The 10 Strongest Anti Inflammatory Foods on Earth

The 10 Strongest Anti Inflammatory Foods on Earth

Fighting inflammation without the harmful side effects of medications is crucial to fighting fatigue and improving recovery. Because of this, many, many, people ask me, what are the strongest anti inflammatory foods that I should be eating right now?

In our previous posts touching on the topic of inflammation such as foods that cause inflammation vs the best anti inflammatory breakfast foods and the best turmeric supplements to fight inflammation, we’ve discussed the havoc that inflammation can have on our body and how we can fight it only a daily basis with our diet.

So, what’s next to discuss on this journey to fight inflammation? Well, its time to get to the top of the mountain and discuss the strongest anti inflammatory foods on earth so you can be ready to eat like a champ for any meal at any time! In this post, we are going to review the absolute most powerful and nutrient-dense anti inflammatory foods with additional focus on foods that are eaten more often in the afternoon and evening meal time.

And of course, for those who have asked, I will share my ultimate anti-inflammatory foods list PDF at the very end so please stick around and enjoy your ride on the anti-inflammatory education train. 

What are the Makings of the Strongest Anti Inflammatory Foods? 

One of my favorite parts about my job is taking nutrition-curious individuals on a grocery store tour and showing them foods they did not even know existed. For example, have you ever tried purple or blue potatoes? What about white asparagus or orange cauliflower?

It is unbelievable how so many of us walk the grocery aisles wearing blinders. We make a direct bee-line (or for my Cav’s fans, perhaps it is a Beilein, LOL!) towards the foods we are accustomed to purchasing and we don’t think twice about looking anywhere else. 

Most of us could spout off the colors on a Snickers wrapper without thinking twice, but when asked about hemp hearts, we might look at you like you have three heads. 

Wait… What?! Hemp seeds have organs??

I’ll use myself as a prime example. There was a time in my life when I heard words like garbanzo or curcumin, I assumed someone was speaking to me in a foreign language. Yet I would sit in a corner after practice and scarf down a Whatchamacallit or two because that made sense of course…

As mentioned in our previous post on the best anti inflammatory breakfast foods, the strongest anti inflammatory foods are rich in color thereby making them naturally jam-packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals. Anti inflammatory foods are harvested from the earth and brought straight to your table. Ideally, there is very little processing and manufacturing if any at all. More processing = less nutrients. #always

Check out the section below to learn more about the best anti inflammatory foods when it comes to lunch and dinner.

Top Anti Inflammatory Dinner foods

Olive Oil

Oh hey, olive oil, I see you workin’! 

Olive oil is a wizard when it comes to fighting inflammation. So much so, that its potency has actually been compared to ibuprofen.[1] 

This magical oil is mainly comprised of a monounsaturated fat known as oleic acid. Oleic acid has been strongly linked to its ability to decrease inflammation and fight cancer.[2,3] Not to mention,the abundance of antioxidants in olive oil helps to prevent cardiovascular disease by preventing the oxidation of blood cholesterol.[4]

Wondering which type to buy? Cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil is the least processed, therefore it contains a larger amount of antioxidants and bioactive compounds naturally occurring in the olive. There are a lot of great cold-pressed, extra virgin options out there but Organic Cold Pressed Olive Oild by La Tourangelle is one we’ve become quite fond of and would encourage you to give it a try.

Best ways to incorporate olive oil: drizzle a few tablespoons on your salad for dressing, toss veggies in a flavor infused olive oil before lightly sauteing (perfect for those that fear veggies), olive oil is actually an awesome replacement for butter when making cake or cupcakes. Reduce butter amount to ¾ and swap with olive oil. For example, if your recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, you would replace with ¾ cup of olive oil. 

Fatty Fish

This probably does not come as a surprise to you, but fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, and herring are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. Our body actually metabolizes these fatty acids into chemical compounds called resolvins and protectins. The end result? A big punch in the face to inflammation and the reigning co-champion with olive oil on our strongest anti inflammatory foods list.[5]

Adequate intake of Omega 3 from fatty fish has been linked to the prevention of diabetes, heart disease, and other related complications.[6]

Best ways to incorporate fatty fish: Form into a burger patty. In a hurry? Buy a packaged from a quality brand (one that screens every batch for mercury) and toss on top of your salad (Safe catch= best brand for monitoring quality/mercury). Simply drizzle your favorite spices and oil on a piece of fish, bake or grill to perfection and pair with a sweet potato and side of veggies. Check these 3 ingredient easy to make fish dinners if you’re not sure where to start. 

