Printable List of Anti-Inflammatory Foods List & Free PDF

An anti inflammatory diet is foundational to your health. This approach to eating chooses foods based on their abilities to fight inflammation, having a positive impact upon many disease processes by nourishing your body while squelching inflammation. And fortunately, an anti inflammatory diet complements most health treatment plans well.

If you aren’t sure where to start, you’re in the right place! As a Registered Dietitian, I’m here to help you map out your anti inflammatory diet goals. I see inflammation playing a role in disease every day, and the science shows that eating anti inflammatory foods can turn inflammation around. Because this is such an important area everyone needs to know about, I’ve decided to make this free downloadable PDF guide to kickstart your anti-inflammatory diet!

This post has everything you need to get started. You may simply print it off, or you can get a free Anti Inflammatory Foods List in PDF format to keep things tidy and take along on your next grocery trip. Use it to plan meals and make your next grocery order easier! The PDF has the same information as you find in this post.

Read on to discover more about how eating anti-inflammatory foods can help transform your well-being.

This article is for educational purposes only. It is recommended to check with your doctor, dietitian, or healthcare professional for personalized medical advice and recommendations. If you are interested in nutrition services with a Registered Dietitian, click here.

Understanding Inflammation

Inflammation is a natural response by your body to fight off infections and repair damage. However, when it becomes chronic and systemic, it can lead to a range of health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune conditions. Anti-inflammatory foods help address chronic inflammation and promote overall health.

Foods we eat play a big role in how our body reacts to inflammation, and often whether or not it is even inflamed in the first place. If we eat more pro-inflammatory foods and not enough anti-inflammatory foods, inflammation can persist in the body, and give rise to disease as inflammation impacts our body.

Additionally, some foods may injure tissues of the body. For example, foods that contribute to high blood pressure or high blood sugar damage our artery tissues, and as the body creates inflammation in an effort to heal the damaged tissues, this can create the chronic inflammation that leads to heart disease.

Acute vs Chronic Inflammation

Acute inflammation may last hours to days, whereas chronic inflammation may persist for months or even years, during which time disease is created. Acute inflammation generally is helpful in a wound healing process, clotting broken skin so we don’t keep bleeding, and bringing infection fighting white blood cells to the area. But chronic inflammation can happen when the root cause of inflammation is not addressed (like high blood pressure or high blood sugar), when there are not enough antioxidants in our diet, if we do not have a good balance of anti inflammatory fats, or when our gut health isn’t in a good place.

An anti-inflammatory diet helps mitigate inflammation but quelling inflammation in the body. And as your body undergoes an inflammatory response that is a necessary part of any wound, illness, or other health challenge, an anti inflammatory diet will fuel your immune system with the substrate and materials it needs to resolve the inflammation easily when it needs to.

The Building Blocks of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

You’ve heard it before, we are what we eat. And this is the power of the anti inflammatory diet. No matter what your situation may be, your diet can help you meet any health challenges armed with the power of phytonutrients, antioxidants, and the myriad of compounds and fibers that make you resilient against whatever life throws at you.

As far as “branded” diet names, there are a number of anti inflammatory style diets out there you may have heard of. The approach of each of these diets varies to some degree. For example, the Mediterranean Diet has many foods that are themselves anti-inflammatory in the compounds and types of substrate they provide to the diet.

A DASH Diet adds in an emphasis on lower sodium and sugar as a means of impacting blood pressure and blood sugar levels, two things that if uncontrolled, will cause inflammation in the body via damage to blood vessels.

The elimination diet approaches aim to address possible food sensitivities that can occur in the setting of a damaged gut barrier, something many of us are quite possibly walking around with without even realizing it.

  • Mediterranean Diet:
    • Focuses on whole, plant-based foods, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
    • Emphasizes olive oil, fish, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
    • Reduces processed foods, red meat, and refined sugars.
    • Linked to lower inflammation due to its high antioxidant content and healthy fats.
  • DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension):
    • Primarily designed to reduce blood pressure.
    • Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy.
    • Encourages whole grains, nuts, seeds, and limits red meat, sodium, and sugary foods.
    • High in anti-inflammatory foods like fruits and vegetables.
  • Blue Zone Diets:
    • Refers to dietary patterns of populations in regions with high longevity rates.
    • Focuses on whole foods, plant-based diets, and includes moderate amounts of lean protein.
    • Primarily emphasizes legumes, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
    • Encourages minimal processed foods and moderate alcohol intake.
  • Whole 30 Diet:
    • A short-term diet aimed at resetting the body and identifying potential food sensitivities.
    • Eliminates added sugars, alcohol, grains, legumes, and dairy for 30 days.
    • Focuses on whole, unprocessed foods, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, and lean meats.
    • Serves as an elimination diet to identify potential triggers for inflammation.
  • Elimination Diets:
    • Tailored diets aimed at identifying and eliminating specific food triggers causing inflammation or allergic reactions.
    • Involves the systematic elimination of potential allergens or inflammatory foods for a certain period.
    • Common triggers eliminated may include dairy, gluten, soy, nuts, shellfish, or specific fruits and vegetables.
    • The reintroduction phase helps identify individual sensitivities or triggers for inflammation.
    • *For a more individualized approach to the elimination diet, consider testing. You can read more about how an elimination diet vs testing for a customized elimination diet here. To arrange for the delivery of your test, contact us.

