To understand the role of anti-inflammatory foods, it's important to understand inflammation and the role antioxidants play in our bodies. There's a strong link between free radicals and inflammation, with signs of inflammation often suggesting the presence of free radicals.
Free radicals can be thought of as a by-product of us being alive, as a car produces fumes when burning fuel, we produce free radicals. Different cars produce toxic fumes depending on a range of factors such as age, state of the engine, quality of the fuel. If we put processed foods and other toxins in our bodies, we, too, will create more harmful free radicals.
The rate of free radical production increases dramatically with a poor diet, smoking, alcohol, toxic pollution, or even strenuous exercise. It's these free radicals that cause havoc in our bodies, damaging and killing cells, resulting in inflammation and pain.
When we give our body adequate levels of antioxidants, we can neutralize most harmful free radicals and reduce inflammation throughout the body. With lower levels of inflammation, we may experience a significant reduction in pain and an overall increase in well-being.
It's extremely important to obtain the majority of your dietary antioxidants via the food you eat. Food provides the most bioavailable, best-absorbed form of antioxidants with the right supporting compounds.
1. Turmeric (Curcumin)
Turmeric is a yellow root often ground into a spice, containing one of nature’s most potent anti-inflammatories, curcumin. Historically used in Chinese and Indian medicine, the Western world is slowly understanding the real benefits of turmeric.
In some studies, its anti-inflammatory abilities have surpassed over-the-counter prescription anti-inflammatories, all without the toxic side effects. As a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, many people with joint pain find relief when they use this spice regularly.
2. Wild Salmon (Astaxanthin)
Wild salmon contains another extremely powerful antioxidant, astaxanthin. When salmon feed on algae, the algae release astaxanthin, a red carotenoid that actually turns the salmon pink.
Remember, farmed salmon and wild salmon do not offer the same anti-inflammatory benefits. When we picture salmon, we think of a red-orange flesh, exactly what wild salmon should look like.
However, farmed salmon don't have access to their natural diet of algae and krill and have a gray-colored flesh. To hide this, farmers end up feeding the salmon a form of synthetic astaxanthin, which eventually ends up in the meat and on our plates. Embrace wild salmon but avoid the farmed stuff!
3. Nuts and Fish (Omega-3 Fatty Acids)
A wide variety of nuts and fish will provide you with the essential fatty acids you need for overall health as well as help reduce inflammation.
Eating both nuts and fish will provide you with all three omega-3 fatty acids: EPA, DHA, and ALA. Clinical trials examining omega-3 fatty acids for arthritis have shown fish oil to lower joint pain and stiffness, as well as allowing sufferers to reduce their anti-inflammatory drugs.
The best dietary fish options are sardines and wild salmon due to increasing mercury and toxin levels in our fish supply. Flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts offer some of the highest levels of omega-3s per serving.
4. Blueberries (Resveratrol)
Blueberries rank among one of the best fruit options you can choose. They're packed with antioxidants including resveratrol, anti-inflammatory nutrients, they're low in sugar and taste great.
As an excellent source of antioxidants, blueberries offer inflammatory support for our whole body by increasing the cell membranes' ability to allow vital nutrients and chemicals to pass in and out of cells.
When choosing blueberries, make sure you look for the organic kind. Some studies have found significantly higher levels of antioxidants in organic berries versus conventionally grown berries, as well as fewer toxins.
When trying to improve one’s health and reduce pain, always start with a healthy, clean diet. We can't out-supplement a poor diet. Our food has the nutrients we need in the forms that we can easily absorb.
However, we can’t always get the vitamins and minerals that we need through our diet, which is where supplements can help us get the edge we need for optimal results.
Want more anti-inflammatory foods? Start here:
- 5 Delicious, Real Foods That Reduce Inflammation
- The Ultimate Anti-Inflammatory Detox
- 5 Anti-Inflammatory Foods You Don't Know About (But Should!)
Dr Ron Goedeke is a foundation member of the New Zealand College of Appearance Medicine and has been a member of the American Academy of Anti-aging Medicine since 1999. With his vast experience in Anti-Aging Medicine and Wellness he recognized as one of New Zealand’s leaders in this new field of medicine.
He has extensive experience with techniques to make patients feel and look better involving a holistic approach, combining Nutritional Medicine with Bio-identical Hormone Replacement for both men and women.