Recently we posted Dr. Z’s Top 6 Inflammatory Foods where we highlighted the worst inflammatory foods you should avoid. Now we’re flipping the discussion and focus on foods that can actually reduce inflammation, what we call anti-inflammatory foods. Because as Dr. Z explains, “What you put in your body can have either a healthful and beneficial effect or it can be harmful, cause inflammation, and lead to a variety of health problems—including allergies.” Can food really fight inflammation? You bet it can!
Eat the rainbow
First on our list is “eating the rainbow,” which Yoko Kawashima, a national board-certified health & wellness coach who partners with AAPRI’s Center for Functional Medicine, defines as all the deep, richly colorful whole foods—such as the red in beets, the purple in cabbage, the orange in sweet potatoes, and of course, the green in leafy vegetables. “Plants contain a variety of important phytonutrients, which give them their color and have essential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help keep the body healthy and lower the risk of a wide range of health problems,” says Yoko. “Choosing foods by color makes it easy to make sure you’re getting enough and a good balance of these important nutrients.”
This category of beneficial super-veggies includes arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, radish, rutabaga, turnip, watercress, and wasabi. “Cruciferous vegetables support our detoxification pathways, namely the liver,” explains Yoko. And according to Dr. Z, they are “key anti-inflammatory foods because they detoxify the hormone-mimicking (particularly estrogen) foods that we are exposed to in the environment.”
Vitamin C-rich foods
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that plays a key anti-inflammatory role by supporting health immune function. “Fruits and vegetables that contain vitamin C and are rich in antioxidants are crucial to detoxification because they combat stress in the body caused by toxins that have yet to be neutralized,” explains Yoko. Foods that are highest in vitamin C include bell peppers, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables, kiwi, papaya, potatoes, strawberries, and tomatoes.
“It’s important to be aware that anti-inflammatory foods help detoxify, but they also have to be toxin-free themselves.”
– Dr. Z.
Insoluble fiber is an important anti-inflammatory food because it supports gut health. It adds the bulk needed to help food pass more smoothly through the digestive tract and eliminate toxins through the stool. Good sources of insoluble fiber include legumes such as black beans, wheat bran and other whole grains, root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, and potatoes, celery, cucumber, and nuts.
According to Yoko, micronutrients include the vitamins and minerals your body needs for energy production, immune function, blood clotting, growth, bone health, and more. “Key micronutrients such as zinc (found in oysters, salmon, dairy), selenium (Brazil nuts, seafood), B12 (beef, eggs, salmon, dairy), folate (cruciferous veggies), and choline (eggs) support your detox pathways,” explains Yoko.
Know where your food comes from
One of the biggest health challenges we face today is the harmful way food is produced. “We are what we eat and breathe,” says Dr. Z. “Right now, modern farming methods are polluting the air, leaching the soil of nutrients, and contaminating the food supply with pesticides and herbicides.” Some of these harmful chemicals are hormone disruptors, which can increase inflammation in the body. The best way to make sure your anti-inflammatory foods are toxin-free is to buy organically grown foods from the grocery store or your local farmer’s market.
It’s not just what you eat
Lastly, it’s not just what you eat that can affect inflammation in your body—it’s the quality of the air you breathe, the water you drink, and avoiding harmful particles and pathogens from passing into your body. “Some of these may include household cleaning products, cosmetics, and other personal care products—even the kind of cookware you use,” says Yoko.
Schedule a consultation today to learn more about how eating a healthy diet high in nutritionally dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats and proteins, can fight inflammation and improve overall health.