The World's Healthiest Foods

What are the best foods for an anti-inflammatory diet?

There are many foods that can play an important role in an "anti-inflammatory diet." Here is an overview:

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are consider anti-inflammatory. That is because this class of nutrients serves as precursors for compounds in the body (such as certain prostaglandins and leukotrienes) that have anti-inflammatory activity. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include: fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna and other cold water fish; nuts and seeds, notably flaxseeds, hemp seeds and walnuts; and other foods, including soybeans, winter squash and purslane.

Extra virgin olive oil is another food that contains healthy fats (monounsaturated fats), and one that has been found to have anti-inflammatory benefits. Some of these benefits seem to come through its unique antioxidant phytonutrients, such as oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol. It's important to note that these phytonutrients are more concentrated in extra virgin olive than other types of olive oil.

Flavonoid and carotenoid phytonutrients also have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and therefore deep colored fruits and vegetables would be a great inclusion in an diet geared towards controlling inflammation. Great choices here would be berries, cherries, beets, leafy greens and other richly colored foods. Pineapple also contain a proteolytic (protein-digesting) enzyme called bromelain that has anti-inflammatory activity.

In terms of foods to avoid, those that may promote inflammation, here are our suggestions: vegetable oils such as sunflower oil and corn oil as they are rich in omega-6 fatty acids; "white foods" such as white flour, white rice and white sugar; processed foods that contain synthetic flavorings, colorings and preservatives. (It is not that your diet should not have any omega-6 fatty acids as they are essential fatty acids that play a role in health. It is just that most people already get an ample supply of these fatty acids in their diets and therefore should try to minimize concentrated food sources of them in order to maintain a balanced omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio).

While the above suggestions can play a role in a diet that helps to control inflammatory processes, you may also want to consult a licensed healthcare practitioner skilled in nutrition to get ideas that may be specific to your individual needs.