5 Of The Best Inflammation-Fighting Foods To Eat All Summer Long
With Memorial Day officially behind us, summer is kicking off in all of its glory. While the long days are magical and the sunshine is a definite mood-booster, the best part of summer is clearly the fresh produce that floods the market. As a food editor and cookbook author, I may be biased, but the bounty of goodness arriving on shelves and in farmers market isn't only good for cooking inspiration after months of root vegetables, it's also good for our bodies. The best summer foods aren't only bright, fresh, and delicious—they're also super-anti-inflammatory (which can help combat some of the less-than-ideal parts of summer—I see you, sunburns!).
Here are my favorite anti-inflammatory foods for summer and exactly how to use them in your seasonal dishes:
All of the herbs available in abundance during the summer hold a special place in my health-minded heart for their abundance of polyphenols, a compound known to1 fight cancer and inflammation and generally do a number of other wonderful things to your body. Basil, though, holds a special place in my heart—something about its gently peppery sweetness screams summer, as does its bright green color. I love to tear fresh basil leaves into salads to add a pop of surprise and delight, toss a bunch of fresh basil into smoothies for a vegetal quality, or even use it in desserts (if you haven't yet tried basil ice cream, you're missing out). Of course, pesto is always a classic and a great way to use basil that's looking a bit tired.
Blueberries are one of those foods once over-touted by the wellness media world to the point that they became too saturated: "Yeah, yeah," my dad once told me. "I get it—blueberries will make me live forever. What's new?" Well—they might not be new (and they probably won't make you live forever; sorry, Dad), but blueberries have earned their spot on the many "world's healthiest foods" lists they top, although their particularly acclaim might be slightly overhyped. That's because almost all berries are polyphenol powerhouses, filled with anti-inflammatory compounds with a hefty dose of fiber to boot. I chose blueberries because they happen to be my personal favorite, but reach for whatever berries entice you most, whether it's raspberries, blackberries, or strawberries. Toss 'em in your salads and smoothies. Make a crisp with 'em. Snack on 'em plain when you need a sweet fix, relishing in the nuanced desserts that nature so kindly provides us.
3. Cherry tomatoes
I could write poems about my love for cherry tomatoes. Yes, you can get them year-round (you can get pretty much everything on this list year-round, thanks to globalization and storage practices), but in-season tomatoes have a vegetal, bright, faintly acidic flavor that bursts in your mouth—it's irreplicable, and irresistible. While I could sit and eat an entire bowl of cherry tomatoes fresh off the vine, the primary anti-inflammatory compound in tomatoes is lycopene2, which is actually enhanced when cooked (it's weird like that). One of my favorite summer snacks is cutting cherry tomatoes in half, drizzling them with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkling 'em with fine-grain sea salt and herbes de Provence. I pop 'em in the oven at 400 degrees until the bottoms are brown and they turn into a salty-sweet, almost candy-like snack that has a gently herbaceous undertone and a strong umami pop, almost like a sun-dried tomato. You can toss the cooked tomatoes in salads or blend 'em with a bit of olive oil to make the best pasta sauce you've ever had (you're welcome).
4. Chili peppers
The only produce I successfully grew in my window garden was a single chili pepper, but that's not the reason for my undying affinity (OK, maybe it's part of it...a little bit). Ranging from super spicy to gently piquant, chili peppers bring the heat of summer to seasonal dishes. All peppers contain capsaicin, which has been shown to be highly anti-inflammatory in a number of studies3, so you can have fun playing around with the different varieties you find at your local purveyor. I love using jalapeños in smoothies, soups, or quick homemade salsas, while milder poblanos are perfect quick-charred over a gas stove or grill and folded into tacos. Padron peppers blistered in olive oil and topped with flaky sea salt are also a perfect appetizer, best eaten when sitting outside as the sun gently slips away—just watch out, as each batch hides a few that are shockingly spicy! (Speaking of…to bring the heat down on any pepper, simply remove the seeds and white membranes, as that's where much of the fire is!).
5. Stone fruit
Is there anything that screams summer more than stone fruit? That they're as good for you as they taste seems like a miracle of some sort, but I shan't question the blessing. Stone fruit contains anthocyanins, chlorogenic acids, quercetins, and catechins, phenolic groups that work synergistically to combat inflammation in the body, along with lowering risk for obesity and diabetes. While, yes, you can make crisp and cobblers with stone fruit, and sure, you could put them in a salad, let's be real: The best way to eat a perfect piece of stone fruit is biting directly into the skin, letting the sticky-sweet juice dribble down your chin and arm—the perfect summer snack.
Liz Moody is an author, blogger and recipe developer living in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated with a creative writing and psychology degree from The University of California, Berkeley. Moody has written two cookbooks: Healthier Together: Recipes for Two—Nourish Your Body, Nourish Your Relationships and Glow Pops: Super-Easy Superfood Recipes to Help You Look and Feel Your Best. She also hosts the Healthier Together Podcast, where she chats with notable chefs, nutritionists, and best-selling authors about their paths to success. Her work has been featured in Vogue, Glamour, Food & Wine & Women’s Health.