Skip to content

5 Best Foods to Fight Inflammation, Doctors Say

Understanding the connection between diet and excessive inflammation can help keep your body healthy.

Inflammation is a vital part of your body's defense system to fight off foreign invaders. It's triggered when your immune system sends out inflammatory cells to defend against germs and toxins, and you can usually tell that this process is in session when you feel mild pain, swelling, or symptoms like a fever. "It's a much-needed process to promote health and wellness while removing the injurious source," says Charlie Abraham, MD, MBA, CHCQM, FACP Chief Medical Officer with Dignity St. Bernardine Medical Center.

However, too much or prolonged ("chronic") inflammation can be harmful and lead to major health issues such as cancer, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and kidney disease. In fact, a recent study from the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions found that 34.6% of U.S. adults have systemic inflammation, a serious condition in which the body's immune system is constantly trying to defend itself. This kind of excessive inflammation, whether it lasts a short or long period, should be controlled, says Dr. Abraham.

One powerful tool you have at your disposal is your diet. Yes, certain foods have proven to be effective at reducing unhealthy forms of inflammation! Here is more information about the food-inflammation connection and which dietary choices can help keep your body healthy and operating normally.

RELATED: 6 Common Causes of Inflammation That Have Nothing to Do With Your Diet.

How Foods Can Fight Inflammation

You know by now that your diet plays a huge role in your overall well-being. But, you might not know that foods contain many vital nutrients and essentials we need, including antioxidants, which help neutralize free radicals in your body and reduce inflammation, says Megan Mescher-Cox, DO, a doctor at Dignity Health St. John.

On the other hand, eating too much red meat, sugar, processed foods, wheat, fried dishes, soda, and other unhealthy choices can exacerbate inflammation. Unfortunately, "in the average American diet, a humongous amount of pro-inflammatory foods are ingested, and a very small amount of anti-inflammatory foods are eaten," says Dr. Cox. By making more informed dietary choices, you can take control of your health and fight inflammation.

The Best Foods to Fight Inflammation

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

salmon on ice
Taras Shparhala / Shutterstock

Omega-3 fatty acids are known to be healthy and can also be a remedy for people who are battling chronic inflammation.

"Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and flaxseed, should be considered when faced with a high inflammatory state," Dr. Abraham says. "The main theory is that they change the structure of the cell membrane, which in turn, increases inflammatory-resolving genes."

RELATED: 10 Surprising Benefits of Taking Fish Oil Every Day.

2. Fruits (Especially Berries)

Close-up on a farmer holding a handful of blueberries at a farm – agriculture concepts

Fruit is a refreshing and delicious source of anti-inflammatory power. That's because many fruits are full of vitamin C, antioxidants, and other essential minerals.

"Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps neutralize inflammation," Dr. Cox says."Berries are especially beneficial with large amounts of antioxidants and fiber. Fiber is critical for your gut bacteria, promoting the growth of bacteria that produce a protective layer inside your gut to help block inflammatory substances from being absorbed into your body."

3. Green, Leafy Vegetables

Green Leafy Vegetables
Olivier Tabary/Shutterstock

Eating an array of green, leafy vegetables (like kale, microgreens, spinach, cabbage, romaine, and more) is another great way to fight inflammation naturally because these foods contain many nutrients and antioxidants.

"The colors of vegetables indicate different phytochemicals that help protect the cells of your body against free radicals, which cause inflammation and can even damage your DNA," Dr. Abraham explains. "Green, leafy vegetables work by removing insulting byproducts from the cells, which in turn, helps fight inflammation."

4. Turmeric

turmeric in a bowl

Certain herbs and spices like turmeric can help reduce inflammation, according to Dr. Abraham.

"Turmeric contains curcumin, which is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It essentially helps reduce inflammatory mediators."

This is one of the reasons why turmeric tea and supplements are so popular these days amongst the health-conscious.

RELATED: 5 Surprising Benefits of Taking a Turmeric Supplement Every Day.

5. Green Tea

Bearded man drinking green tea from a mug

Good news for tea drinkers: it can help calm down inflammation!

"Green tea has one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants in any beverage," Dr. Cox says. "Consumption of green tea is also associated with lower amounts of chronic disease, including heart disease and diabetes."

By incorporating these healthy foods into your daily diet, you can help keep unhealthy inflammation at bay within your body and protect yourself against more serious health issues down the road.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. If you have health questions or concerns, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more
Filed Under