“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Even today, the 370 BC physician Hippocrates is known as the “Father of Medicine” and his ideas are still considered great wisdom by doctors and health gurus around the world. Hippocrates’ most well-known teaching is that food is health: To treat or prevent illness, one must avoid putting bad food and toxins in the body, and instead, consume only healthy foods full of vitamins and nutrients, so the body can function at a high level.
On this note, inflammation is a common health issue that most people experience for at least a portion of their lives, and food is a factor. Acute inflammation is beneficial and aids the body in killing bacteria, but long-term and chronic inflammation leads to physical ailments. Chronic unwanted inflammation is specifically risky to blood vessel health because it contributes to the damaging of blood vessel walls, the formation of plaque, and eventually leads to blood vessel clogging.
Inflammation can be caused by environmental factors: heat, toxins, infections, and bacteria, for example. It can also be caused by individual decisions including a lack of exercise and the types of foods consumed. The reason why this matters is because inflammation plays a role in almost every disease ever recorded. Does this mean inflammation causes disease? Well, no one knows. But it does mean that chronic inflammation is not healthy, prevents the body from functioning at its peak level, and can eventually cause more serious health issues.
The good news is that in line with the Hippocrates philosophy there are foods you can consume that decrease inflammation and bring health to blood vessels. Read below for a few examples.
And we are in luck! Many of these examples are quite delicious!
Best Anti Inflammatory Foods and Supplements
Isn’t it great that such a delicious food can be so healthy? Pineapple has the proteolytic enzyme “bromelain” that aids the body with the digestive process. Bromelain is also anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting and anti-cancer. This wonderful fruit also has lots of Vitamin-C, Vitamin-A, folates, thiamin, riboflavin, copper, and magnesium. Plus, it is low calorie, so eat a lot!
How to eat it: Alone, in a fruit salad, in a smoothie, or grilled pineapple. The more pineapple the better.
Garlic is a natural antibiotic, and it improves blood vessel flexibility. It also assists the body in decreasing inflammation by improving blood vessel wall health and aiding in the removing of plaque from blood vessels. It has Vitamin-B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin-B1, Calcium, Selenium, and Phosphorus.
How to eat it: Add it to sauces to put on vegetables, pasta, or quinoa, add it to salad dressings, make garlic tea, take a garlic supplement, or eat a clove a day like you’re Greek 🙂
Turmeric has a natural anti-inflammatory compound, and if consumed regularly, will play an active role in combating chronic inflammation, because it targets inflammation at the molecular level. There is a molecule called NF-kB and it is believed by scientists that it plays a major role in many chronic diseases. Turmeric’s compound is called Curcumin, and Curcumin blocks NF-kB, preventing it from inciting inflammation in the body.
Additionally, Turmeric has a powerful antioxidant effect and improves brain function and memory. It may even reverse brain issues related to aging.
How to eat it: Add it to roasted vegetables, soup, or rice, if you make Indian food add some, make a turmeric latte (so trendy right now!), or add it to stir-fry or hummus.
Swedish bitters is a health supplement that has many positive benefits. Although it doesn’t directly target inflammation, being anti-inflammatory is a side effect of the things it does target. These include: mitigating digestive issues, decreasing menstrual cramps, easing throat pain and soreness, and soothing skin rashes.
How to eat it: Purchase a supplement at a health store, or order the supplement online. Usually, it will be liquid in a small bottle that you will add to water or juice and drink once per day 15 minutes prior to a meal.
Ginger has an enormous amount of antioxidants and has therapeutic compounds like gingerol, shogaol, paradol and zingerone. Its anti-inflammatory properties have been linked to many health benefits, including minimizing joint pain, fighting fungal issues, easing nausea, fighting stomach ulcers, and improving brain function. It is also known for having lots and lots of Vitamin-C.
How to eat it: Make ginger tea, add it to stir-fry or Japanese dishes like sushi or noodles, or eat it raw cut into pieces. Refreshing and yummy!
Blueberries are amazing and undoubtedly anti-inflammatory. This is because they contain a particular antioxidant called “quercetin” which reduces inflammation and boosts immunity. In addition to decreasing inflammation, blueberries improve cognitive ability, protect the body from cortisol spikes (the stress chemical), reduce DNA damage (which is an anti-aging property), and contribute to health related to vision. They are so healthy and are low calorie, so devour blueberries at will!
How to eat them: Alone, in fruit salads, to a spring salad, with oatmeal or granola, in smoothies, in any kind of dessert, with watermelon, with peanut butter on toast.
Foods to avoid that may increase inflammation in the body:
Of course, no one is perfect but it is in our own best interest to give our bodies the foods that nourish them and avoid the foods that may cause problems for them. Remember to care for your body the way you would help someone you love care for their body: Say nice things, encourage good habits, and feed it lots of healthy food to make it strong, and that’s what Hippocrates would call medicine.
What are your tips for incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your daily diet?
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Photo: Lauren Sacerdote, Molly Lansdowne, Lauren Kirchmaier, Mary Hood Luttrell, Respective brands