These are great diets to explore for more information or guidance for recipes. However, it is helpful to learn more about what makes foods inflammatory or anti-inflammatory as this can provide flexibility in your approach to your day to day food choices. Let’s explore food groups, macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates), and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to get a better understanding of what each of the categories of foods has to offer in the way of anti-inflammatory foods, and where things can go wrong.

Fruits and Vegetables:

These plant foods are some of your best friends in the fight against inflammation. They are packed with antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fibers that help quell the inflammatory response and support beneficial gut bacteria that in turn support our immune function.

You hear of antioxidants frequently, but if it were just the antioxidants in plant foods that helped us, research on supplementing with individual antioxidants would be more effective. In fact, foods are an elaborate matrix of fibers and compounds that biologically interact with the body with the sophistication of a divinely orchestrated symphony. The antioxidants in plant foods along with a wide array of beneficial plant compounds interact with each other to curb inflammation.

Beneficial Plant Compounds

Below is a table showing just some of the compounds found in anti inflammatory foods to give you an idea of what is known about in scientific studies of plant foods. Add these foods to your grocery shopping list!

CompoundsFood SourcesAnti-Inflammatory Benefits
AnthocyaninsBerries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)Reduce inflammation, support brain health, improve cardiovascular health
QuercetinApples, onions, grapes, citrus fruits, broccoliReduce inflammation, support immune function
CurcuminTurmericPowerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, potential for pain relief
LycopeneTomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruitReduce inflammation, protect against oxidative stress
ResveratrolGrapes, red wineAnti-inflammatory, antioxidant, support heart health
SulforaphaneCruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts)Reduce inflammation, support detoxification
GingerolGingerAnti-inflammatory, potential pain relief, support digestive health
Beta-caroteneCarrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kaleAnti-inflammatory, support immune function, promote skin health
*Please note that this table only represents a selection of the anti-inflammatory compounds found in fruits and vegetables. There are many more beneficial compounds that contribute to their anti-inflammatory properties.
Brassica/Cruciferous & Other Plant Families

Another way I like to think of getting a good variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet, other than ‘eat the rainbow’, is to make sure you are eating foods from each horticultural class of plant foods. This way, you can ensure that you are getting the compounds unique to each of these classes!

Class/FamilyPhytochemicalsPossible Health BenefitsExamples of Fruits and Vegetables
BrassicaGlucosinolates, Sulforaphane, Indole-3-carbinolAnti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Cancer preventionBroccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage
SolanaceaCapsaicin, Lycopene, AnthocyaninsHeart health, Anti-cancer, Anti-inflammatoryTomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant
CucurbitaceaeCarotenoids, CucurbitacinImmune support, Eye health, HydrationCucumber, Squash, Melons
LiliaceaeAllicin, Flavonoids, SulfidesHeart health, Immune support, DetoxificationGarlic, Onion, Leeks
UmbelliferaeApigenin, Quercetin, FuranocoumarinsDigestive health, Anti-inflammatory, AntioxidantCarrots, Celery, Parsley
ChenopodiaceaeBetalains, Flavonoids, NitrateBlood pressure regulation, Anti-inflammatorySpinach, Swiss Chard, Beets
LeguminosaeIsoflavones, Saponins, Resistant StarchProtein source, Heart health, Digestive healthBeans, Peas, Lentils
AsteraceaeLutein, Inulin, Sesquiterpene LactonesEye health, Digestive health, Anti-inflammatoryLettuce, Sunflower, Artichoke

These different fruit and vegetable classes offer a diverse array of phytochemicals that contribute to various health benefits. Including them in a balanced diet can support overall wellness and promote a healthy lifestyle.

