Foods that fight inflammation - Harvard Health (2024)

Foods that fight inflammation - Harvard Health (1)What does an anti-inflammatory diet do? Your immune system becomes activated when your body recognizes anything that is foreign—such as an invading microbe, plant pollen, or chemical. This often triggers a process called inflammation. Intermittent bouts of inflammation directed at truly threatening invaders protect your health.

However, sometimes inflammation persists, day in and day out, even when you are not threatened by a foreign invader. That's when inflammation can become your enemy. Many major diseases that plague us — including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer's — have been linked to chronic inflammation.

One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store. "Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects," says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Choose the right anti-inflammatory foods, and you may be able to reduce your risk of illness. Consistently pick the wrong ones, and you could accelerate the inflammatory disease process.

Foods that cause inflammation

Try to avoid or limit these foods as much as possible:

  • refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries
  • French fries and other fried foods
  • soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausage)
  • margarine, shortening, and lard

The health risks of inflammatory foods

Not surprisingly, the same foods on an inflammation diet are generally considered bad for our health, including sodas and refined carbohydrates, as well as red meat and processed meats.

"Some of the foods that have been associated with an increased risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease are also associated with excess inflammation," Dr. Hu says. "It's not surprising, since inflammation is an important underlying mechanism for the development of these diseases."

Unhealthy foods also contribute to weight gain, which is itself a risk factor for inflammation. Yet in several studies, even after researchers took obesity into account, the link between foods and inflammation remained, which suggests weight gain isn't the sole driver. "Some of the food components or ingredients may have independent effects on inflammation over and above increased caloric intake," Dr. Hu says.

Anti-inflammatory foods

An anti-inflammatory dietshould include these foods:

  • tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
  • nuts like almonds and walnuts
  • fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
  • fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges

Benefits of anti-inflammatory foods

On the flip side are beverages and foods that reduce inflammation,and with it, chronic disease, says Dr. Hu. He notes in particular fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, apples, and leafy greens that are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols — protective compounds found in plants.

Studies have also associated nuts with reduced markers of inflammation and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Coffee, which contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds, may protect against inflammation, as well.

Anti-inflammatory diet

To reduce levels of inflammation, aim for an overall healthy diet. If you're looking for an eating plan that closely follows the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating, consider the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils.

In addition to lowering inflammation, a more natural, less processed diet can have noticeable effects on your physical and emotional health. "A healthy diet is beneficial not only for reducing the risk of chronic diseases, but also for improving mood and overall quality of life," Dr. Hu says.

Foods that fight inflammation - Harvard Health (2)

Foods that fight inflammation - Harvard Health (2024)


Foods that fight inflammation - Harvard Health? ›

1. Avocados. Avocados are often sought after for their creamy texture and satiating taste. But they are also powerhouses when it comes to fighting inflammation.

What is the number one food to fight inflammation? ›

1. Avocados. Avocados are often sought after for their creamy texture and satiating taste. But they are also powerhouses when it comes to fighting inflammation.

What foods flush out inflammation? ›

Berries, fatty fish, nuts, leafy greens, oatmeal, and olive oil can all be part of an anti-inflammatory diet. But it's best to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. What meat is anti-inflammatory? The Mediterranean diet includes anti-inflammatory omega-3 rich fatty fish.

How to reduce inflammation in Harvard? ›

To fight inflammation, go for whole, unprocessed foods with no added sugar: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans, lentils), fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, a little bit of low-fat dairy, and olive oil. "To these, many people add herbs and spices like cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric.

What is the strongest natural anti-inflammatory? ›

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids , which are abundant in fatty fish such as salmon or tuna, are among the most potent anti-inflammatory supplements. ...
  2. Curcumin. ...
  3. S-adenosylmethionine. ...
  4. Zinc. ...
  5. Green tea. ...
  6. Frankincense. ...
  7. Capsaicin. ...
  8. Cat's claw.

