Dark Chocolate and 4 Other Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Inflammation is a hot topic, said to be the possible root cause of many chronic conditions, so what exactly is inflammation and how can we keep it to a healthy level?

February 28, 2014

Inflammation is a hot topic, said to be the possible root cause of many chronic conditions, so what exactly is inflammation and how can we keep it to a healthy level? Inflammation is a natural part of the body's immune response; it is not entirely a bad thing. It signals to the body that there is an injury or an area that needs care and protection. However, sometimes inflammation can become self-perpetuating if we don’t have the correct balance of nutrients, and more inflammation is created in response to the existing inflammation. When inflammation is chronic (long-term), it can lead to several disease states, including some cancers, atherosclerosis, autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis or lupus, and arthritis. Dietary improvements including more anti-inflammatory foods can be a natural way to manage some symptoms of chronic inflammation.

Here are SupermarketGuru’s five favorite foods (and categories) rich with anti-inflammatory properties:

First up, berries. Cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, black and blueberries are rich in antioxidants, their dark purple and red coloring are a sure sign. Their color comes from anthocyanins or plant pigments that have demonstrated the potential to prevent cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders, and inflammation from arthritis and gout in lab studies.

Cherries, tart cherries, in particular are known as powerful anti-inflammatory foods. The flavonoid and carotenoid phytonutrients in cherries have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A study conducted at UC Davis found that regular consumption of cherries (for approximately a month) produced a decrease in markers of inflammation in blood. Observation included a 25 percent reduction in C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation potentially associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Researchers from Oregon Health and Science University found that tart cherries may be beneficial for those with inflammatory osteoarthritis, helping manage pain more effectively.

Omega-3 rich foods such as oily fish, flax seeds and walnuts are powerful inflammation fighters. Omega-3 fatty acids alleviate inflammation and can even block inflammatory pathways. According to Dr. Weil, omega-3’s also suppress 40 to 55 percent of the release of cytokines, immune system molecules known to destroy joints and cause inflammation. Other benefits of flax include fiber and phytochemicals such as lignans. Diets rich in plant lignans (found in whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes and more) have been associated with reductions in risk of cardiovascular disease.

Spices! Specifically spicing up meals with cayenne, ginger, and turmeric. Cayenne pepper contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and protects our cells where they need it the most, in the nucleus. Cayenne pepper is also thought to be beneficial in relieving arthritis and back pain.  Ginger is another powerful anti-inflammatory known to reduce pain. Gingerols offer free radical protection and have been shown to reduce discomfort and swelling related to arthritis. Lastly turmeric, also a plant of the ginger family, contains the powerful curcurmin, and may have a positive effect on the mechanisms that cause inflammation and pain.

Dark chocolate and more! Some other beneficial anti-inflammatory foods for your shopping list: green tea, and dark green veggies, pomegranates and yes, dark chocolate. Choosing vibrantly colored foods is a sure way to get your antioxidants and have a healthy inflammatory response.

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