Healthy Fats:

Gone are the days of non-fat diets. Fats are made up of different types of fatty acids, and different fat sources have different fatty acids. Fatty acids in meats can even vary depending on the diet of the animal! Makes sense as you are what you eat, and you are what what you eat eats, too (as Michael Pollan has said). Opt for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish. These fats help reduce inflammation and support heart health.

Be careful if you plan to get all of your omega-3’s from flax, chia, and walnuts. For more information about this, read my article “Unlocking the Health Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids.”

For quick reference, here’s a table showing the omega-3 to omega-6 ratios for common oils, ranking the oils from lowest to highest ratio:

Oil TypeOmega-3 to Omega-6 Ratio
Flaxseed Oil4:1
Chia Seed Oil3:1
Hemp Seed Oil3:1
Perilla Oil1:3
Walnut Oil1:4
Avocado Oil1:13
Canola Oil1:2.5 – 1:6
Olive Oil1:13 – 1:21
Soybean Oil1:7 – 1:16
Sunflower Oil1:55 – 1:76
Corn Oil1:83 – 1:266

These ratios provide insight into the balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in different oils, helping you make informed choices for your dietary needs. Keep in mind that these ratios are approximate and can vary depending on factors such as the source and processing methods.

Healthy FatsFood Sources
Monounsaturated FatsOlive oil, avocados, nuts (almonds, pistachios, cashews), seeds (chia seeds, flaxseeds)
Polyunsaturated FatsFatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), walnuts, sunflower seeds, soybean oil
Omega-3 Fatty AcidsFatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts
Omega-6 Fatty AcidsSunflower oil, safflower oil, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds

Including these healthy fats in your diet can support your overall health and reduce inflammation. Remember to consume them in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

Unhealthy fats are those that contain more omega 6 fatty acids, though fried foods, trans fats either from fried foods or those added by food manufacturers, and too much saturated fat are also more proinflammatory.

Below is a table of unhealthy fats that should be limited or avoided in your diet:

Unhealthy FatsSources
Trans FatsFried foods, processed snacks, baked goods
Saturated FatsHigh-fat meats, full-fat dairy products, tropical oils (coconut oil, palm oil)
Hydrogenated OilsMargarine, shortening, some packaged and processed foods
Partially Hydrogenated OilsSome margarine, fried foods, processed snacks
Highly Processed Vegetable OilsCorn oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil

It’s important to limit your intake of these unhealthy fats as they have been associated with increased inflammation and an increased risk of heart disease. Instead, choose healthier fat options, such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats found in foods like olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish.

What’s Up With Saturated Fat?

We’ve all grown up being told to avoid saturated fat. It has been linked to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and inflammation. It’s the inflammation that isn’t being talked about. The real key to why this type of fat can be so bad for us is not what you are probably thinking. We’ve been told that fat clogs the arteries, but going back to root causes, it is deeper than that.

Saturated fat increases something called LPS (lipopolysaccharides, the membranes of bacteria). The immune system is set off with LPS, stirring up an inflammatory process.

If you simultaneously have high blood sugar or high blood pressure damaging the walls of the vascular system, there will already be an inflammatory process happening there, as your body tries to repair this damage, much the way it does if you are cut somewhere on your skin. However, in the case of perpetual high blood pressure, uncontrolled blood sugar, and ongoing high saturated fat intake, you are just throwing fuel on a fire. Fats then become oxidised, contributing to the problem further.

Whole Grains

Fiber-rich whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, barely, or farro help to feed a healthy microbiome (the bacteria of your gut), keep inflammation in check, and maintain stable blood sugar levels.

Trendy ultra low carb diets often omit whole grains, but this can be bad news for healthy gut bacteria who enjoy eating fiber from theses grains. Balance is key. We are not saying it is wise to fill up on a bowl of pasta or rice, but rather to choose whole grains over their processed counterparts and have portions that are a part of a balanced meal.

Here’s a table of alternative whole grains that you can include in your anti-inflammatory diet:

Instead ofEat This
White RiceBrown Rice
White BreadWhole Wheat Bread
White PastaWhole Wheat Pasta
CouscousQuinoa
White FlourWhole Wheat Flour
CornmealBarley
FarinaSteel-Cut Oats
Refined CerealWhole Grain Cereal
White TortillasWhole Wheat Tortillas
White BagelsWhole Grain Bagels

These alternative whole grains are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and they can help support a healthy gut, regulate blood sugar levels, and reduce inflammation in the body. Remember to choose these options over their refined counterparts to maximize their anti-inflammatory benefits.

