Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Subscribe to the Magazine for free
Subscribe for free to keep reading! If you are already subscribed, enter your email address to log back in.
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Are you a healthcare practitioner?
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Top 10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Include in Your Diet

Medically reviewed by 
Top 10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Include in Your Diet

Inflammation refers to an immune response triggered within the body as a result of exposure to a foreign substance or a perceived stressor. While inflammation is a vital part of the immune response in the short term, sustained inflammation over weeks to months (called chronic inflammation) can have detrimental effects.

Many of the foods in the standard American diet both cause and perpetuate chronic inflammation, such as processed foods, trans fats, and refined sugars. However, other foods are anti-inflammatory, and their consumption helps combat inflammation with the food itself. With many different names, a true anti-inflammatory diet focuses on whole, real foods with antioxidants and micronutrients, while minimizing processed foods and other proinflammatory ingredients.


What is Chronic Inflammation?

While inflammation in the short term is vital for survival, an ongoing immune response causing chronic inflammation can damage cells and tissues and instigate a cascade of negative effects throughout the body. When the inflammatory response continues beyond the short-term, chronic inflammation results. This is marked by chronically elevated levels of stress hormones that have blunted effects, which necessitates the production of higher and higher levels of stress hormones. As chronic inflammation continues, a chronic state of increased stress hormones follows, including cortisol and other glucocorticoids, insulin, thyroid hormones, reproductive hormones (estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone), dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), vitamin D 25-OH, C-reactive protein (CRP), norepinephrine, interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-ɑ), and others.

Dysregulations in stress hormones lead to further metabolic derangements and downstream organ dysfunctions. This is the inflammation and disease connection, as it leads to autoimmune diseases, reduced ability to fight off illnesses, and metabolic diseases, such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, fatty liver disease, prediabetes and diabetes, and obesity.

The Role of Diet in Managing Inflammation

Inflammation can have a variety of different triggers. The standard American diet includes up to 40% of calories from refined carbohydrates and added sugars. Adding in processed meats and trans fats, this number doubles in many people. Processed foods cause inflammation, and the higher the amount of processed foods in the diet, the higher the risk of an inflammatory-related illness. The human body is not meant to metabolize the foreign ingredients that are processed foods. As a result, cellular damage, metabolic dysregulations, and chronic inflammation result.

On the other hand, some of our best food choices are anti-inflammatory, foods that reduce current and future inflammation. Fruits and vegetables contain polyphenols, which are potent antioxidants, preventing cell damage and fighting many other downstream effects of inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids (like those found in fatty fish, chia seeds, and avocados) are both anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating, meaning they fight inflammation and boost your immune health at the same time. Furthermore, many herbs, spices, and food forms help reduce inflammation too, like turmeric, garlic, fermented foods, and others. By focusing on anti-inflammatory foods, you can manage, reduce, and even prevent chronic inflammation.

The Top 10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Implementing anti-inflammatory foods into your diet is both delicious and healthy! Focus on incorporating a variety of foods with anti-inflammatory properties to reap the nutritional benefits of them all.

1. Berries

Berries are rich in antioxidants, and they offer high amounts of water, fiber, and other micronutrients. The antioxidant effects give berries the ability to reduce inflammation. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are all potent inflammation-fighters. With versatile berries, your options are endless. Add them to a smoothie with other whole ingredients, eat them solo, or combine them with protein and healthy fats. Or, they also make delicious additions to drinks or salads.

2. Leafy Green Vegetables

Leafy green vegetables, like kale, spinach, Swiss chard, bok choy, and lettuces, are anti-inflammatory vegetables. They are full of antioxidants and phytochemicals that are particularly adept at fighting inflammation. They also contain vitamin K, which helps support circulation, vitamin C, which helps fight infection, selenium, which also boosts immunity, and beta-carotene, which helps eliminate free radicals and decreases the risk of cancer. 

Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, contain isothiocyanates. Derived from the breakdown of sulfur-containing compounds, isothiocyanates are functional foods that are linked to significantly lower rates of certain types of cancers in those who eat higher amounts.

With their high levels of antioxidants, polyphenols, and other micronutrients, it is no wonder that some green leafy vegetables (kale is a great option) and cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli) truly are superfoods! 

3. Fatty Fish

Within the standard American diet, both the recommended and actual daily intakes of protein have historically been too low for optimal health and function. We know that adequate protein is necessary for cellular and organ function, metabolism, lean body mass, glucose regulation, nutrient transport, and more. People who have a standard American diet still don’t eat enough protein.

But not all protein is made equal. Processed protein sources often contain less healthy fat, extra salt, and even added sugars. Also, while fat is a required nutrient for everyone, not all fat is created equal. While omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation, excess omega-6 fatty acids can do the opposite. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for cellular structure and function, memory and cognition, cardiovascular disease risk reduction, circulatory health, and lowering inflammation.

Fatty fish is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, an incredible source of the benefits that omega-3 fatty acids provide. By reducing inflammation, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) lower your risk of metabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. Other concentrated sources of omega-3 fatty acids outside of fatty fish include flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.

4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 Extra virgin olive oil contains healthy monounsaturated, anti-inflammatory fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. Olive oil is pressed directly from the olives and includes no other ingredients to make it overly processed. Extra virgin olive oil is even less processed. It is mechanically extracted from olives without using high heat or solvents, which helps preserve its antioxidants and polyphenols.

The benefits of regularly eating extra virgin olive oil include reduced risk of heart disease, certain types of cancers, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and many others. Using extra virgin olive oil as part of an overall anti-inflammatory eating lifestyle provides beneficial fats for healthy cell structure and function and important antioxidants and polyphenols to reduce inflammation

5. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are brimming with healthy mono- and polyunsaturated healthy fats, protein, fiber, polyphenols, antioxidants, and other micronutrients. Nuts serve as an easy source of healthy fats in the diet. With their potent anti-inflammatory effects, evidence suggests that regular consumption of nuts provides a significantly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Nuts and seeds are incredibly versatile. They make a filling, portable snack on their own in measured portions. They can be added to salads and other dishes. Nuts and seeds can be ground into nut butter and utilized in many different ways.

6. Turmeric

Turmeric is a warm, earthy spice that features curcumin. Curcumin itself is anti-inflammatory, and evidence suggests it can reduce the inflammation associated with chronic illnesses, like diabetes, arthritis, irritable bowel disease, and cardiovascular disease.

Since its flavor is strong, you’ll use turmeric in small doses when seasoning foods. When it comes to cooking, you can use turmeric as a complement to other flavors like ginger, thyme, or curry. People with certain illnesses may benefit from an additional curcumin supplement if directed by your licensed healthcare practitioner.

7. Ginger

Similar to curcumin, ginger exhibits notable anti-inflammatory properties. In vivo studies have shown ginger's ability to suppress pro-inflammatory cytokines and down-regulate the activity of inflammatory genes. Ginger includes several inflammation-fighting compounds, like flavonoids. It reduces oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals. Ginger can help alleviate a variety of gastrointestinal disorders, including irritable bowel disease and other causes of intestinal inflammation. Ginger intake is known to improve immune health as well. Grated ginger can be incorporated into various dishes, such as stir-fries, smoothies, or teas.

8. Garlic

Garlic is not only delicious but it also provides a host of health benefits. Garlic notably reduces inflammation with its potent anti-inflammatory effects and protection against oxidative stress. Garlic provides cardiovascular risk reduction, potential improvement in insulin resistance, bolstered immunity, and less inflammatory-induced pain. Garlic is a versatile herb that can be utilized in a multitude of different ways. Allicin is a garlic supplement that may be helpful for certain individuals under the guidance of your knowledgeable licensed healthcare provider.

9. Green Tea

Hydration with water is a crucial part of any anti-inflammatory diet. Green tea is a good alternative that offers not only hydration but it is also packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that support cellular health and prevent free radical damage. Try drinking it hot or iced and adding fruits to it for additional flavor.

10. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is highly anti-inflammatory because of the many antioxidants from the flavanols in cacao. Flavanols are high-protective for the endothelial cells within your arteries. This helps protect against endothelial damage, which is the start of plaque formation and coronary artery disease. If the endothelial lining of the arteries remains intact, plaque can’t stick to the arterial walls. Instead, it continues to flow through the blood. Dark cacao can also help to reduce blood pressure.

Yet, when it is combined with heavy cream, trans-fat containing butter, added sugars, dyes, and preservatives, the benefits of cacao are outweighed by all the consequences of the other ingredients.

Incorporating Anti-Inflammatory Foods into Your Diet

Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet is a proactive approach to promote overall health and well-being. The goal of any anti-inflammatory eating plan is to focus on whole foods, those that are as close as possible to the food’s natural state. Anti-inflammatory eating also means minimizing refined carbohydrates (white bread, white pasta, white rice, crackers, chips, and others), added sugars (in all forms), highly processed meats (sausages, bacon, deli meats, and others containing nitrites), alcohol, additives, dyes, and preservatives. Breaking down these substances causes a large inflammatory response inside your body.

Meal planning is a huge factor in success with anti-inflammatory eating. Knowing what you will eat for each meal enables you to make good food choices and helps you avoid the drive-thru, takeout lines, or delivery, which often offer less anti-inflammatory food options. Variety is important in anti-inflammatory eating, as it provides a wide array of health benefits from different foods. Choose fruits and vegetables of different colors to get different vitamins and minerals. Base your diet on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains. Aim for 75% of your plate to be plant-based foods at most meals. Choose organic as much as possible, especially for animal products and the dirtiest types of produce. Include at least one serving of fatty fish per week, and prepare your meals with anti-inflammatory unsaturated fats, like extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil. Utilize herbs and spices with anti-inflammatory impacts like turmeric, ginger, garlic, and cinnamon to add flavor and nutrition.

Start by incorporating one or two new anti-inflammatory foods into your diet each week. Experiment with different cooking methods, recipes, and cuisines to find enjoyable ways to incorporate these foods into your meals. Many cuisines from around the world base their dishes around anti-inflammatory ingredients, so adopting new cuisines can provide not only delicious meals but also nutritious ingredients. 


The Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Key Takeaways

Embracing an anti-inflammatory lifestyle often involves making significant lifestyle changes. In addition to other lifestyle factors like sleep, stress reduction, and physical activity, anti-inflammatory nutrition as a way of life helps treat and prevent many chronic illnesses. By focusing the majority of your meals on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats, and by avoiding processed foods, the long-term benefits of anti-inflammatory foods will pay dividends towards optimal overall health.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
Learn More
No items found.

Lab Tests in This Article

No items found.

1. Balakrishna R, Bjørnerud T, Bemanian M, Aune D, Fadnes LT. Consumption of Nuts and Seeds and Health Outcomes Including Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes and Metabolic Disease, Cancer, and Mortality: An Umbrella Review. Adv Nutr. 2022;13(6):2136–2148.

2. Bertagna, B. (2024, January 4). Health Benefits of Blueberries and Their Potential in Chronic Disease Prevention. Rupa Health.

3. Blake, K. (2023, May 22). Anti-Inflammatory Diet 101: What to Eat and Avoid Plus Specialty Labs to Monitor Results. Rupa Health.

4. Blake, K, (2023, August 23). Exploring the Relationship Between Autoimmune Diseases and Chronic Conditions: Testing and an Integrative Approach to Treatment. Rupa Health.

5. Chen L, Deng H, Cui H, et al. Inflammatory responses and inflammation-associated diseases in organs. Oncotarget. 2017;9(6):7204–7218.

6. Christie, J. (2023, December 23). Health Benefits of Green Tea and How to Include It in Your Diet. Rupa Health.

7. Cloyd, J. (2023, November 13). The Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle from Diet to Mindfulness. Rupa Health.

