Do you want to keep inflammation at bay? Protect yourself against harmful toxins? Here are just 16 top go-to foods to get you on your way!
If you have ever purchased a food or beverage labeled “antioxidant rich” or “anti-inflammatory” you wouldn’t be alone if you have wondered what it means.
The truth is antioxidants only became popular in the 1990s by the public. It was during this time when researchers were starting to understand the reasoning behind the early stages of cancer, artery-clogging atherosclerosis, vision loss, and other closely related chronic conditions caused by free radicals.
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants[A] are basically vitamins and other nutrients found in plant-based foods like vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes that slow or prevent damage to the cells in your body caused by free radicals. They are not substances themselves but refer to a chemical property displayed by hundreds of different, and non-interchangeable, substances.
Many of these you may already know about such as vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and selenium. Some that are less familiar include polyphenols, flavonoids, glutathione, lipoic acid, and so on.
Most antioxidants happen naturally and exist in foods to prohibit oxidation and to protect you from harmful toxins in the environment.
What are free radicals?
Free radicals are broken-down molecules that occur through normal metabolism and exposure to certain chemicals such as tobacco or radiation. They can cause inflammation to your body and do harm, increasing your risk of disease and other illnesses.
I want to point out that inflammation is a normal part of your body’s immune defense. For instance, acute inflammation can happen after an injury and include bruising or swelling that will heal over time. However, if that immune response and inflammation becomes chronic, it can lead to serious health problems such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, and even Alzheimer’s.
What can you do?
You can help your body to fight inflammation by limiting yourself to certain inflammatory-causing foods such as added sugar, processed meat, and saturated fats. But you should also look at what you SHOULD be eating.
Here are some of the top antioxidant rich and inflammatory foods to stock in your kitchen:
1. Berries: Raspberries and strawberries both contain the antioxidant ellagic acid. Research[B] shows it makes cancer-causing molecules inactive and stop tumors from growing. In addition, all berries, especially blueberries, contain important vitamins and antioxidants known as flavonoids that fight inflammation; They have special chemicals that control your immune system, reducing chronic inflammation.
2. Burdock root: Burdock root has been used for centuries as medicine and food in many ways. It contains some inti-inflammatory properties to treat skin conditions such as eczema and acne. It is also rich in antioxidants to help reduce chronic inflammation in the body. One study[C] showed that burdock root reduced inflammation in people suffering from osteoarthritis in the knee.
3. Artichoke Hearts: Artichoke hearts are full of polyphenols and are one of the most antioxidant-rich vegetables you can eat! They help fight oxidation that can cause chronic disease and aging.
4. Apples: “An apple a day, keeps inflammation at bay!” Apples contain fiber, pectin, vitamin C, and polyphenols and reduce the risk of inflammation in your body. They are widely consumed and the second-largest contributor to an antioxidant Western diet. Apples not only reduce inflammation, but also help to manage blood pressure.
5. Cinnamon Tea: Cinnamon tea is loaded with antioxidants that fight oxidation caused by free radicals. It is also rich in polyphenol antioxidant content. One study[D] showed that Sri Lankan cinnamon is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory foods.
6. Kidney Beans: Kidney beans as well as other beans are rich sources of antioxidants. The skin of kidney beans contains the antioxidant anthocyanin, which gives them their red coloring and has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
7. Honey: Raw honey has a high level of antioxidants. They have more than 30 different polyphenols, 22 amino acids, and a huge array of vitamins and minerals. All which combat inflammation. However, regular honey goes through pasteurization which kills most of these powerful phytonutrients.
8. Spices: Spices not only deliver incredible flavor, but they also are incredible sources of antioxidants. According to a study published in Nutrition Journal, cloves - dried and ground - are at the top of the list for their antioxidant value, followed by peppermint, allspice, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, saffron, and tarragon.
9. Shiitake Mushrooms: Mushrooms are surprisingly high in antioxidants and are one of the best sources of selenium which is an important mineral with potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Shiitake mushrooms are rich in several polysaccharides, the amplest carbohydrate found in food, that have been linked with diminishing inflammation and assisting with immune function.
10. Walnuts: Out of all the nuts, walnuts are the top-choice for reducing inflammation. They contain a high concentration of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid that is known for its potent anti-inflammatory effects. One study[E] published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that a daily consumption of walnuts decreased the concentration of several inflammatory biomarkers and is recommended for lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease.
11. Pumpkin Seeds: All seeds are associated with a reduce in inflammation. However, pumpkin seeds have an excellent source of protein, fiber, and antioxidants like vitamin E and carotenoids.
12. Turmeric: This is the spice credited to giving curry its yellow color. It contains a powerful compound known as curcumin, a polyphenol with vital anti-inflammatory benefits. You can add this golden spice to your coffee or latte, soups, dressings, and grain bowls, just to name a few.
13. Tofu: Soy foods, including tofu, contain potent plant compounds known as isoflavones. These compounds have a known anti-inflammatory effect. Tofu also contains amino acids, fiber, manganese, and other mineral content making it an excellent source of complete plant protein.
14. Sumac: Ground sumac is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory spices. It is loaded with antioxidants and can neutralize free radicals. Studies show that people with type 2 diabetes who had a daily intake of sumac for three months lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease.
15. Sprouted Grains: Sprouted grains have an extra anti-inflammatory effect over regular grain products. The sprouting process seems to increase certain antioxidants such as flavonoids by as much as 200 percent in one trial, and also increases vitamin C and manganese.
16. Onions: Just like their family member garlic, onions are incredibly nutritious. They are rich in several types of antioxidants that have been proven to have vital anti-inflammatory properties.
Stocking your kitchen with these 16 anti-inflammatory foods can help you to decrease inflammation and combat harmful toxins in your body while lowering your chances of heart disease and other serious diseases.
Isabella Boston is a multi-talented writer and the founder of Bella’s Attic Studio. She is well-versed in content writing, copywriting, and social media strategies with a focus on health and wellness, fashion and beauty, and natural healing as it pertains to the body, mind, and the soul. She is also a romance writer and the author of Passion of Flames.
[A] Benton, E., Clancy, N., Eidelstein, A., Fisher, L., & Gold, B. (2023, June). How to stock your kitchen. Real Simple, Special Edition(Anti-Inflammation). [B] Zhang, H.-M., Zhao, L., Li, H., Xu, H., Chen, W.-W., & Tao, L. (2014, June). Research progress on the anticarcinogenic actions and mechanisms of ellagic acid. Cancer biology & medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4069806/ [C] Maghsoumi-Norouzabad L;Alipoor B;Abed R;Eftekhar Sadat B;Mesgari-Abbasi M;Asghari Jafarabadi M; (n.d.). Effects of Arctium Lappa L. (burdock) root tea on inflammatory status and oxidative stress in patients with knee osteoarthritis. International journal of rheumatic diseases. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25350500/ [D] Gunawardena D;Karunaweera N;Lee S;van Der Kooy F;Harman DG;Raju R;Bennett L;Gyengesi E;Sucher NJ;Münch G; (n.d.). Anti-inflammatory activity of cinnamon (C. Zeylanicum and C. Cassia) extracts - identification of e-cinnamaldehyde and O-methoxy cinnamaldehyde as the most potent bioactive compounds. Food & function. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25629927/ [E] Effects of 2-year walnut-supplemented diet on inflammatory biomarkers. (n.d.). https://www.jacc.org/doi/10.1016/j.jacc.2020.07.071