Lean Proteins From Grass Fed, Pasture Raised, and Wild Animal Products

Choose lean sources of protein like chicken, turkey, and plant-based options such as legumes and tofu. Protein is crucial for repairing tissues and maintaining a healthy immune system. Take your anti inflammatory diet to the next level by choosing grass fed, pasture raised, and wild animal products over those from hellacious feedlots where animals are basically tortured and fed the cheapest crap possible.

Animals that are raised on grass will have a much higher proportion of the anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids in comparison to omega 6 fatty acid. Those animals raised on more typical feedlots consume corn and soy as the basis of their diet which is very high in omega 6 fatty acid. Too much omega 6 fatty acid in the diet perpetuates inflammation, as our cell membranes end up having a large amount of omega 6 fatty acid as a result of the fatty acids in our diet.

This means that whenever the body has any sort of normal inflammatory response to injury, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, stress, etc, it will create a heightened inflammatory response and have a harder time resolving normally due to a lack of adequate omega 3 in the diet. For more information about this, see my article about omega 3 fatty acids. To really know where you stand with your fatty acid intake, consider testing your fatty acids with this easy and affordable at home fatty acid test.

Vegan or Vegetarian?

One of the perks of eating animal proteins is that they contain all of the essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. However, some plant based foods do have all of the essential amino acids. Quinoa, buckwheat, hempseed, blue-green algae, and soybeans are some examples of foods with all of the essential amino acids. Though these foods do have all of the essential amino acids, they are rather low in them, and it would be awkward to eat enough of these foods to reach the amounts of protein from meats.

Fortunately, foods can be combined or at least eaten frequently in the diet overall to provide all of the essential amino acids. Beans and grains pair well together in that they each contain some of the essential amino acids that the other might lack. Specifically, beans are typically lower in the amino acid methionine but higher in lysine, whole grains are lower in lysine but higher in methionine.

Some examples of beans include lentils, black beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas. Grains like rice, wheat, and corn can complement these beans, creating a more balanced amino acid profile when consumed together.

So combining beans and grains at a meal results in a “complete protein”, which is a phrase often used to describe foods with all of the essential amino acids.

Combining beans with grains doesn’t necessarily have to occur in the same meal; the body is capable of storing and utilizing amino acids over the course of a day. So, as long as you consume a variety of beans and grains regularly, your body will get all the essential amino acids it needs for protein synthesis (as amino acids are the building blocks of proteins).

Here are some examples of food combinations that give you “complete proteins”:

Food CombinationsEssential Amino Acids Provided
Beans and Rice
(Whole grains with beans)
– Methionine (from rice)
– Lysine (from beans)
Peanut Butter on Whole Wheat Bread
(Nuts or seeds with whole grains)
– Methionine (from wheat)
– Lysine (from peanuts)
Hummus with Whole Wheat Pita– Methionine (from wheat)
– Lysine (from chickpeas in hummus)
Lentil Soup with Whole Wheat Bread
(bean-based chili and crackers)
– Methionine (from wheat)
– Lysine (from lentils and wheat)
Refried beans and tortillas– Lysine (from beans)
– Methionine (from corn)
Quinoa Salad with Black Beans– Methionine (from quinoa)
– Lysine (from black beans and quinoa)
Chickpea and Spinach Curry with Brown Rice– Methionine (from rice)
– Lysine (from chickpeas and brown rice)
Chia Pudding with Almonds– Methionine (from almonds)
– Lysine (from chia seeds and almonds)

By combining various plant-based protein sources as shown in this chart, vegans can ensure they obtain all the essential amino acids needed for optimal health. Remember to eat a diverse range of foods to cover all essential amino acids and enjoy a balanced, nutritious vegan diet.

Herbs and Spices

Even adding the most basic herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, and garlic to the meals you prepare can enhance the anti-inflammatory activity of your meals. Herbs and spices are, after all, plants in smaller but more potent quantities, as you can tell by their strong flavors and aromas. They contain anti-inflammatory compounds that add a delicious, health-boosting punch to your meals. Herbs and spices are super potent plant power foods.