What are the 10 worst foods for inflammation? ›

  • 01 of 10. High Fructose Corn Syrup. ...
  • 02 of 10. Processed Foods with Added Sugar. ...
  • 03 of 10. Soda and Other Sugar-Sweetened Beverages. ...
  • 04 of 10. Trans Fats. ...
  • 05 of 10. Refined Carbohydrates. ...
  • 06 of 10. Red Meat. ...
  • 07 of 10. Processed Meats. ...
  • 08 of 10. French Fries and Other Deep-Fried Foods.
May 5, 2024

What is the #1 best drink to reduce inflammation? ›

Green and White Teas

Rich in polyphenols and catechins, these teas come with properties that not only reduce inflammation but can also regulate your immune system, which can be helpful in protecting the body against the cold during the winter.

Are eggs inflammatory? ›

According to a 2020 review, eggs contain substances such as trimethylamine-N-oxide, omega-6 fatty acids, and arachidonic acid, which can promote inflammation. However, a 2019 study on adults found no connection between egg consumption and inflammatory biomarkers in the blood.

Is coffee inflammatory? ›

Research suggests that coffee does not cause inflammation in most people—even if your norm is more than one or two caffeinated cups a day. In fact, it's quite the opposite. According to a 2021 study in Nutrients, coffee may have anti-inflammatory effects on the body.

How do I get rid of inflammation ASAP? ›

Follow these six tips for reducing inflammation in your body:
  1. Load up on anti-inflammatory foods. ...
  2. Cut back or eliminate inflammatory foods. ...
  3. Control blood sugar. ...
  4. Make time to exercise. ...
  5. Lose weight. ...
  6. Manage stress.
Mar 29, 2024

Is peanut butter inflammatory? ›

Are peanuts inflammatory? The short answer is no, and in fact, peanuts and some peanut products like peanut butter have been shown to be anti-inflammatory. Inflammation in the body is a mechanism thought to be at the center of the majority of chronic diseases.

Are bananas anti-inflammatory? ›

Bananas contain anti-inflammatory components that could have a significant impact on human health. One such component is bromelain, an enzyme known for its anti-inflammatory properties [5].

Is Greek yogurt anti-inflammatory? ›

“Yogurt is associated with decreased inflammation, decreased insulin resistance and it may prevent type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Hu says. Nutrition researchers believe yogurt's anti-inflammatory power comes from the probiotics it contains, but that has yet to be confirmed with rigorous trials, he says.

What is the number one food that kills inflammation? ›

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

One form of these powerful inflammation fighters is found in fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, tuna, striped bass and anchovies. You can get the benefit from eating the fish or by taking fish oil supplements.

What is the #1 best vitamin for chronic inflammation? ›

Best vitamins and supplements for chronic inflammation
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids. ...
  • Curcumin (Turmeric) ...
  • Green Tea Extract. ...
  • Ginger. ...
  • Boswellia (Indian Frankincense) ...
  • Vitamin D. ...
  • Probiotics.
Mar 18, 2024

What draws out inflammation? ›

Many foods fight inflammation in your body. These include fatty fish (like salmon), fresh fruits and leafy greens, just to name a few. You may also use spices with anti-inflammatory properties, like turmeric, ginger or garlic. Following an anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce and prevent inflammation in your body.

What reduces inflammation fast? ›

Healthy eating tips to help reduce inflammation
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. ...
  • Choose high-fiber carbohydrates. ...
  • Eat more fiber. ...
  • Choose plant-based and leaner animal protein sources. ...
  • Be conscious of your fat sources. ...
  • Reduce the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in the diet. ...
  • Reduce your sugar intake. ...
  • Limit or avoid alcohol.
Nov 16, 2023

What is the strongest anti-inflammatory fruit? ›

The 7 Best Fruits for Fighting Inflammation
  • Cherries.
  • Strawberries.
  • Watermelon.
  • Apples.
  • Pineapple.
  • Avocado.
  • Blueberries.
Aug 7, 2023

What are the 7 most inflammatory foods? ›

The following seven foods, which are common in Western diets, are some of the top inflammatory foods to avoid.
  1. Refined grains. ...
  2. Refined sugar. ...
  3. Sodium. ...
  4. Red and processed meat. ...
  5. Trans fats. ...
  6. Ultra-processed foods. ...
  7. Alcoholic beverages.
Nov 1, 2023

Are eggs good for inflammation? ›

Functional foods such as eggs contain a variety of essential nutrients and vital components including egg proteins, phospholipids, lutein and zeaxanthin that curb inflammation. The vitamin D present in the eggs modulates the inflammatory response in rheumatoid arthritis.

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