10 Inflammation-Fighting Pantry & Freezer Staples That Upgrade Any Meal
As a functional medicine practitioner who consults all different types of people around the world, I am a firm believer that eating healthily should be as easy, simple, and accessible as possible—no matter who you are. I have shown in the past how you can go plant-based keto on a budget, and today, I want to show you how you can use food to calm inflammation with some basic, budget-friendly staples to keep in your pantry and freezer.
Why do you want to calm inflammation in the first place? Chronic inflammation is tied to just about every health problem out there. Heart disease, cancer, autoimmune conditions, digestive problems, hormone issues, anxiety, depression, and brain fog all have chronic inflammation in common.
The foods we eat either feed inflammation or fight it, so start to move your wellness in the right direction by stocking up on these 10 nonperishable foods and adding them to whatever meals you can. (Bonus: All of these also happen to be ketotarian-friendly—my term for clean, mostly plant-based keto.)
No list about inflammation would be complete without the wellness world's favorite spice, turmeric. This shining star rises above them all with its powerful anti-inflammatory capabilities that come courtesy of its main bioactive compound, curcumin. While you can find it in supplement form, I prefer to add this spice to as many recipes as possible. My favorite way is to liberally coat veggies with turmeric before roasting, along with some garlic and black pepper—which also happens to increase curcumin's bioavailability by 2,000%1.
Wild canned fish
Healthy fats are essential for healthy hormones, brain function, and keeping inflammation at bay. Wild-caught seafood is abundant in healthy omega-3 fats, but cooking seafood isn't always an option when you are in a time crunch. Not to mention, your bank account can take quite a hit when multiple meals are made up of fresh, wild-caught fish. So, canned seafood like pole-caught albacore tuna, sardines, and salmon are my go-to picks for inflammation-fighting seafood on a budget, and they're perfect for traveling or taking to the office to add on top of a salad. Make sure you opt for low-mercury fish like the ones mentioned above, and choose brands that use BPA-free cans such as Wild Planet.
Methylation is your body's biochemical superhighway responsible for a number of important functions—two of which include supporting healthy detox and inflammation pathways in your body. B vitamins are the fuel behind this process, and they can be found in sulfur-containing vegetables like broccoli. Even better, organic frozen veggies are cheaper than fresh and can be oven-roasted within 20 minutes.
Regular detoxing is important to keep inflammation levels in check, especially when you consider the toxins we are constantly exposed to in our modern world via pollution, personal care products, pesticides, and more. Since we can't always be doing an extreme detox, we instead need to make our entire lives a cleanse by adding detox-supporting foods into our diets. Blueberries are great detoxifiers and deliver just enough sweetness without overdoing it on the fructose (making them one of the few keto-friendly fruits). Frozen blueberries are easy to keep on hand and make a great snack and smoothie ingredient.
Most conventional cooking oils such as canola and vegetable oil are extremely processed and oxidize at very low temperatures, which directly contributes to inflammation. Having a good-quality cooking oil on hand like avocado oil won't perpetuate inflammation and will provide you with healthy fats to fight it instead. Avocado oil—high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats—has a mild flavor like other oils but a high smoke point, which makes it my favorite choice for both salad dressings and cooking.
Healthy fats don't just fight inflammation, they help keep you feeling fuller for longer. This increased satiety will also help cut down cravings for sugar and all the other junk food that could, in turn, lead to more inflammation. I love olives because they are high in good fats and shelf-stable, which makes them great for a quick snack or addition to a recipe. You can easily add these on top of salads or cauliflower crust pizza, or scramble them into some eggs.
Hemp protein powder
Protein powders are one of the more difficult things to find with pure ingredients and without unnecessary additives. Hemp protein powder is a clean option that has 12 grams of protein per 4-tablespoon serving. I love keeping this on hand, as it's easily incorporated into almost any dish, including smoothies, dressings, and nondairy yogurts.
Full-fat canned coconut milk
Coconut milk is a great option since it provides an ample amount of healthy fat without the potential downsides of dairy. Since many people can be sensitive to aspects of dairy, like lactose or the milk protein casein, it could actually contribute to underlying inflammation. Coconut milk can be a better alternative for all your regular dairy needs such as coffee creamer, baking, and smoothies, plus it makes an awesome base for curries and stir-fries.
Other than seafood, we often overlook the abundance of nutrient-dense superfoods in the ocean. Algae like spirulina is a next-level detoxifier due to its chlorophyll content, and many people would be surprised to know that it contains three times the protein of beef. In fact, it is one of the few plant-based sources that is considered a complete protein, as it contains all nine essential amino acids. Add this powder to smoothies and other elixirs, and start to sip your inflammation away.
Last but not least, I always have almond butter on hand. I am a huge fan of peanut butter, but almond butter is the cleaner choice and contains more healthy fats. I like to make fat bombs to have on hand for when hunger strikes, and I often eat it with some celery for a quick snack.
Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian,The Inflammation Spectrum, and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.