Herb/SpicePotential Health Benefits
Turmeric– Powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
– May help manage arthritis and reduce joint pain
– Potential for reducing symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases
Ginger– Known for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects
– May help reduce muscle pain and osteoarthritis symptoms
– Supports digestive health
Cinnamon– Exhibits antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
– May help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation associated with diabetes
Rosemary– Contains anti-inflammatory compounds that may reduce inflammation and oxidative stress
– Supports cognitive function and memory
Oregano– Rich in antioxidants that help combat inflammation and protect cells from damage
– Potential antibacterial properties
Basil– Contains compounds like eugenol with anti-inflammatory properties
– May help reduce inflammation related to chronic conditions
Thyme– Contains thymol, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects
– May help reduce oxidative stress
Cayenne Pepper– Contains capsaicin, which may help relieve pain and inflammation when applied topically
– May boost metabolism and aid digestion
Cloves– Rich in antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation and protect against chronic diseases
– Potential pain-relieving properties
Garlic– Known for its anti-inflammatory effects and ability to support the immune system
– May help reduce inflammation related to cardiovascular health
Coriander– Contains anti-inflammatory compounds that may help reduce symptoms of arthritis
– Supports digestion

These herbs and spices can be incorporated into your cooking to add flavor while also providing potential health benefits due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Here are some ways to use these in your diet:

Spice/HerbWays to Incorporate into Diet
Turmeric– Golden milk (turmeric latte)
– Add to curries, stews, or soups for color and flavor
– Blend into smoothies or juices for a nutritional boost
Ginger– Brew as tea or add to hot water with lemon for a refreshing drink
– Grate fresh ginger into stir-fries, marinades, or salad dressings
– Incorporate into baked goods like cookies, cakes, or breads
Cinnamon– Sprinkle onto oatmeal, yogurt, or fruit for added sweetness and warmth
– Mix into coffee, tea, or hot chocolate for a cozy flavor
– Use in baking, such as apple pies, muffins, and cinnamon rolls
Rosemary– Infuse into olive oil for drizzling on salads or roasted vegetables
– Add to marinades for meats, fish, or poultry
– Include in homemade bread or focaccia for aromatic flavor
Oregano– Sprinkle over pizzas, pastas, or tomato-based sauces
– Use in salad dressings or vinaigrettes for an herby touch
– Flavor roasted vegetables or grilled meats with oregano
Basil– Add to Caprese salads, pasta dishes, or bruschetta
– Blend into pesto sauce for pasta or as a spread on bread
– Enhance soups, sauces, or omelets with fresh basil leaves
Thyme– Use in roasted dishes like chicken, potatoes, or vegetables
– Infuse into honey for a unique sweet and savory twist
– Sprinkle over scrambled eggs or frittatas for added flavor
Cayenne Pepper– Add a pinch to spice up marinades, salsas, or guacamole
– Incorporate into chili, soups, or bean dishes for a heat kick
– Blend into chocolate desserts for a spicy-sweet combination
Cloves– Use in baking for gingerbread, pumpkin pie, or mulled cider
– Infuse into hot beverages like teas or spiced drinks
– Include in savory dishes such as stews, curries, or braised meats
Garlic– Roast whole garlic bulbs for a spread or as a side dish
– Use minced in virtually any savory dish for added depth of flavor
– Sauté with vegetables, meats, or seafood for aromatic enhancement
Peppermint– Brew as a refreshing herbal tea or iced beverage
– Chop fresh leaves into fruit salads, yogurt, or cocktails
– Blend into smoothies or desserts for a cooling minty flavor
Green Tea– Brew as a traditional beverage for its antioxidant benefits
– Use as a base for marinades, adding subtle tea-infused flavor
– Incorporate into desserts like ice creams, cakes, or puddings
Chamomile– Steep as a calming tea for relaxation and improved sleep
– Mix into hot water with honey and lemon for a soothing drink
– Infuse into syrups or salad dressings for a delicate floral note
Coriander– Use ground coriander in curry powders, rubs, or spice blends
– Add fresh leaves to salads, salsas, or garnish dishes
– Mix into marinades or sauces for a citrusy, herbal touch

Incorporating these spices and herbs into various dishes and beverages can enhance flavors and offer potential health benefits due to their unique properties. Experimenting with these options can add diversity and richness to everyday meals.

Teas

Consider replacing one of your daily beverages with one of these anti-inflammatory teas to up your overall anti-inflammatory diet game!

PeppermintContains menthol, which can provide relief for headaches and muscle pain May soothe digestive discomfort
Green TeaRich in catechins with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties Supports overall health and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases
ChamomileKnown for its calming and anti-inflammatory effects May help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and promote better sleep
Holy Basil/TulsiEugenol, ursolic acid, and other bioactive compounds in holy basil contribute to its anti-inflammatory effects
Rooibos TeaContains antioxidants like aspalathin and nothofagin, which may help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body

Vitamins and Minerals of Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Certain vitamins and minerals are know to play pivotal roles in mitigating inflammation, supporting the body’s defense mechanisms, and promoting overall health. Generally, foods that have not been processed (think an apple instead of apple juice or beet instead of beet sugar) will have the most vitamins and minerals, as nothing has been stripped away from the whole food.