Posts related to fighting inflammation:

Dark Green Leafy Vegetables

Dark green leafy vegetables (DGLVs) are truly some of the most healthful foods on the planet. This family includes but is not limited to kale, spinach, collards, swiss chard, bok choy, turnip greens, and mustard greens.

These beauties are full of fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium, folate and carotenoids, powerful antioxidants known to fight everything from sunburns to cancer.[7] 

This concoction of nutrients helps us to feel more energized, build stronger bones and most importantly, DGLVs support methylation, a process in the body responsible for detoxification and gene expression. Put very simply, if we are not methylating properly, we are at greater risk for disease. 

The hard part for many of my clients though is the strong bitter taste. However, I promise, the more you start to slowly incorporate dark leafy greens, the easier it will become. Believe it or not, if consumed consistently, you will get to a point where you actually start to crave the greens.

Best ways to incorporate dark leafy greens: Blend frozen kale or spinach into a smoothie, chop finely then saute and add to flavorful soups and sauces. Rich flavors such as garlic, onion, cayenne etc. can really help to mask the bitter taste. My best recommendation for a beginner? Basic kale chips. The oil and the sea salt make these a light and delicious snack. 

Walnuts

The antioxidant content of walnuts far surpasses that of every other widely consumed nut making it the strongest anti inflammatory food in the nut and legume category.[8] The same can be said for the walnut’s omega 3 content.[9]

And if that is not enough to convince you to start eating walnuts by the pound (just kidding), then let me just tell you that walnuts can actually improve the good bacteria within your intestinal line, thus further boosting immune health.[10]

Best ways to incorporate walnuts: Blend walnuts into a cinnamon banana smoothie, crush and sprinkle on your oats, or crush finely in a food processor to bread your chicken or fish. I often travel with these portable walnut butter packets and as a tasty dip for my apples,

Tart Cherry Juice 

Say hello to my little friend, tart cherry juice!

Naturally rich in potassium, this antioxidant-loaded fruit, is famous for fighting arthritis, decreasing muscle soreness and improving recovery post-workout. [11,12]

My favorite tart cherry juice benefit? Its ability to help our body create more melatonin. This means better quality and longer duration of sleep. [13]

Best ways to incorporate tart cherry juice: Check out the Cherribundi Tart Cherry products for ultimate convenience. My personal favorite is the Tart Cherry ZZZ to fight inflammation and aid in sleep. Drink a bottle 1 hour before bedtime. You can also try adding ½ cup frozen tart cherries to your chocolate recovery shake, or try these anti-inflammatory tart cherry gummies for a snack. Don’t forget to check your local warehouse club like Costco for a good deal on some tart cherry juice too.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes, a great source of vitamin C, folate, fiber, potassium and vitamin K, are most famous for housing the antioxidant known as lycopene. Lycopene, a powerful carotenoid, has been shown to fight cancer, cardiovascular disease, and even sunburns.[14,15,16,17]

Typically the deeper red the tomato, the higher the lycopene content. Also worth noting: consuming tomatoes with high-quality fat like olive oil or avocado will significantly increase the absorption of lycopene.[18]

Best ways to incorporate tomatoes: chop finely for homemade salsa, try this tomato-basil butter sauce for pasta, chicken or fish, and stuff them! Take a large tomato, cut off the top, stuff with cooked quinoa, rice, meat, breadcrumbs, spinach or whatever sounds good to you and bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 min. 

Top Anti Inflammatory Spices

Turmeric 

Those that read our most recent article on turmeric to fight inflammation know that this spice is the most commonly used tool in my toolbox. With over 3,000 published research studies touting turmeric’s ability to fight pain, headaches, bowel disease and everything in between, how could it not be my secret weapon?!

It is actually curcumin, the main bioactive compound in turmeric that serves as a powerful antioxidant, bred to fight inflammation. You’ve heard me say this time and time again but chronic low-grade inflammation is the root of pain and disease. Turmeric and its active compounds such as curcumin work to fight the inflammation that ultimately leads to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune conditions.[19,20,21,22] 

How, you ask? Turmeric actually blocks the molecule that travels to the heart of our cells in order to turn on the genes that cause damage and inflammation. [23] And if that wasn’t enough to impress you, please note that turmeric actually contains chemical compounds that enhance our body’s natural ability to fight free radicals.[24] So in other words, it strengthens our body’s fight response against damage from the outside world. 

Best ways to incorporate turmeric: boil a 1-inch piece of turmeric root, add cinnamon and a little honey and sip on this lovely tea. Add a teaspoon or two of ground turmeric to your breakfast bake or stir fry. Blend a 1-inch piece of the root into your morning smoothie. For best results, try to consume your tumeric as a spice, tea, or smoothie with a meal that includes black pepper which increases absorption and enhances anti inflammatory effects.

