Inflammation can be a welcome friend, but it can also be your worst enemy. On the one hand, we need inflammation to work its healing magic when we get injured. But when it overstays its welcome, it can wreak havoc on our health.
Chronic inflammation increases your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, bowel diseases, and more. Those are some pretty big reasons to try to prevent it. Inflammation in your body can also contribute to skin issues like eczema or psoriasis. But how can you avoid it?
What you eat plays a significant role in inflammation. Taking a good look at your diet could help you eliminate typical culprits like sugar, dairy, or red meat. Overall, eating less processed foods and more fruits and veggies is better for your body to ward off inflammation.
Also, cooking meals at home gives you more control over your diet. When you cook your food, you choose the food you want to cook, and you decide how to dress it up. Spices give your food flavor and character. But you know what else they do? They also have anti-inflammatory properties that contribute to good health. Adding certain spices and herbs to your diet can help you fight inflammation.
The following is a list of natural anti-inflammatories you can easily incorporate into your diet. Have fun with home cooking and play around with different flavors in ways you haven’t thought of before. You can also make a few unique anti-inflammatory concoctions with these ingredients. (Check out the recipes after the list!)
- Black Pepper
Black pepper, or Piper nigrum, is salt’s best friend. Together, they’re the most common spices we use to flavor our food, making it extra good news that black pepper has anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that piperine, the active phenolic compound in black pepper, has the power to reduce inflammation in lab tests.
Delicious baked goods immediately come to mind when I think of cinnamon. But this tasty spice offers so much more. The active compounds in cinnamon - called cinnamaldehydes - are potent anti-inflammatories, according to studies. Tip: look for the Ceylon variety if you take it as a supplement. Or sprinkle what you have on your coffee, oatmeal, or cereal.
Brightly colored and full of flavor, turmeric is a favorite in curries and other Asian and African dishes. In Ayurvedic medicine, this rhizome related to Ginger is used for everything from cleansing wounds to dissolving gallstones to reducing inflammation. The primary anti-inflammatory compound is curcumin, which has been extensively studied for its health benefits.
Most known traditionally for soothing toothaches, clove oil has anti-inflammatory properties associated with the compound Eugenol. The oil is made from the dried flowers of the Syzygium aromaticum tree. It’s been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. And it complements both savory and sweet dishes.
Salvia officinalis, as it’s officially named, brings visions of holiday meals to mind. It’s an herb with high phenolic and flavonoid content, which makes it a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Studies show it effectively reduces inflammation in rats and mice. No need to wait till the holidays to use this herb, though.
Often used as a substitute for sage in cooking, Rosemary has recently been categorized in the same genus as sage. It’s even been renamed Salvia rosmarinus (from Rosmarinus officinalis.) Whatever you call it, it contains anti-inflammatory powers from the compound rosmarinic acid and has been used in folk medicine for ages.
Unless you’re a vampire, garlic is a great addition to almost any savory dish. And it happens to be chock full of the anti-inflammatory compound diallyl disulfide. It’s even recommended by the Arthritis Foundation to help slow down cartilage damage from arthritis. Eating it raw might give you the most benefits if you can handle the pungent flavor. (But don’t get too close to anyone that day.)
Zingiber officinale is a rhizome that adds pizazz to many savory and sweet foods. The Arthritis Foundation also recommends ginger for its anti-inflammatory effects. It has been studied extensively for health benefits and contains hundreds of chemical compounds, many with anti-inflammatory properties.
- Cayenne Pepper
Kick it up a notch with cayenne, or Capsicum annuum, as a hot, spicy addition to a variety of foods. (Hot chocolate, anyone?) The chemical capsaicin is the main component that gives the fruit its heat and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s commonly used to reduce pain too.
- Green tea
Another well-known powerhouse of health benefits, green tea is excellent for inflammation. While drinking it as a tea is always a lovely experience, it can also be added to many savory or sweet foods. Try some of these unique recipes!
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of anti-inflammatory spices and herbs, it will get you started. Hopefully, it will help you get creative in the kitchen with ingredients that will no doubt boost your health. Lowering inflammation in your body will reduce the risk of major health problems and keep you feeling your best.
Try these recipes:
Inflammatory Ginger Turmeric Carrot Soup
Cannellini Beans with Shallots and Sage
One Bowl Turmeric Flourless Muffins
Anti-Inflammatory Sweet Potato and Chickpea Fritters