Inflammation may sound all bad, but it’s not. As the body’s natural response to injury or illness, inflammation signals your systems to send nutrients and immunity boosters to whatever area needs them.
But problems arise when the body experiences ongoing inflammation, the kind you don’t necessarily feel but that wreaks havoc on otherwise healthy tissues. Mounting research points to this kind of chronic inflammation—caused by genes, toxins, stress, infections, and, yes, diet—as a key factor in heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and diabetes, to name a few.
Prioritizing certain foods and avoiding others can help. Start with these anti-inflammatory all-stars.
Tart cherries are top anti-inflammatory agents, and do double duty when combined with omega-3-laden walnuts. A daily bite or two of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao) is also a worthy anti-inflammatory treat.
Recipe: Cherry-Walnut Bites
Powerful, lean-protein beans and legumes contain anti-inflammatory antioxidants called flavonoids. Pair with kombu, a sea vegetable, that contributes valuable minerals like magnesium.
Recipe: Red Lentil Soup with Chard
Look for wild rather than farmed salmon; it’s higher in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats and lower in possible contaminants.
Rosemary contains an antioxidant called carnosol that targets inflammation. Steaming avoids the creation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), chemicals that result when meats and fats are cooked at high heat; research implicates AGEs as a major food-based inflammation trigger.
Recipe: Steamed Salmon with Asparagus
Unlike processed grains, whole grains and seeds such as quinoa digest slowly, avoiding inflammatory blood sugar spikes. Dry-toasting quinoa and starting its cooking with boiling water help grains to cook up fluffy and separate.
Recipe: Toasted Quinoa with Kale and Pine Nuts
Dark vegetables like sweet potatoes are especially anti-
inflammatory. Roast in olive oil for added nutrition: Olive oil’s numerous healthy compounds include oleocanthal, which works like ibuprofen to quell inflammation.
Recipe: Roasted Sweet Potato Sticks with Basil-Tofu Dip
Sardines contain the same inflammation-taming fats as salmon but are less expensive. Try pairing sardines with tuna (like in the recipe below). Tuna tones down their concentrated flavor; adjust the ratio if you like a pronounced taste.
Recipe: Sardine and Sun-Dried Tomato Salad
Deep-colored chard is a tasty way to fight inflammation. Pair with good-fat almonds; or add crushed red pepper flakes (chile peppers are also anti-inflammatory).
Recipe: Sautéed Chard with Almonds and Dried Apricots