10 Superstar Foods that Fight Inflammation

chronic inflammation fighters

Symptoms of chronic inflammation  such as headaches, cough, or backache are often overlooked or taken for granted to be part of  the “normal aging process”.  Most of us just assume that because of our stressful lives these niggling aches and pains are just a part of life.  It never once occurs to many people that pain is the body’s way of crying out for help.  Pain is the body’s signal that something is wrong.  Because all of these symptoms and many more are a sign of chronic or silent inflammation it means that our cells have been under attack and inflamed for quite some time.

Once again, I feel it necessary to point out chronic inflammation leads to serious illness if left unchecked.  Cardiovascular disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s Type II Diabetes, asthma, IBS, Chron’s, vitamin and mineral malabsorption,  and every single autoimmune illness out there (including Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Scleroderma, Uriticaria, Polymositis, Fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s Disease, Addison’s Disease…..need I go on?) are caused by silent chronic inflammation.  Chronic inflammation is a vicious cycle as well.  It is the culprit behind illnesses such as adrenal fatigue however the very nature of adrenal fatigue leads to more inflammation.  When I am treating a client for adrenal fatigue I must address the underlying cause – inflammation- to restore balance in the body.

Nutrition far exceeds modern medicine’s ability to treat and prevent chronic inflammation.  In fact, there is not one single medicine on the market today that effectively targets inflammation.  Doctors rarely discuss the role of nutrition in treating inflammation.  In fact, you would be hard pressed to find many doctors that treat inflammation at all.  Instead they choose to look at each illness as a separate entity which fails to recognize that ‘disease’ indicates the whole body is out of balance.  Nutrition, for instance, is the absolute best treatment for Type II Diabetes, however, it would also stand to reason that proper nutrition that would treat diabetes would do so by balancing blood sugar which would control insulin release, which would treat chronic inflammation which would treat or prevent any other underlying condition.  Because a healthy, mostly plant-based diet is the healthiest diet to treat diabetes, it would also correct not only inflammation but the delicate alkaline/acid balance in the body which keeps a myriad of biochemical reactions in the body in check and running smoothly.

Below are 10 foods that help calm inflammation allowing the body to heal, balance and restore itself to health and vitality.

Cherries and berries including blueberries, cranberries, goji and açai berries, are high in inflammation-busting phytonutrients.  Phyto-nutrients are also great pain relievers.  Acerola cherries, for example, are 10 times more effective than aspirin in relieving pain and inflammation.  Blueberries, nature’s most powerful fruit for aging gracefully,  are also excellent anti-inflammatory foods. They increase the amounts of compounds called heat-shock proteins that decrease as people age.  When heat-shock proteins are in short supply inflammation, pain and tissue damage is the result.

Pineapple and Payapaya  are rich in vitamin C and the enzymes  bromelain and papain respectively, which have been linked to decreased pain and swelling in both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.  Bromelain also helps dilate bronchii in asthmatics and is fabulous as a home remedy for upper respiratory infections and bronchitis.

Walnuts are packed with Vitamin E and Omega 3 fatty acids. Due to the anti-nutrients present in all nuts and seeds make sure you prepare them properly before eating by soaking them in water overnight and then dehydrating by placing them in an oven at just below 100 degrees C (about 210F) for a day. Or if you have a dehydrator, you can drop the temperature down to 46 degrees C (about 115F) for a long, slow bake – keeping as much nutritional value as possible. Whichever way you do it, the process ‘activates’ the nuts by simulating what happens in nature when they’re germinating, so they move from being dormant to shedding their protective enzyme coating and getting into their growth phase, releasing all their goodness as they go.  A handful of walnuts a day is a great inflammation fighting way to boost fertility in women and sperm count in men!

Note:: Careful to buy them VERY fresh, store them in the freezer and eat them in moderation as they are high in PUFAs.

Broccoli is packed with vitamins, calcium and alkaline minerals such as sulforaphane which helps eliminate potentially carcinogenic compounds and scavenges for free radicals. Don’t all of my raw foodie readers gang up at once but this delicious vegetable releases some of it’s goiter centric qualities and increases the bio-availability of it’s trace minerals by cooking it well before eating it.  Other green vegetables that are fantastic are spinach, kale, and chard.  Make sure these are cooked well and served with a little healthy saturated fat like butter or ghee.

Celery contains more than more than 20 anti-inflammatory compounds in celery and celery seeds , including a substance called apigenin, which is powerful in its anti-inflammatory action.  Celery juice is a wonderfully alkalizing inflammation buster and is great on its own or as the backdrop for countless vegetable juice recipes and green smoothies.

