COLUMN: Laurann O’Reilly’s 19 best anti-inflammatory foods – everything you need to know…
Inflammation is a natural progress that our body goes through, but did you know that some common, everyday foods have natural medicinal and anti-inflammatory properties?
Here, nutritionist Laurann O’Reilly and owner of Nutrition By Laurann, walks us through inflammation and her top natural anti-inflammatory foods.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a normal immune response that can result from acute injury, unhealthy lifestyle factors, and your body’s natural way of protecting itself when you’re injured or sick.
Inflammation can appear for a variety of reasons, but its main purpose is to help your body defend itself against disease and stimulate healing.
When inflammation occurs, your body is alerted that there is an injury or infection.
However, not all inflammation is the same.
Acute inflammation: The response to sudden bodily harm, such as cutting your finger. To heal the cut, your body sends inflammatory cells to the wound. These cells begin the healing process.
Chronic inflammation: Your body continues to send out inflammatory cells even when there is no external danger, as is the case in rheumatoid arthritis, some cases of heart disease and diabetes.
How food plays a role in reducing inflammation: There are a number of foods that can exacerbate inflammation while other foods can play a key role in preventing it due to their healing and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s always best to include a variety of these ingredients in the diet to provide the best array of vitamins, minerals, and anti-inflammatory benefits (see My Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods below).
What foods to avoid: Certain foods can cause inflammation in the body, for example sugar, cheaper vegetable oils (trans fats), processed foods and excess alcohol.
My top anti-inflammatory foods: Here is a range of nutritious foods that have anti-inflammatory properties and may be protective, in no particular order.
1) Turmeric: Contains the active compound curcumin, a powerful antioxidant that can protect our cells from damage, while boosting our own body’s natural antioxidants. Also having tremendous anti-inflammatory properties, it has proven useful for pain management. Interestingly, black pepper has been proven to improve the absorption of curcumin. A study published in the journal Food revealed that “piperine” (the main active component of black pepper), when combined in a complex with curcumin, increases bioavailability by 2000%. Tip: why not add turmeric and black pepper to your curries or in a smoothie for a real health boost. Curcumin is also available in supplement form.
2) Ginger: Containing the active compound gingerol, it has many healing properties which include anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities, as well as a small amount of analgesic (pain relief) effects. Tip: why not try adding a few teaspoons of ginger to your food in a curry, smoothie or take it as a supplement.
3) Cinnamon: In addition to helping stabilize blood sugar levels, cinnamon is also antibacterial, antifungal, and a powerful antioxidant. Studies have shown that there are several compounds in cinnamon that have anti-inflammatory properties and may have potential in treating or preventing inflammatory-mediated neurodegenerative diseases.
4) Peppers: Not only are they loaded with vitamin C, but they also contain the antioxidant quercetin, which can reduce inflammation associated with chronic disease. Similar to hot peppers, sweet peppers also contain the chemical compound capsaicin, which is also known to help reduce inflammation and potentially even pain.
5) Garlic: Contains the active compound called allicin (which gives garlic its odor). It has many benefits, both antifungal and antibacterial, as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
6) Onions: Packed with vitamins and minerals, containing 25 different types of antioxidants in addition to being anti-inflammatory. Garlic and onions both contain a substance called “diallyl disulfide” which is a natural anti-inflammatory compound. Tip: Since garlic and onions are both very nutritious and versatile, why not find ways to incorporate both ingredients into your meals?
7) Fatty fish: such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, kippers, sardines and herring are naturally loaded with DHA and EPA omega 3 fatty acids, which are key nutrients that help control fat. chronic inflammation. Tip: Aim for 2-3 servings of oily fish per week.
8) Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Contains many phenolic compounds that provide major anti-inflammatory benefits. A particular phenolic compound found in “oleocanthal” virgin olive oil is said to contain anti-inflammatory properties similar to those of ibuprofen. Tip: Use extra virgin olive oil as a cooking fat, drizzle it over your cooked vegetables, or combine it with apple cider vinegar for an easy dressing.
9) Pineapple: Loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, it also contains bromelain, a digestive enzyme ideal for digesting food, especially meat protein. Bromelain is also an anti-inflammatory that influences your body’s ability to fight pain and reduce swelling. As a result, it is commonly used as a treatment for inflammation and sports injuries and may be effective in reducing symptoms of osteoarthritis.
10) Grapes: Not only are grapes a good source of fiber, potassium, and a range of vitamins and other minerals, they contain anthocyanins, which reduce inflammation.
11) Berries: such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, they contain antioxidants called “anthocyanins” which have anti-inflammatory effects. Tip: why not add it to your breakfast, yogurts or on its own as a healthy snack.
12) Cherries: Not only are they delicious, but they are rich in antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and catechins, which decrease inflammation. In particular, sweet and tart cherries have been found to reduce pain caused by arthritis and post-exercise soreness.
13) Nuts: A great source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, nuts also contain a unique fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. This healthy fat is an omega-3 fatty acid that has anti-inflammatory properties, making it the perfect nut to add to your meals. Tip: Nuts can be used as a topping for your cereal, in yogurt, tossed into a salad, or simply eaten on their own.
14) Beetroot: In addition to an array of vitamins and minerals that beetroot naturally contains, it is also packed with anti-inflammatory phytochemicals called “betalains.” Tip: Why not try roasted beetroot, add it to salads or a smoothie.
15) Green Tea: Many of its benefits are due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, especially a substance called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) which helps inhibit inflammation, protecting your cells from damage. Tip: why not replace your usual tea with a cup of nutritious green tea, it also contains less caffeine!
16) Mushrooms: For thousands of years, mushrooms have been widely used, due to their nutritional and medicinal value. They contain fatty acids, carotenoids, vitamins, phenols and other antioxidants that provide anti-inflammatory protection.
17) Tomatoes: Not only are they rich in vitamin C and potassium, but they also contain “lycopene”, an antioxidant with powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
18) Broccoli: Are rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that decreases inflammation by reducing molecules that cause inflammation in your body. Tip: It’s not just a nutritious vegetable to add to your dinner or salads, but why not juice it.
19) Kale and Spinach: Not only does it contain vitamins K and C, in heart-healthy flavonoids, which are packed with anti-inflammatory properties.
1 cup frozen banana
1 ½ cups frozen mango
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup of yogurt
1 cup milk
Mix all the ingredients, serve and enjoy!
Laurann O’Reilly is a qualified and experienced nutritionist with a BSc. Diploma in Human Nutrition from the University of Nottingham and Masters in Public Health Nutrition from University College Dublin.