Top Anti-Inflammatory Foods


Probably the most powerful and well-researched anti-inflammatory food, turmeric works through its main active ingredient, curcumin. When almost every chronic disease is being attributed to the long-term presence of inflammatory mediators circulating around the body, curcumin’s ability to disrupt these makes turmeric an enormously beneficial spice to add to your food. Curcumin specifically inhibits the biggest, baddest
inflammatory molecule around, the RNA transcribing factor NF-kB, which assists in the writing of DNA to RNA and is implicated in multiple disorders, disease states and disruptive gene and hormonal expressions. In other words, turmeric has been found to halt inflammation almost anywhere in the body, which can then help block cancer formation and prevent beta amyloid plaque accumulation in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Just make sure you take turmeric with fat and pepper to facilitate its absorption by the body.


When taken together with turmeric, black pepper boosts curcumin’s bioavailability to the body. But black pepper also exerts its own anti-inflammatory effect via its ability to suppress
pro-inflammatory cytokines, according to research. A cytokine is a protein secreted by cells that play a role in immune response management, so by suppressing cytokines, pepper can help turn down the volume on inflammatory reactions. Use black pepper in your food to enhance this effect.


Chili peppers also suppress pro-inflammatory cytokines like pepper does, but go a step further: the capsaicin in chili can also boost the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines. These guys
actively bring the body into a greater state of health by switching off some of the chemicals and hormones associated with chronic disease. Chili peppers also help prevent fat formation and burn more of it due to their thermoregulating and insulin-sensitizing activities, according to research. In fact, science is finding that hot spices of all kinds reduce inflammation in the body.


Did you know there is an inflammatory pathway that’s entirely fat-based? It’s made by signaling molecules called eicosanoids, which are derived from either omega-3 fatty acids or omega-6 fatty acids. Diets with a ratio higher in omega-3 fatty acids (4:1)
have the effect of switching off multiple inflammatory genes and hormones, including the infamous NF-kB. This results in pain and swelling reduction, improved gut and joint issues and improved skin, weight and bowel health. Omega-3-rich diets include those with fish oils (EPA and DHA), or chia and flax seeds (ALA), which generate a significantly low “oxidative environment,” as pointed out in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. The introduction of chia seeds to a high-fat, high-sugar Western-style diet has been shown to result in weight loss, healthier heart and liver architecture, increased bone density and leaner muscle mass.


Sulforaphane, a compound naturally occurring in cruciferous vegetables, seems to hold explosive health properties. Researchers from The University of East Anglia have discovered
that the sulforaphane in broccoli can slow down the destruction of joint cartilage, often responsible for pain and deformity in osteoarthritis. When it comes to inflammation, cruciferous veggies have the added benefit of disrupting NF-kB, which plays a significant role in joint health too. Veggies with lots of sulforaphane include bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, kale, radishes, turnips and wasabi.


Quercetin is a flavonoid found in red onions and some grains like buckwheat. Its anti-inflammatory properties, as well as anti-viral, anti-asthma and anti-cancer qualities make the humble onion
more of a superfood than you think. Recent research suggests that obesity can be lessened through quercetin’s down-regulation of the pro-inflammatory cytokines involved in metabolic weight gain. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry states that quercetin also inhibits lipid accumulation and inflammation caused by obesity.


In obesity that results from diet, the fat itself is the generator of a low-grade, long-term state of inflammation that goes on to trigger other metabolic disorders. The primary ingredient in dark chocolate, cocoa, is an antioxidant-rich food with anti-
inflammatory properties that can switch off this disastrous chemical cascade. Pennsylvania State University researchers discovered that when obese mice were given unsweetened cocoa powder for 18 weeks they experienced a decline in all inflammatory molecules associated with weight gain. As the European Journal of Nutrition put it, “Dietary supplementation with cocoa ameliorates obesity-related inflammation, insulin resistance and fatty liver disease.”


Did you know that the main active ingredient in both blueberries and purple carrots are the same molecules responsible for their color? They are known as anthocyanins and are an extremely
powerful anti-inflammatory chemical. Anthocyanins work by suppressing the NF-kB inflammatory pathway and the multitude of negative activation pathways it usually induces through immune regulation and expression. In particular, anthocyanins can act like a kill-switch in inflammatory bowel disease, in which the pro-inflammatory genes present in the gut lining are in a constant state of being “on.” In other words, anthocyanins can return the colon lining back to normal and alleviate symptoms.


Ginger has been used as an anti-inflammatory in traditional medicine for centuries, but only during the last 25 years has scientific support emerged for it. In the Journal of Medical Food,
ginger is described as having similar pharmacological properties to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – namely the capacity to inhibit biosynthesis of prostaglandin (which promotes inflammation) by inhibiting the enzymes cyclooxygenase-1 and cyclooxygenase-2. It also suppresses biosynthesis of leukotrienes by inhibiting 5-lipoxygenase, which non-steroidal medications don’t do. Similarly to histamine, leukotrienes can cause swelling and constriction of the airways, but they are 3-4 times more potent, so suppression of these factors is very useful in allergy or chronic inflammatory responses. Further, there are no harsh side effects with ginger, as there can be with the non-steroidal drugs.


Coffee and tea are two of the most complex foodstuffs we ingest, with over 7,000 varying molecules present in each, while most foods only contain around 2,000. Chlorogenic acid is a substance
produced in coffee beans when they are roasted, and it possesses potent anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, antibacterial and antioxidant properties. The phenolic acid in coffee is thought to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Research published in The Neurochemistry International Journal found that chlorogenic acid not only down-regulates many inflammatory responses involved in the construction of plaques associated with Alzheimer’s, but also prevents neural cell death from occurring by protecting brain nerve cells. This was found to be true in good-quality, dark-roasted coffee, while the instant type just didn’t match up.