8. Cloyd, J. (2023, October 17). The Role of Nutrition in Managing Depression: Foods That Boost Mood. Rupa Health.

9. Cloyd, J. (2023, November 2). The Top 5 Therapeutic Uses of Garlic: From the Kitchen to the Medicine Cabinet. Rupa Health.

10. Cloyd, J. (2023, October 16). Top 10 Herbs for Intestinal Inflammation. Rupa Health.

11. Cloyd, K. (2023, October 25). Interconnected Health: The Synergy of Hormones, But, and Immune Function. Rupa Health.

12. Decesaris, K. (2022, August 8). Worried about Your Thyroid Health? Ask Your Doctor for These 3 Thyroid Labs. Rupa Health.

13. DePorto, T. (2023, January 6). Omega 3s: The Superfood Nutrient You Need to Know About. Rupa Health.

14. Diorio, B. Could Your Patients Benefit from the Phytonutrient Spectrum Food Plan? Rupa Health.

15. Diorio, B. (2022, October 25). How to Balance Adrenaline Levels Naturally. Rupa Health.

16. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Examination of Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols; Wartella EA, Lichtenstein AH, Boon CS, editors. Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols: Phase I Report. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2010. 4, Overview of Health and Diet in America. Available from:

17. Khakham, C. (2023, March 23). Top Medical Evidence Supporting Curcumin’s Health Benefits. Rupa Health.

18. Khakham, C. (2023, October 23). What Are the Global Impacts of the Western Diet on Health? Rupa Health.

19. Liu YZ, Wang YX, Jiang CL. Inflammation: The Common Pathway of Stress-Related Diseases. Front Hum Neurosci. 2017;11:316.

20. LoBisco, S. (2023, December 19). How to Balance Melatonin and Cortisol Levels. Rupa Health.

21. Martins TF, Palomino OM, Álvarez-Cilleros D, Martín MA, Ramos S, Goya L. Cocoa Flavanols Protect Human Endothelial Cells from Oxidative Stress. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2020;75(2):161-168.

22. Neibling, K. (2023, March 20). Health Problems Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency. Rupa Health.

23. Neibling, K. (2023, April 18). How to Choose the Healthiest Cooking Oil. Rupa Health.

24. Preston, J. (2023, September 22). Addressing Inflammation in Chronic Diseases. Rupa Health.

25. Preston, J. (2023, September 22). How Is Chronic Inflammation Linked to Metabolic Dysfunction? Rupa Health.

26. Rakhra V, Galappaththy SL, Bulchandani S, Cabandugama PK. Obesity and the Western Diet: How We Got Here. Mo Med. 2020;117(6):536–538.

27. Sweetnich, J. (2023, February 24). The Importance of Testing DHEA Levels. Rupa Health.

28. Sweetnich, J. (2023, June 30). Top 5 Antioxidants that Can Improve Your Health and How to Test Your Patients’ Levels. Rupa Health.

29. Teeter LA. (2023, May 18). 4 Lab Tests That Can Help You Explore the Connection Between Inflammation and Your Patients’ Metabolic Health. Rupa Health.

30. Wu G. Dietary protein intake and human health. Food Funct. 2016;7(3):1251–1265.

31. Yoshimura, H. (2023, October 10). A Root Cause Medicine Approach to Chronic Inflammation. Rupa Health.

32. Yoshimura, H. (2023, June 26). The Impact of Stress on Skin Health and How to Manage It with Integrative Medicine. Rupa Health.

33. Yoshimura, H. (2023, June 26). Unlocking Radiant Skin by Reducing Stress Hormones: The Power of Specialty Labs, Integrative Nutrition, and Stress-Busting Supplement Recommendations. Rupa Health.

Subscribe to the Magazine for free to keep reading!
Subscribe for free to keep reading, If you are already subscribed, enter your email address to log back in.
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Are you a healthcare practitioner?
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.