We talk a lot about the anti-inflammatory benefits of the Mediterranean diet, but what exactly is inflammation and why is reducing inflammation so important?
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is an immune system response that occurs when our bodies perceive threats from infections, injuries, or toxins.
The good news? We can’t always control our exposure to chronic stressors, but we can control what we eat! The antioxidants and phytochemicals found in plant foods have the greatest impact on reducing chronic inflammation. The Mediterranean diet is centered around the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts & seeds, making it an excellent pattern of eating for reducing inflammation and chronic disease risk.
Acute inflammation is actually a good thing because it helps strengthen our immune system so that we can heal from injuries and fight off infections.
On the flipside, chronic inflammation occurs in response to long-term exposures to stress, poor diet, pollution and autoimmune conditions. Chronic inflammation within the body can cause diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
7 Top Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Include in Your Diet
While there are many anti-inflammatory food choices when following the Mediterranean diet, here are 7 of our top recommendations.
1. Cruciferous vegetables
Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and kale contain an antioxidant called Sulforaphane, which reduces both inflammation and risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Research indicates that people who eat berries every day have improved immune systems and reduced risk for disease. Berries contain a powerful antioxidant called anthocyanin, which is likely responsible for their incredible benefits.
Bell peppers and chili peppers are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, which reduce inflammation and possibly promote healthy aging.
4. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines are excellent sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation as well as the risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Aim for two servings of fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, per week.
Consuming nuts regularly is associated with fewer inflammatory markers, including C-reactive protein and Interleukin 6. Almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and others serve as the perfect snack to satisfy your hunger and fill up on health-benefiting nutrients.
Try preparing our Homemade Trail Mix for a hearty snack on-the-go!
Cooking with herbs and spices is a great way to add flavor and nutrients to your diet. Turmeric and cinnamon are two of our favorite spices for this reason.
7. Dark Chocolate
Antioxidants and flavanols are responsible for the anti-inflammatory properties of cocoa, which is linked to healthier aging. In order to experience these benefits, choose dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa.
Top our delicious Peanut Butter Banana “Nice Cream” with dark chocolate chips to incorporate this delicious anti-inflammatory food into your diet.
Looking to learn more about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet? Check out our Step-by-Step Guide to the Mediterranean Diet.