study caused by cherries suggest a potential decrease in inflammation.”9
The anthocyanins found in cherries seem to have the most an anti-inflammatory effect. These compounds can also be found in berries.
Dark chocolate, the kind that tastes a little bitter, not the creamy junk food bars, contain plenty of anti-inflammatory agents. “chocolate (especially dark chocolate), has been found to improve antioxidant status, reduce inflammation and correlate with reduced heart disease risk.”19
Craving hot chocolate? Cocoa can also help reduce pain. “A number of studies of cell cultures and animals have unequivocally demonstrated that cocoa ﬂavanols reduce pro-inﬂammatory cytokines and inhibit inﬂammatory mediators NF-κB, COX-2 and iNOS.”20
Cocoa gets its properties from the raw cacao it comes from, as “Anti-inﬂammatory properties of cacao, fruits of Theobroma cacao L. (Sterculiaceae), are welldocumented.”21
One way to think about anti-inflammatory foods is to ask how the food itself does not get inflammation. That is, how does food protect itself from the dangers it may face in nature.
Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) contains multiple (poly-) phenolic compounds that perform this protective role, and in turn, help us reduce inflammation. “Some of the phenolic acids identified in VCO include caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid and feulic acid. Polyphenols control and reduce inflammation through a series of pathways, therefore, preventing cancer and other diseases with an inflammatory pathogenesis.”4
Multiple studies confirm this finding, including one laboratory experiment on rats. “Experimental studies have suggested its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunostimulatory and hypolipidemic effects.”5
Furthermore, these properties are useful for treatment of both chronic and acute inflammation. “The results obtained suggest anti-inflammatory activities of VCO on both acute and chronic phases of inflammation when it is used in high doses.”6
In red peppers, called Capsicum baccatum, one study “demonstrated that the butanol extract obtained from the fruit of Capsicum baccatum presented the best antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.”16
Spicy peppers also contain polyphenols. “Chili peppers contain sinapic acid and “Sinapic acid and its derivatives, particularly 4-vinylsyringol, are interesting natural compounds that has potential to express various health benefits, that is, antioxidant, antiinflammatory, anticancer, antimutagenic, antiglycemic, neuroprotective, and antibacterial activities.”17
Even dried peppers don’t lose their kick. “The results suggest that the carotenoids in dried guajillo peppers have signiﬁcant analgesic and anti-inﬂammatory beneﬁts and could be useful for pain and inﬂammation relief.”18
Blueberries prevent chronic inflammation through anthocyanins. “Blueberries are a good source of anthocyanins such as Mv-3-glc and Mv-3-gal, which can be a promising molecules for the development of nutraceuticals to improve endothelial function and thereby to prevent the progression of chronic inflammation.”10
Raspberries, too, help fight inflammation. “Red raspberry fruit, including various extracts and individual components, have anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and metabolic-stabilizing activity.”11
“berries, especially members of several families, such as Rosaceae (strawberry, raspberry, blackberry), and Ericaceae (blueberry, cranberry) are great dietary sources of bioactive compounds (BAC). BAC (phenolic compounds such as phenolic acids, flavonoids-flavonols, anthocyanins, tannins, and ascorbic acid) are contained in berries in great amount, and may act as strong antioxidants and, thus, could help in the prevention of inflammation disorders, cardiovascular diseases, or have protective effects to lower the risk of various cancers.”12
Many types of green tea, from regular to matcha, yield powerful polyphenols. “Green tea is rich in flavonoids and indeed epidemiological in vitro, and animal-model studies have associated green tea consumption with health benefits, including decreased risk of inflammation.”22
These compounds go beyond inflammation and help battle cancer, too. “Epidemiological, in vitro, and animal model studies have implicated green tea to be protective against nitroso compound-induced and inflammation-related cancer.”23
But green tea’s benefits don’t stop there. “Among the health beneﬁts of green tea are: anticarcinogenic, anti-inﬂammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties, and beneﬁts in cardiovascular disease and oral health.”24
It’s no wonder people have been using green tea for so long in traditional medicine.
While the foods listed are great starting points, they hardly make for a meal. Plus, more than food choices, things like relaxation and exercise can also influence inflammation levels. If you want to learn more, check out our article Lifestyle Tips on Fighting Inflammation
What foods have proven useful for you in battling chronic pain?
