Inflammation works a little like sports fans at their team’s championship game; one minute they’re cheering along in the stands. But once the final buzzer goes off to signify their victory, they’re flooding the court in an unstoppable wave—then setting cars ablaze while rioting in the streets. And just like a harmless movement can balloon into one with disastrous and dangerous outcomes, inflammation’s healing intentions can also get out of hand and ultimately translate into the menacing consequence of sickness and weight gain.
Part of your body’s immune response, inflammation in the body is essentially your body’s way of alerting you when you experience an injury or wound. For example, after spraining your ankle, it will likely start to swell and throb. Although painful, this physiological reaction occurs to signal your immune system to fix it. It’s not just external injuries that cause inflammation, however. Things like a lack of sleep, excessive stress, genetics, and—what might be worst of all—the wrong diet can all contribute to inflammation.
By “wrong diet,” we’re talking about the typical American diet, which is full of inflammation-inducing foods. Think: fried foods, refined flours and sugars, hormone- and antibiotic-laden animal products, synthetic sweeteners, and artificial food additives. So if you’re constantly noshing on these items, your body may begin to transition into a state of chronic inflammation. This inflammatory, high-energy diet reduces levels of gut-healthy probiotics, induces weight gain, and has been connected with a host of diseases, from diabetes and obesity, to heart disease and cancer.
How diet can contribute to inflammation
Fit these anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, and you’ll be on your way to a leaner, happier you. Then, for more healthy eating tips, make sure to check out 6 Superfoods That Can Help Slow Aging After 40.
A deliciously balanced anti-inflammatory food is a tart cherry, also known as a Montmorency cherry. says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook and member of our Expert Medical Board,
“Tart cherries contain anthocyanins, which are anti-inflammatory compounds that may help combat chronic diseases,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook and member of our Expert Medical Board. “Research suggests tart cherries may help reduce arthritis pain and can help fight oxidative stress, leading to better recovery after exercise.”
A study in the journal Antioxidants showed that eating berries could significantly reduce inflammation. Why is this exactly? Well, berries contain a class of antioxidants called flavonoids, but it’s the anthocyanins, specifically, that contribute their anti-inflammatory effects by effectively turning off inflammatory and immune genes.
And when it comes to anthocyanins, blueberries are king. On top of that, blueberries contain vitamin C and another polyphenol, resveratrol, which have both been found to promote anti-inflammatory responses through decreasing inflammatory free radicals.
Throw together a jar of overnight oats packed with dark chocolate, berries, nuts, and a dash of cinnamon, and you’ll be fighting inflammation and drastically reducing belly fat. The raw oats are a resistant starch, a type of carb that passes through your gut undigested.
Instead of feeding you, it feeds your healthy gut bacteria, which in turn produce a fatty acid that encourages more efficient fat oxidation known as butyrate. Higher levels of butyrate reduce inflammation in your body and help reduce insulin resistance as well. Less inflammation means less bloating and a slimmer you.
Researchers attribute ginger’s health benefits to gingerols, compounds that are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-disease. According to numerous studies, these compounds block several genes and enzymes in the body that promote inflammation.
For instance, according to a study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, ginger’s can help reduce inflammation in the body by lowering the amount of pro inflammatory cytokines (proteins found in cells) and increasing the number of anti-inflammatory cytokines. Fresh ginger is richest in gingerol, so grate up the root, throw it in a mesh bag, steep, and sip on ginger tea.