Cinnamon

The word anti-inflammatory probably does not come to mind when you think of cinnamon, but it’s time to view cinnamon in a new light. In fact, in a study that ranked 26 different spices, cinnamon took home the trophy! [25]

There are actually two types of cinnamon: Cassia and Ceylon. Ceylon is the true form of cinnamon and Cassia is what we know as cinnamon (what you will typically find in grocery stores.)

In addition to its powerful antioxidant properties, cinnamon acts as a food preservative, and a magic bullet that lowers “bad” cholesterol and blood sugar.[26,27,28] Oh and did I mentioned cinnamon can fight bacterial and fungal infections all while serving as a protective agent against neurological conditions such as Alzheimers?![29,30]

Best ways to incorporate cinnamon: add a teaspoon or two to your smoothie, baked goods, energy bites, oatmeal or even the crust of your fish! Don’t forget you can also boil cinnamon sticks when making tea or cider.

Ginger

Ginger is incredible if you are looking for a natural aid when it comes to digestion, nausea relief, achy joints/muscles, and brain function.[31] I believe so strongly in this plant that I often spend two hours a day simply boiling the root and mixing it with a few other anti-inflammatory ingredients to make shots for my athletes. It’s a great way for anyone, athletes and non-athletes, to boost their immune system and energy levels. 

Plus, ginger’s ability to work as a digestive aid is often the “fix” for many health ailments. Think about it, if you are not actually digesting half of the powerful nutrients that you consume, how can you expect your brain, muscles, joints and everything in between to function optimally? And how could an athlete ever fully recover?

This potent ball of antioxidants has also been shown to fight cancer, menstrual cramps, and cardiovascular disease. [32,33,34]

Best ways to incorporate ginger: cut an inch or two of the root and saute alongside of your veggies and rice for dinner tonight, or you can boil the root in order to obtain a more concentrated form and enjoy as a shot or cup of tea. For those of you who just can’t stand the taste of ginger, start with a few pieces of candied ginger and see if you can work your way up!

Cayenne

Even if you don’t care for a little extra spice, it’s worth giving cayenne pepper a shot, even if just for a week!

Capsaicin, the active compound in cayenne, has been shown to curb appetite, reduce chronic pain and improve digestion. [35,36,37] You know gut health is my jam so I appreciate the fact that cayenne can stimulate nerves in the stomach to protect our gut cells from injury. Cayenne has also been shown to increase digestive fluid and enzyme production, helping us to make the most of our nutrients at mealtime. 

Bonus: for all my peeps out there with psoriasis, there is a small amount of research suggesting that capsaicin based cream can decrease itching, redness, and scaling.

Best ways to incorporate cayenne: Add a pinch of ground cayenne spice to your hot chocolate or lemonade. You can also keep a shaker of cayenne pepper at your table and sprinkle on eggs, rice dishes, soup, tacos, and chicken. 

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The Ultimate Anti Inflammatory Foods List PDF

Let’s be real, I know most of you would prefer not to have to read through this entire article but instead, you’d like a nice little anti-inflammatory foods list pdf cheat sheet to tack on your fridge.

My goal is to provide you with a quick reference guide in order to streamline your grocery shopping experience.  So, here is a printable PDF of the strongest anti inflammatory foods similar to the image below. Simply click on the clink to download the anti inflammatory foods list PDF now. Enjoy!

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16136122
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17168666
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16484595
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10695923
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22326554
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18541602
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27485230
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27534138
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25747270
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29470389
  11. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279508007_Efficacy_of_Tart_Cherry_Juice
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/19883392/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22038497
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3742263/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22129335
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15830922
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22158914
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15277161
  19. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1357272508002550
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12490959
  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12490960
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21633179
  23. http://www.jbc.org/content/270/42/24995.full
  24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15650394
  25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16190627
  26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10077878
  27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14633804
  28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2901047/
  29. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16710900
  30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23531502
  31. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25230520
  32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20232343
  33. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19216660
  34. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4277626/
  35. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2695870/
  36. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26756096
  37. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7577249

About The Author

Kylene Bogden

Kylene Bogden is one of the most well respected Functional Sports Dietitians in the United States. As a high school and collegiate sprinter, she experienced recurrent injury and fatigue. After years of constant struggle, she eventually learned that an abundance of processed foods and poor fueling strategies were the root of her performance issues. Kylene's personal journey as an athlete fueled her passion for finding a more progressive approach to sports nutrition. Since then, she has helped thousands of individuals dramatically improve overall health and athletic performance by taking a whole food approach. To learn more about Kylene's story and how a functional nutrition approach can help you to achieve your goals, simply click on the contact us link in the upper right-hand corner today!

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