Onions and Garlic contain plenty of quercetin, a potent antioxidant that helps fight inflammation. Garlic is also recommended during cold and illness, as it has amazing anti-inflammatory properties.
Ginger: Ginger, which has been widely used in treating inflammation and pain, helps in reducing the pain-causing prostaglandin levels in the body. Indian researchers have noticed that patients suffering from muscular pain, when given 500 to 1000 milligrams of ginger per day, experienced vast improvement in both inflammation and pain.
Turmeric is an effective anti-inflammatory herb in dealing with acute inflammation, due to its therapeutic ingredient, curcumin. The curcumin present in turmeric helps by suppressing pain, in a manner similar to that of drugs like COX-1 and COX-2 inhibitors.
Cold-pressed olive,  contains polyphenols and Omega 3 fatty acids that the body turns into inflammation-fighting soldiers. Note: the cold-pressed part is really important – heat renders the oil hydrogenated and harmful (inflammation causing) to the body therefore look for “cold pressed” on the label and never cook with these oils.
Grapes: Grapes contain the antioxidant resveratrol that fights inflammation and cancer. Drinking grape juice (think red wine)  can lower inflammation in people with stable coronary artery disease.  One word of caution.  The alcohol content in red wine can still cause an insulin spike so make sure you keep your consumption to one or two glasses and drink them while consuming protein.
Honorable mentions:
Salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel  and fresh tuna all are Omega-3 powerhouses.  In today’s environmental climate, however, they can also be mercury time bombs and now, as is the case of farm-raised salmon or “frankenfish”  (thanks Monsanto!), Omega-6, genetically engineered nightmares.  Make sure, if you eat fish, you eat wild line-caught, preferably sustainably sourced fish.
The caffeine in coffee and tea  may mitigate pain. Studies conducted at the University of Georgia have shown that caffeine (5 mg/kg body weight about two cups of coffee for a 120-lb female) taken after eccentric exercise decreased delayed onset muscle soreness.How, you ask? Caffeine binds to adenosine receptors in our central nervous system. It may decrease pain levels by blocking adenosine reduced during inflammation. Caffeine taken with carbohydrates after exercise may also increase glycogen storage (though the most recent study on this used large amounts of caffeine).
{Be sure to check out the continuation of the series with Anti-Inflammatory Fountain of Youth}


  • Thanks for sharing these valuable information!

  • richard monore

    My neighbor works for the UVA football team and he said they’ve recently been incorporating cherries as well as cacao (I think cacao, but definitely cherries) as part of their diet to fight inflammation.

    • thedetoxdiva

      Richard, cacao (if it is RAW and fermented in the sun) is great at fighting inflammation. Unfortunately a lot of the ‘rubbish’ cacao on the market isn’t prepped properly so it actually can cause inflammation. There are a few brands like Navitas Naturals that are excellent though.

  • LisaFyfe

    This is so thorough and informative, thanks! I like this list for ideas in feeding my son too.

  • Gina

    Nice list! I have a mini soap box here, I hope you don’t mind. I so wish that more often traditional medicine would get in the same room with other methods and figure things out instead of thinking they are so much better than the other. There I am done, but great list, I will have to refer to it later on. It is interesting thought that before surgery they tell you don’t have any ibuprofen, but they don’t mention don’t have a bowl of berries. Just a thought!

    • thedetoxdiva

      Actually I think modern medicine makes it difficult for traditional medicine to coexist, which is, basically, what I think should happen. There is a necessity for both, not exclusive of one another. I happen to agree but I do think it is shameful that doctors don’t believe nutrition can do anything to treat illnesses.

  • Just to re-emphasis what you said about the medical field not recognizing nutrition, I’d like to share what my ex-rheumatoid doctor said to me. Once I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondilitis, I immediately went home and cut out all refined foods. One month later when I went back for my next appointment, the dr. was amazed at how improved I was (I was not taking the meds he recommended). When I told him the only change I made was in my diet, he laughed at me and ridiculed me saying that was the stupidest thing he’d ever heard. I was shocked at his inability to acknowledge the proof that was staring him in the face.

    Needless to say, that was the last time I went to a dr.

    • thedetoxdiva

      This is absolutely what I am talking about, not only the attitude that a different style of eating could help but the ridiculing when a patient ASKS for help with nutrition that it would even work! They don’t hesitate to prescribe mountains of medication that is going to cause even more damage!! I am so glad you had a good experience with changing the way you eat.

  • I think it’s amazing that everything our body needs to rejuvenate and heal itself is right there in nature! So glad that you are able to get what you need. Too bad more people don’t go the natural route and get to the core of the problem rather than a med fix!

  • Great article – preventing inflammation in the first place is so important. Want coconut oil added to the list though! Great anti-inflammatory (and the one of only two oils that stay stable at cooking heat – the other is palm kernel oil which is not readily available where I live). I put coconut oil on my forehead when I had a headache once and the headache went away, I had a pain on the top of my foot once, same – it is truly effective for all inflammation and can be used topically, taken internally cold or in my cooked foods.

    • thedetoxdiva

      I didn’t put coconut oil on the list because it should not be used liberally, as with any oil. Coconut oil, in my opinion, should be used IN PLACE of any cooking oil, not taken by the tablespoon full as a cure all. That’s when things go bad. You must have the constitution where you have a lot of heat in your body and coconut oil does a great job of COOLING the body, one reason why your pain went away in your head and your foot. Unfortunately, not all pain is created equal nor is it all heat related so coconut oil won’t help those types of pain. I want people to get out of the mentality of looking for a miracle cure and realize, it takes more than one thing to throw the body out of balance and it will take more than one thing to put it right. You are absolutely right about coconut oil being wonderful for inflammation but it is only PART, and a very small part, of a larger solution.