1. Vitamin D:

Vitamin D is not just vital for bone health; it also possesses anti-inflammatory properties. It helps regulate the immune system by modulating the production of cytokines, proteins that act as messengers in the immune response. Having adequate levels of vitamin D is essential to your most basic and early response to bacterial or viral infection, for example. Research also suggests that adequate levels of vitamin D may decrease inflammation and potentially lower the risk of chronic inflammatory diseases.

While our bodies can produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, certain foods also contain this essential vitamin. Here are some food sources of vitamin D:

  • Fatty Fish:
    • Salmon: Wild-caught salmon is a fantastic source of vitamin D. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked salmon can provide around 570 IU (International Units) of vitamin D.
    • Mackerel: This oily fish is also high in vitamin D, offering about 360 IU per 3.5-ounce serving.
  • Cod Liver Oil:
    • Cod liver oil is a potent source of vitamin D. Just one tablespoon can contain over 1,300 IU of vitamin D.
  • Canned Tuna:
    • Canned tuna, particularly the varieties canned in oil, can offer a moderate amount of vitamin D. A 3.5-ounce serving provides roughly 230 IU of vitamin D. Those packed in oil can enhance the absorption of the vitamin D, as vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin.
  • Egg Yolks:
    • Eggs, especially the yolks, contain some vitamin D. Keep in mind that the amount may vary based on the chickens’ diet and exposure to sunlight. For this reason, you get what you pay for when you buy or get eggs from pasture raised chickens.
  • Fortified Foods:
    • Many foods, like milk, orange juice, and breakfast cereals, are often fortified with vitamin D. Check the labels to find out the exact amount of vitamin D they contain.
  • Mushrooms:
    • Some types of mushrooms, such as maitake and shiitake, contain varying amounts of vitamin D. Certain varieties are exposed to ultraviolet light to increase their vitamin D content.

Getting enough sunlight is a natural way for the body to produce vitamin D, as exposure to sunlight triggers its synthesis in the skin. However, food sources provide an additional means of obtaining this essential nutrient, particularly for individuals who may have limited sun exposure or live in regions where sunlight is scarce, especially during specific seasons.

Ideally, your doctor will check your vitamin D level periodically so you can know if you need to supplement or not.

2. Vitamin C:

Known for its immune-boosting properties, vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that scavenges free radicals and reduces oxidative stress. It’s crucial for collagen synthesis and supports the immune system, playing a role in mitigating inflammation by neutralizing damaging molecules that can trigger the body’s inflammatory response. Here are some food sources of vitamin C to get you started:

  • Citrus Fruits: Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes
  • Berries: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries
  • Kiwi
  • Pineapple
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Guava
  • Bell Peppers: Particularly red and green bell peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Leafy Greens: Spinach, kale, and Swiss chard

3. Vitamin E:

Another powerful antioxidant, vitamin E, helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. By neutralizing oxidative stress, vitamin E contributes to the reduction of inflammation and supports the body’s overall immune function. Include these foods to get more vitamin E in your diet:

  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and peanuts
  • Vegetable Oils: Wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil
  • Egg yolks
  • Green Leafy Vegetables: Spinach and Swiss chard
  • Avocado
  • Shellfish: Shrimp and crab
  • Butternut Squash
  • Trout

4. Vitamin A:

Vitamin A plays a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of the body’s epithelial barriers, such as skin and mucous membranes. By bolstering these barriers, it aids in preventing the entry of harmful pathogens, reducing the likelihood of triggering an inflammatory response. There are foods that have beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, and those with an active form of vitamin A. Some people may have trouble converting beta carotene to the active form of vitamin A. For this reason, eat some of both:

Food Sources of Beta Carotene (Precursor to Vitamin A)Food Sources of Active Vitamin A
CarrotsLiver (beef, chicken, or turkey)
Sweet PotatoesCod Liver Oil
SpinachEggs
KaleDairy Products (Milk, Cheese)
Butternut SquashFortified Breakfast Cereals
ApricotsFortified Orange Juice
CantaloupeFortified Yogurt
Red and Yellow Bell Peppers
Mangos
Broccoli

5. Magnesium:

Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. It helps regulate inflammatory processes by inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and reducing systemic inflammation.

