Oily fish, such as salmon, is rich in antiinflammatory omega-3, so incorporate it into your diet at least twice a week. Also try trout, herring, sardines, mackerel and tuna but, Vanessa warns – don’t have fresh tuna more than once every 10 days as it can contain a lot of mercury. If you don’t like fish, ask your doctor about taking an omega-3 supplement.
Research has shown pomegranates have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, Vanessa says. And more recent research has also found that the fruit has the potential to slow the progression of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Pomegranates are also high in vitamin C – one pomegranate provides about 40 percent of the daily requirement. Vanessa warns that the fruit juice contains a lot of sugar so rather have the fruit with your breakfast.
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
Virgin olive oil helps protect against chronic diseases as it contains compounds that show potent anti-inflammatory actions, according to a 2011 report by Australia’s Deakin University. Now there’s a good reason to drizzle a little over your salads.
Kelp contains a type of complex carbohydrate that has anti-inflammatory properties. Its high fibre content also helps keep you satisfied for longer, aiding weight loss, according to a report by Island Hospital in the US.
They’re not everyone’s favourite but broccoli contains the compound isothiocyanates (also in cauliflower and Brussels sprouts) which can help to stop inflammation, Vanessa says. Broccoli also contains potent antioxidants making it a powerful fighter in cancer prevention, she adds.
Turmeric contains an anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin. This compound lowers the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation, according to the University of Maryland in the US. Other studies have also shown it may even help fight infections and some cancers.
Garlic is packed with anti-inflammatory properties, according to a 2012 Korean study. The bulb has also been known to help regulate glucose levels and fight infection.
Ginger has been found to reduce pain in people with osteoarthritis, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, according to the University of Maryland in the US. Researchers found that due to its antiinflammatory properties, those who took a ginger extract twice daily had less pain and needed fewer painkillers than those who received a placebo. Add several thin ginger slices to a cup of hot water or add it to your green tea or rooibos tea. But don’t take more than 4 g a day. Pregnant women shouldn’t take more than 1 g daily.
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that participants who regularly consumed walnuts showed a significant improvement in inflammation levels. In the American Journal of Epidemiology, another study of more than 6 000 people found that those who ate the most nuts and seeds had the lowest levels of inflammatory markers in their blood. Enjoy a small handful a day but don’t overindulge as walnuts are high in fat (read more on page 79).
GREEN TEA DARK CHOCOLATE
Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants that help reduce inflammation. Choose chocolate with at least 70 percent pure cocoa as it contains less sugar and have a little when the craving hits. The beneficial ingredients are flavanols, which reduce both inflammation and blood clotting. Add more papaya, pineapples and apples to your shopping list. Papaya contains the enzyme papain which, along with other nutrients such as vitamin C and E, improves digestion and helps reduce inflammation. Pineapples contain bromelain which is used in a number of natural anti-inflammatory supplements for arthritis. Apples have a high concentration of quercetin, a powerful flavonoid also present in onions and tea. Quercetin works as an anti-inflammatory and has properties that may help protect against heart disease and cancer. Green tea has a long list of health benefits and is packed with anti-inflammatory flavonoids. Men with prostate cancer who had more green tea in their diet before undergoing prostate removal surgery were found to have reduced inflammation markers, the US National Cancer Institute said in 2012.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study in 2010 that found a link between low levels of vitamin B6 in the blood and a higher risk for inflammation. Foods high in vitamin B6 include many fresh fruits and vegetables such as avocados, grapes, green, yellow and red peppers, spinach and other dark leafy greens. But watch your portion sizes as avocados are high in fat (the suggested portion size is ¼ avocado).
The antioxidant resveratrol found in the skin of grapes is a great inflammation fighter. This fruit, which has a high water content, is packed with nutrients but contains relatively few kilojoules, making it a great diet snack. They also contain flavonoids which help the body to fight harmful free radical formation, known to speed up the progression of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Keep grapes washed and in your fridge. If you have diabetes ask your doctor for advice before indulging as grapes are high in sugar.
Sweet potatoes aren’t only anti-inflammatory but also have a lower GI than potatoes. They’re rich in fibre and health-boosting beta-carotene, manganese and vitamin B6 and C.
This fruit’s anti-inflammation power can be attributed to antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins, which also gives it its distinctive colour. When healthy men and women included cherries in their diets for 28 days, levels of inflammation decreased, according to a 2006 study published in the US Journal of Nutrition. Blueberries are also beneficial in this way. Freeze them for use when out of season.
Brown rice (including brown basmati) and quinoa contain protein and are digested slowly, reducing drastic blood sugar spikes that could lead to inflammation.