  • Jacqueline, this is great information. I had no idea chronic inflammation could wreak such havoc on our body. Years ago I had routine blood work done through a yearly health fair at my job. My blood work came back indicating I had high levels of c-reactive protein and I was told it could show a high reading in people who exercise because of inflammation in the body. I would always get upset at the high reading thinking I was going to have a heart attack or something. I think the stress over knowing I had a high number on that test was more “dangerous” to me than the inflammation caused from the exercise I’d been doing. Lol! Maybe not. It’s been years since I’ve had blood work done so who knows if it’s still running elevated. I do suffer from frequent headaches though – all behind my eyes and nose – pretty sure they’re sinus related. I’m going to take your advice on adding more of the foods you mention to my diet and see if I notice a difference. 🙂

    • thedetoxdiva

      It is true that exercise causes inflammation but not chronic inflammation. It is likely you are eating a few too many refined carbs or something that would cause c-reactive protein but Rosann, it is true that 80% (if not more) people are walking around with elevated levels. It doesn’t mean it can’t be put into balance nor does it necessarily mean you are at risk for anything urgent. I am sure you take very good care of yourself. If you are suffering from headaches, that does stem from inflammation. The good news is there are plenty of SMALL changes that can be made to put you right!

  • Hi – Nice job on your website. Love the comprehensive information & links to add’t articles. JN

    • thedetoxdiva

      Thanks so much. That’s very sweet. We have worked really hard and have been blessed!

  • Nice article and good explanation I would just add fish oil and nuts to the list 😉

    • I wouldn’t add either. Fish oil is generally rancid before it is ever ingested and nuts are high in PUFAs which are, in and of themselves, inflammatory with the exception of very few.

      • Yeah fish oil us generally rancid but research made on mice show that they have anti inflammatory propertis which can lead to conclusion that they have same propertis on human body.
        On the other side you might be right about nuts but they are for sure nutritional dense food,
        and soaked nuts in moderate amount are healthy,the only bad thing would be that they
        dont have very good ratio of omega 6 : omega 3.

        • You can’t soak most of the phytic acid and none of the PUFAs out of the nuts. And there are plenty of other NON-rancid ways of getting Omega-3 (not to mention needing FAR less than the industry would tell you we need) such as grass-fed beef. Fish oil is downright dangerous in my view.

          • Why is fish oil dangerous in your opinion?

          • Mirza, think about what it takes to press the “oil” out of a fish. It’s machinery. HOT machinery, sorry to say, even when they say they have a cold method, it’s not true. Then they put them into capsules and SEAL those capsules. More heat. THEN they bottle them, box them and ship them. They might be a in an air conditioned cargo hold, maybe not, but they generally spend at least one season in a warehouse exposed to SOME outside heat. They are fragile fats. Omega-3s just are. Whenever you expose a fragile fat to any kind of heat, time, and processing it is GOING to go rancid. It just IS. Unless you are standing over the fish as they are extracting the oil from their bodies, I don’t like fish oils. PLAIN and SIMPLE. They are rancid before they go into the body. They just are. It is a fact. AND I do not believe the body needs ALL that Omega-3 anyway, incidentally. I will be writing a post on that eventually, but there is much research to support that the body can and does thrive on MUCH less than we believe we need because the fish oil industry needed something to do with all that waste and the nutrition energy glommed onto a “if a little is good then MORE must be better” mentality! You will never convince me that taking fish oil is a good thing to do to the body. Eating FRESH caught fish, absolutely, but a supplement, NO.

        • Oh and nuts are NOT a nutrient dense food at ALL. They CONTAIN a lot of nutrients needed for their OWN growth into a plant or tree. They contain MORE ant-nutrients to prevent us from eating them so they can ensure their survival.

  • Yeah the whole proccess you mention here is correct.But on the another side I use fish oil in liquid form which is maybe processed less but still processed but the reason I consume fish oil is that in unpractical do eat that much fish to get enought EPA/DHA and our brain is mainly made from omega 3 fatty acid which body can’t produce. The fish oil industry actually don’t recommended very high dosages of fish oil and the recommended dose is about 3 grams which is unpractical to consume with fish liquid but is vesy easy to consume it with fish oil liquid. I have personally saw some benefits from consuming fish oil and that’s why I recommend it to other people too. And I support that we should eat more fresh fish,but they are another issues with this also, mercury pollution,if you dont leave near sea you can’t get quite fresh fish and so on ..

    • Think about broth made from fish bones, consuming shellfish, frozen wild fish, there are MANY ways to get your EPA/DHA (of which, again, we need far less than most proclaim) other than taking fish oil. We clearly are not going to agree on this but there ARE ways to get your Omega-3 (grass-fed beef and game) other than taking fish oil.