  • Leafy Green Vegetables: Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and collard greens are high in magnesium
  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, cashews, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are rich in magnesium
  • Whole Grains: Brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat, and oats are good sources of magnesium
  • Legumes: Beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas are high in magnesium
  • Seafood: Fish like mackerel, pollock, and tuna can be good sources of magnesium
  • Dark Chocolate: High-quality dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or more can provide magnesium
  • Avocado: This creamy fruit is a decent source of magnesium
  • Bananas: In addition to potassium, bananas contain magnesium
  • Dairy: Some dairy products like yogurt can contribute to your magnesium intake
  • Tofu: A soy-based product, tofu contains magnesium
  • Figs: Fresh or dried figs are a good source of magnesium
  • Blackstrap Molasses: This sweetener is relatively high in magnesium compared to regular sugar
  • Soybeans: Roasted soybeans or edamame are rich in magnesium

6. Zinc:

Zinc is crucial for immune function and has anti-inflammatory effects. It helps regulate the immune response and supports the body in combating oxidative stress, thereby contributing to a reduction in inflammation. Similar to magnesium in that it is involved in >300 enzymatic reactions, you don’t want to go without it. However, it is not recommended to take high doses of zinc for longer than 2 weeks as it can interfere with the absorption of copper.

  • Meat: Beef, pork, and lamb
  • Shellfish: Oysters, crab, and shrimp
  • Poultry: Chicken and turkey
  • Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, and beans (such as black beans and kidney beans)
  • Nuts and Seeds: Pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, and cashews
  • Dairy Products: Cheese and milk
  • Eggs
  • Whole Grains: Wheat, quinoa, and rice
  • Fortified Foods: Some breakfast cereals and nutrition bars are fortified with zinc
  • Dark Chocolate

7. Selenium:

Selenium is a trace mineral that acts as an antioxidant, working in tandem with various enzymes to reduce inflammation and protect the body from oxidative damage. Levels of selenium in foods really vary depending on soil selenium levels a plant grew in, or the foods an animal ate.

  • Brazil Nuts: They are one of the richest sources of selenium
  • Seafood: Tuna, halibut, sardines, shrimp, and salmon
  • Meat: Beef, pork, and turkey
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Whole Grains: Brown rice, whole wheat bread, and oatmeal
  • Dairy Products: Milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Spinach
  • Mushrooms
  • Legumes: Lentils and chickpeas

Incorporating a variety of nutrient-rich foods into your diet can significantly contribute to reducing inflammation. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and whole grains are excellent sources of these essential vitamins and minerals that support the body’s anti-inflammatory mechanisms.

Remember, while individual nutrients play a role in combating inflammation, it’s the overall balance of a healthy, diverse diet that offers the most significant benefits. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your diet or taking new supplements to ensure they align with your health needs.


Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Eating these foods with every meal helps counteract the inflammation that is part of everyday life. In fact, one study even showed that merely adding sliced avocado to a burger lessened the inflammation compared to eating the burger without avocado. While this example of a meal is not the most ideal meal, it demonstrates the power of anti inflammatory foods.

  • Reduced Inflammation: By focusing on anti-inflammatory foods, you can decrease chronic inflammation, which can help prevent or manage various health conditions.
  • Improved Heart Health: Lowering inflammation supports heart health by reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Weight Management: An anti-inflammatory diet may help with weight loss or maintenance, as it encourages the consumption of nutrient-dense, satisfying foods.
  • Better Digestion: Many anti-inflammatory foods are rich in fiber, which promotes healthy digestion.
  • Enhanced Energy: Eating for wellness can lead to increased energy levels, making daily activities feel more manageable.

What to Limit or Avoid

As much as their are anti inflammatory foods, there are those that are pro-inflammatory. These are foods that straight up inflammatory, like fried foods, to those that are missing their anti inflammatory parts due to the processing of a once whole food. Foods may also provoke a metabolic response that is inflammatory.

To fully embrace the anti-inflammatory lifestyle, it’s essential to reduce or eliminate foods that promote inflammation:

FoodInflammatory Effect
Processed MeatsIncreases levels of inflammation markers
Fried FoodsTriggers systemic inflammation
Refined SugarsPromotes inflammation and insulin resistance
Artificial Trans FatsIncreases inflammation and heart disease risk
High-Sodium FoodsContributes to inflammation, high blood pressure, and fluid retention
Sugary BeveragesLinked to increased inflammation and weight gain
Refined GrainsCan lead to systemic inflammation and insulin spikes
AlcoholCauses inflammation and contributes to liver damage
Vegetable Oils (corn and soy)High omega-6 content promotes inflammation
Red MeatExcessive consumption can contribute to inflammation

Many dietitians take an ‘all foods fit’ approach to eating. While I don’t want to promote food fears, I would simply point out that the more you are eating your anti inflammatory foods, the less you will find yourself thinking, craving, and desiring these more processed foods. It is kind of miraculous!