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2. Tsala, David Emery & Foyet, Harquin Simplice & Ndzana Martin Thierry, Bella & Justin, Bada & Justin, Baima & Emmanuel, Ndoumga. (2013). “Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Hot Water Extract of Moringa Oleifera Lam in Rats.” International Journal of Drug Targets. 4. 25-31. p. 30.
3. Ezeamuzie, I. C., A. W. Ambakederemo, F. O. Shode, and S. C. Ekwebelem. "Antiinflammatory Effects of Moringa Oleifera Root Extract." Pharmaceutical Biology 34, no. 3 (1996): 207-12. doi:10.1076/phbi.220.127.116.1111. p. 207.
4. Holt, Brittany, ed. Vegetable Oil: Properties, Uses, and Benefits. New York: Nova Publishers, 2016. p. 174.
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7. Seymour, E.m., Sarah K. Lewis, Daniel E. Urcuyo-Llanes, Ignasia I. Tanone, Ara Kirakosyan, Peter B. Kaufman, and Steven F. Bolling. "Regular Tart Cherry Intake Alters Abdominal Adiposity, Adipose Gene Transcription, and Inflammation in Obesity-Prone Rats Fed a High Fat Diet." Journal of Medicinal Food 12, no. 5 (2009): 935-42. doi:10.1089/jmf.2008.0270. p. 941.
8. Ferretti, Gianna, Tiziana Bacchetti, Alberto Belleggia, and Davide Neri. "Cherry Antioxidants: From Farm to Table." Molecules 15, no. 10 (2010): 6993-7005. doi:10.3390/molecules15106993. p. 7001.
9. Kelley, Darshan S., Yuriko Adkins, Aurosis Reddy, Leslie R. Woodhouse, Bruce E. Mackey, and Kent L. Erickson. "Sweet Bing Cherries Lower Circulating Concentrations of Markers for Chronic Inflammatory Diseases in Healthy Humans." The Journal of Nutrition 143, no. 3 (2013): 340-44. doi:10.3945/jn.112.171371. p. 343.
10. Huang, Wu-Yang, Ya-Mei Liu, Jian Wang, Xing-Na Wang, and Chun-Yang Li. "Anti-Inflammatory Effect of the Blueberry Anthocyanins Malvidin-3-Glucoside and Malvidin-3-Galactoside in Endothelial Cells." Molecules 19, no. 8 (2014): 12827-2841. doi:10.3390/molecules190812827. p. 12838.
11. Burton-Freeman, Britt M., Amandeep K. Sandhu, and Indika Edirisinghe. "Red Raspberries and Their Bioactive Polyphenols: Cardiometabolic and Neuronal Health Links." Advances in Nutrition 7, no. 1 (2016): 44-65. doi:10.3945/an.115.009639. p. 61.
12. Skrovankova, Sona, Daniela Sumczynski, Jiri Mlcek, Tunde Jurikova, and Jiri Sochor. "Bioactive Compounds and Antioxidant Activity in Different Types of Berries." International Journal of Molecular Sciences 16, no. 10 (2015): 24673-4706. doi:10.3390/ijms161024673. p. 24690.
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18. Hernández-Ortega, Marcela, Alicia Ortiz-Moreno, María Dolores Hernández-Navarro, Germán Chamorro-Cevallos, Lidia Dorantes-Alvarez, and Hugo Necoechea-Mondragón. "Antioxidant, Antinociceptive, and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Carotenoids Extracted from Dried Pepper (Capsicum AnnuumL.)." Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology 2012 (2012): 1-10. doi:10.1155/2012/524019. p. 1.
19. Lippi, Giuseppe, Massimo Franchini, Martina Montagnana, Emmanuel J. Favaloro, Gian Cesare Guidi, and Giovanni Targher. "Dark Chocolate: Consumption for Pleasure or Therapy?" Journal of Thrombosis and Thrombolysis 28, no. 4 (2008): 482-88. doi:10.1007/s11239-008-0273-3. pp. 485-486.
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24. Reygaert, Wanda. "An Update on the Health Benefits of Green Tea." Beverages 3, no. 4 (2017): 6-20. doi:10.3390/beverages3010006. p. 6.