Ten Plant-based Anti-inflammatory Foods

In my previous post, I discuss the health risk of chronic inflammation in details and the need to adopt a diet that helps to fight inflammation. If you want to reduce the risk of illness, it is crucial to choose the right foods. Picking the wrong ones can acerbate the body’s inflammatory process. To stay healthy, you want to avoid the following pro-inflammatory foods  [1]:

Avoid pro-inflammatory foods!
  1. Sugar and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, sugar-laced pastries, etc.
  2. Deep-fried foods, such as French fries, fried chicken, etc.
  3. Soft drinks, including coke, and all other sugar-sweetened beverages.
  4. Red meat and processed meat, such as steaks, burgers, ham, sausages, etc.  
  5. Trans fat commonly found in margarine and highly processed cooking oil.

What should you eat more then? Here are ten plant-based anti-inflammatory foods that you should eat regularly to fight inflammation.

1. Broccoli and vegetables of the Brassica family

Broccoli is the perfect anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer food.

Brassica vegetables include broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, Bok choy, and many more. These vegetables contain phytochemicals (glucosinolates and isothiocyanates), which are known to have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties [2]. Brassica vegetables also have anti-cancer properties, and increased consumption may decrease the risk of cancer, inhibit the mutations of cells, as well as reduce the proliferation of cancer cells [3].

2. Onion, garlic, and the Allium family

Onion can reduce inflammation in the blood vessels.

The Allium family of vegetables include onion, garlic, leek, and Chinese chive. They are rich in organosulfur compounds, quercetin, flavonoids, saponins, and many other phytochemicals, with the health benefits include anti-cancer, preventive cardiovascular and heart diseases, anti-inflammation, anti-obesity, anti-diabetes, antioxidants, antimicrobial activity, neuroprotective and immunological effects [4].

3. Tomato

Tomatoes are the most abundant source of anti-inflammatory lycopene.

Tomatoes are the most abundant source of lycopene, which is a potent antioxidant. Including tomatoes in the diet helps to improve the antioxidant defences and reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases [5].

4. Turmeric, ginger and the Zingiberaceae

Turmeric and giner contain strong anti-inflammatory agents.

The edible plants of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) include turmeric, ginger, galangal, torch ginger, and many more. They contain many potent antioxidants such as curcumin (turmeric), gingerenone (ginger), and Diarylheptanoid (galangal) . Hence, the herbs and spices from the ginger family can be a rich source of essential nutrients in an anti-inflammatory diet [6].

5. Avocado

Avocado is excellent anti-inflammatory food.

Avocado is rich in dietary fibres, vitamins and minerals. It is also an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. The good fats in avocado help to promote healthy cholesterol levels and regular consumption of avocado are known to improve many chronic inflammatory conditions, including obesity, arthritis, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases [7].

6. Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are great anti-inflammatory protein sources.

Nuts and seeds are rich in unsaturated fatty acids, high-quality plant protein, fibres, minerals, vitamins, and other bioactive compounds such as phytosterols and phenolic antioxidants. Nuts and seeds are suitable substitutes to pro-inflammatory red meat, processed meat, and refined grains. Those who consume more nuts and seeds have been shown to associate with much lower inflammatory blood markers than those who never or rarely eat nuts [8].

7. Whole grains

Brown rice is a whole grain.

Whole grains, or foods made from whole grains, contain all the essential parts and naturally occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed. The list of whole grains includes barley, buckwheat, millet oats, quinoa, brown rice, rye, whole wheat, etc. Current evidence from clinical trials suggests that increased whole-grain intake can reduce systemic inflammation by reducing may inflammatory markers including C-reactive protein (CRP), Interleukin-6 (IL-6), Tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), Interleukin-1β (IL-1β) [9].   

8. Plant-based omega-3 fatty acid (α-linolenic acid)

Add Chia seeds in your food to improve the omega-3 fatty acid content.

Omega-3 fatty acid possesses strong anti-inflammatory properties. While fish oil is a better-known source of omega-3, we can also find plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acid in the form of alpha-linolenic acid. Flaxseed (linseed) and Chia seed are two such sources [10]. They can be easily added to drinks, salad, soup, and cereals to enhance the anti-inflammatory effect of a meal. 