Remember, incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet can help offset the effects of these inflammatory foods. But when you are eating these healthier foods, don’t be surprised if you notice less cravings for less healthy foods. And swapping things out can be a helpful approach as well. I’ve found that you can often replace foods with more anti inflammatory alternatives altogether.

Keep in mind that it is entirely possible to have an inflammatory response to even the healthiest anti-inflammatory foods. This is because if you gut is inflamed, which is possible for a variety of reasons, food particles can cross the gut barrier at which point your immune system with begin to have an inflammatory reaction to them.

To work this issue out, I recommend assessing what foods you are having this reaction to a undergoing an elimination diet while we work on improving your gut health. This process should be done with the help of a Registered Dietitian, and I can help you with this.

For more personalized recommendations, consider a 1:1 session with me, an experienced Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist.

Your FREE Go-To Anti-Inflammatory Foods Guide

If you’d like to get a copy of this post in PDF format, simply fill out your name and best email below to receive your free guide.

With this guide in hand, you’ll be well on your way to steering yourself towards an anti-inflammatory diet, improving your well-being, and taking more control in the driver’s seat of your health journey. Enjoy the delicious flavors and health benefits that this lifestyle has to offer, and let’s embark on this transformative journey together. Here’s to a happier, healthier you!

References:

Tristan Asensi M, Napoletano A, Sofi F, Dinu M. Low-Grade Inflammation and Ultra-Processed Foods Consumption: A Review. Nutrients. 2023 Mar 22;15(6):1546. doi: 10.3390/nu15061546. PMID: 36986276; PMCID: PMC10058108.

Stromsnes K, Correas AG, Lehmann J, Gambini J, Olaso-Gonzalez G. Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Diet: Role in Healthy Aging. Biomedicines. 2021 Jul 30;9(8):922. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines9080922. PMID: 34440125; PMCID: PMC8389628.

Li Z, Wong A, Henning SM, Zhang Y, Jones A, Zerlin A, Thames G, Bowerman S, Tseng CH, Heber D. Hass avocado modulates postprandial vascular reactivity and postprandial inflammatory responses to a hamburger meal in healthy volunteers. Food Funct. 2013 Feb 26;4(3):384-91. doi: 10.1039/c2fo30226h. PMID: 23196671.

Favela-González KM, Hernández-Almanza AY, De la Fuente-Salcido NM. The value of bioactive compounds of cruciferous vegetables (Brassica) as antimicrobials and antioxidants: A review. J Food Biochem. 2020 Aug 3:e13414. doi: 10.1111/jfbc.13414. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32743821.

Kunnumakkara AB, Sailo BL, Banik K, Harsha C, Prasad S, Gupta SC, Bharti AC, Aggarwal BB. Chronic diseases, inflammation, and spices: how are they linked? J Transl Med. 2018 Jan 25;16(1):14. doi: 10.1186/s12967-018-1381-2. PMID: 29370858; PMCID: PMC5785894.

Cândido TLN, da Silva LE, Tavares JF, Conti ACM, Rizzardo RAG, Gonçalves Alfenas RC. Effects of dietary fat quality on metabolic endotoxaemia: a systematic review. Br J Nutr. 2020 Oct 14;124(7):654-667. doi: 10.1017/S0007114520001658. Epub 2020 May 8. PMID: 32381135.

Rocha DM, Caldas AP, Oliveira LL, Bressan J, Hermsdorff HH. Saturated fatty acids trigger TLR4-mediated inflammatory response. Atherosclerosis. 2016 Jan;244:211-5. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2015.11.015. Epub 2015 Dec 2. PMID: 26687466.

Ohishi T, Goto S, Monira P, Isemura M, Nakamura Y. Anti-inflammatory Action of Green Tea. Antiinflamm Antiallergy Agents Med Chem. 2016;15(2):74-90. doi: 10.2174/1871523015666160915154443. PMID: 27634207.

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Anne Marie Berggren RDN, MS, CDN, CNSC is a Registered Dietitian with a Master's Degree in Nutrition, training in integrative and functional nutrition, nutrition for mental health, obesity and weight management, is a board certified nutrition support clinician, and an adjunct professor for the Stony Brook Graduate Nutrition Program teaching advanced clinical nutrition.

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