March 5, 2024

Your Quick Guide to 10 Inflammatory & Anti-Inflammatory Foods

The foods you eat directly affect the levels of inflammation in your body. Read to explore 10 anti-inflammatory and inflammatory foods you ought to know about for chronic pain.

Many of us know what we eat can impact how we feel on a daily basis. But different foods can have a surprisingly big impact on the body’s cycles of inflammation. To recap, healthy inflammation is designed to preserve health, helping fight off disease and heal wounds. But when it becomes dysregulated, chronic inflammation can negatively affect numerous conditions, including chronic pain.

Here’s a quick list of 5 foods that can negatively impact inflammation and 5 anti-inflammatory foods to add to your next grocery trip.

5 Inflammatory Foods to Avoid with Chronic Pain

There are several types of food to consider dropping from your grocery list if you struggle with chronic pain related to inflammation.

Processed Sugars

Processed sugars like those found in sodas, baked goods, candy, and fruit juices can lead to increased production of inflammatory cytokines.1 Don’t worry though — you don’t need to completely eliminate your favorite sweets from your diet. The key is moderation.

Trans Fats

Trans fats trigger inflammation and can be found in fried foods, frozen meals, processed snacks, donuts, and cookies.2 To reduce trans fats, avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils on the label.

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats lead to increased levels of LDL cholesterol, which worsens both heart disease and cartilage damage. Try to lessen your consumption of processed meats (especially red meat), cheeses and other full-fat dairy products, and baked goods.

Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates on the high end of the glycemic index boost inflammation by fueling the creation of advanced glycation end (AGE) products.3 To lessen the risk of AGE-related inflammation, reduce white flour products, cereals, white potatoes, and white rice in your diet.

Alcohol

Alcohol consumption, when moderate, can have protective anti-inflammatory properties. But too much alcohol triggers increased inflammation.4, 5 Additionally, heavy drinkers may face a problem called leaky gut that drives widespread inflammation and organ damage.

5 Foods that Help with Inflammation

If you’re looking for foods that reduce inflammation, you’ll want to focus on ingredients packed with antioxidants that help maintain a healthy weight and balance unhealthy cholesterol. You can find an extended list of foods that help with inflammation here.

Fruits and Veggies (antioxidant-rich)

Many fruits and veggies are filled with antioxidants that reduce inflammation by fighting oxidative stress from free radicals. Infuse your diet with fresh fruits and veggies featuring vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E, melatonin, and glutathione.6,7

High-powered anti-inflammatory fruits and vegetables include:

  • Vitamin C: Red peppers, citrus fruit and juice, broccoli, strawberries, brussel sprouts8

  • Vitamin E: Spinach, broccoli, avocado, kiwi, mango9

  • Glutathione: Spinach, asparagus, avocado, green beans, cucumber, papaya10

  • Melatonin: Strawberries, apples, tart cherries, ginger, pepper, tomatoes11

Heart-Healthy Nuts (lower cholesterol)

Many nuts feature polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that reduce bad LDL cholesterol from your arteries. With clear arteries, you make it easier for oxygen-rich blood to keep your joints healthy with all the nutrients they need. Additionally, many nuts also contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that fight inflammation.12

Nuts, legumes, and seeds that could help reduce chronic pain symptoms include: walnuts, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, flaxseeds, chia seeds.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (fights inflammation)

Research has found oleocanthal – a core component in extra virgin olive oil – may be as effective, if not more so, than popular nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory steroids (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen!13

Oils rich in oleocanthal include: olive oil, walnut oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, canola oil, soybean oil.14

Beans (fight inflammation)

Numerous studies have found that different beans lower levels of inflammatory markers known as C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood. Most beans also benefit the immune and cardiovascular system and are rich in magnesium, iron, potassium, and polyphenols (powerful antioxidants).15

Great beans to add to your diet include: black-eyed peas, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), black beans, adzuki beans, and Anasazi beans.

Coffee and Green Tea (fight inflammation)

Looking for antioxidant-rich drinks to add to your diet? Studies suggest both coffee and green tea could serve as powerful anti-inflammatories. Green tea and coffee are rich in polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants. To reduce inflammation, try adding a cup of green tea or coffee to your morning or lunch routine.16, 17

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