9. Pineapple

Pineapple contains Bromelain, an anti-inflammatory agent.

Pineapple contains a group of protein-digesting enzymes known as Bromelain, which has potent anti-inflammatory, anti-coagulant, and anti-cancer activities. Bromelain has been used in relieving osteoarthritis, improving blood coagulant function, speeding up healing time after surgery, and enhancing immunity against cancer [11].

10. Green tea

Green tea is a perfect anti-inflammatory beverage.

The polyphenols contents in green tea are potent antioxidants with essential roles in regulating vital signalling pathways for systemic inflammation. The most important green tea polyphenol is the epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). EGCG has been shown to reduce inflammation in many inflammatory disease models  [12].  

Conclusion

Broccoli, onion, tomato, turmeric, avocado, nuts, whole grains, flaxseed, pineapple, and green tea are only a small selection of anti-inflammatory foods. There is no lack of anti-inflammatory plant-based food sources. Hence, a whole-food plant-based diet is an ideal choice to fight chronic inflammation and improve health.

References

[1]        Foods that fight inflammation – Harvard Health, (n.d.). https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation (accessed September 3, 2019).

[2]        A.E. Wagner, A.M. Terschluesen, G. Rimbach, Health promoting effects of brassica-derived phytochemicals: from chemopreventive and anti-inflammatory activities to epigenetic regulation, Oxid. Med. Cell. Longev. 2013 (2013) 964539. doi:10.1155/2013/964539.

[3]        J. Kapusta-Duch, A. Kopeć, E. Piatkowska, B. Borczak, T. Leszczyńska, The beneficial effects of Brassica vegetables on human health., Rocz. Państwowego Zakładu Hig. 63 (2012) 389–395.

[4]        Y. Zeng, Y. Li, J. Yang, X. Pu, J. Du, X. Yang, T. Yang, S. Yang, Therapeutic Role of Functional Components in Alliums for Preventive Chronic Disease in Human Being, Evid. Based. Complement. Alternat. Med. 2017 (2017) 9402849. doi:10.1155/2017/9402849.

[5]        M. Ghavipour, A. Saedisomeolia, M. Djalali, G. Sotoudeh, M.R. Eshraghyan, A.M. Moghadam, L.G. Wood, Tomato juice consumption reduces systemic inflammation in overweight and obese females, Br. J. Nutr. 109 (2013) 2031–2035. doi:DOI: 10.1017/S0007114512004278.

[6]        A. Rachkeeree, K. Kantadoung, R. Suksathan, R. Puangpradab, P.A. Page, S.R. Sommano, Nutritional Compositions and Phytochemical Properties of the Edible Flowers from Selected Zingiberaceae Found in Thailand, Front. Nutr. 5 (2018) 3. doi:10.3389/fnut.2018.00003.

[7]        M.L. Dreher, A.J. Davenport, Hass avocado composition and potential health effects, Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr. 53 (2013) 738–750. doi:10.1080/10408398.2011.556759.

[8]        Z. Yu, V.S. Malik, N. Keum, F.B. Hu, E.L. Giovannucci, M.J. Stampfer, W.C. Willett, C.S. Fuchs, Y. Bao, Associations between nut consumption and inflammatory biomarkers, Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 104 (2016) 722–728. doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.134205.

[9]        Y. Xu, Q. Wan, J. Feng, L. Du, K. Li, Y. Zhou, Whole grain diet reduces systemic inflammation: A meta-analysis of 9 randomized trials, Medicine (Baltimore). 97 (2018) e12995–e12995. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000012995.

[10]      A. Goyal, V. Sharma, N. Upadhyay, S. Gill, M. Sihag, Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food, J. Food Sci. Technol. 51 (2014) 1633–1653. doi:10.1007/s13197-013-1247-9.

[11]      V. Rathnavelu, N.B. Alitheen, S. Sohila, S. Kanagesan, R. Ramesh, Potential role of bromelain in clinical and therapeutic applications, Biomed. Reports. 5 (2016) 283–288. doi:10.3892/br.2016.720.

[12]      H.S. Oz, Chronic Inflammatory Diseases and Green Tea Polyphenols, Nutrients. 9 (2017) 561. doi:10.3390/nu9060561.

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