10 Foods That Fight Inflammation
HealthCentral Editorial Team Apr 24, 2013 (updated Nov 13, 2013)
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There are many drugs that help fight inflammation, but did you know there are also foods that fight inflammation? Here’s a list of 10 foods that have been found to decrease inflammation in the body.
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Extra-virgin olive oil
Extra-virgin olive oil – an unrefined type of olive oil – contains a substance called oleocanthol that interferes with two enzymes (COX-1 and COX-2) involved with inflammation in the body. In fact, a 2005 study in the journal Nature found that oleocanthol inhibits inflammation in a way that’s identical to the painkiller ibuprofen.
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Red wine contains a compound called resveratrol, which has been found to have both anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Scientists say the presence of this compound may help explain the so-called “French paradox” as to why the French –who drink red wine with most meals – can eat a diet that’s actually quite high in saturated fats and yet have healthy arteries and hearts.
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Generally, any beverage that is high in water content will have anti-inflammatory qualities, and tea is a great choice. Teas such as white tea, oolong, and green tea are full of catechins, antioxidant compounds that reduce artery plaque and inflammation. Tea also has been linked to reduced risks of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
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If you’re eating beef that’s not specifically sold as “grass-fed,” it means the cows were fed a high-calorie diet of corn and grain in an effort to fatten them quickly. Corn and grain are full of omega-6 fatty acids, which have been linked to inflammation. Grass-fed cows are leaner, and their meat is rich in healthy compounds such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E.
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You’ve probably seen bottles of fish oil supplements in your pharmacy or grocery store, but you can get the same healthy boost from going straight to the source, as well. Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna are fish that have fatty oils throughout the fillets and in the area around the gut, rather than just in just the liver. Experts say eating one to two servings of these fish per week can reduce inflammation.
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Cocoa contains anti-inflammatory compounds called flavanols, substances that reduce both blood clotting and inflammation in the body. Enjoying a cup or two of hot cocoa per week can help reduce inflammation, particularly if it’s made with skim or low-fat milk to keep down the drink’s content of saturated fats. Keep in mind, however, that trying to get your cocoa in the form of candy will load you up on saturated fats.
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Cranberries are a powerhouse food, with studies linking the red berry to such benefits as inhibiting cancerous tumors and lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol. Scientists say the fact that the berries are rich in anti-inflammatory antioxidants contribute to their healthful effects. As a bonus, cranberries also contain tannins, substances that can act as a natural antibacterial agent to fight urinary tract and E. coli infections.
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A 2004 study found that people with stable coronary disease lowered the amount of inflammatory markers in their blood by drinking Concord grape juice. This finding was likely due to the presence of resveratrol in the grapes’ skins, which inhibits inflammation and may even help to fight cancer. Eating grapes – and not drinking them – also adds fiber to the grapes’ benefits and eliminates any added sugar.
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Walnuts contain the “plant version” of omega-3 fatty acids, a substance known as ALA, which reduces inflammation in the body. In a 2004 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, scientists found that people who ate at least 2.3 ounces of walnuts and flaxseed (which also contains ALA) daily had reduced levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP), a major indicator of a person’s risk for heart disease.
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Broccoli is a virtual disease fighter, rich in such healthy compounds as beta-carotene, vitamin B folate, vitamin C, and the inflammation-fighting flavanoid kaempferol. Broccoli also contains sulforaphane, which experts say helps the body cleanse itself of cancer-causing compounds.