Inflammation Is Bad News. These Foods Fight It.

fruits nuts anti-inflammation
Oren Aks/Thrillist

Chronic inflammation is scary stuff. There are no real symptoms or warning signs; you can't tell that it's happening, even if it's been festering inside of your body for decades. That sounds dramatic, but inflammation is thought to be the culprit behind insulin resistanceheart disease, and even some forms of cancer. Plus, it's triggered by eating too much of the best stuff, including sugary and deep-fried foods, and who can resist a sugary, deep-fried, glazed donut?

Luckily, you can help undo some of that inflammation damage. Foods that are rich in antioxidants, including polyphenols, are found to help fight chronic inflammation. You should also probably do things like exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep, but eating the antioxidant and vitamin-rich foods listed below is a good start.


Coffee can scientifically do things like help your memory and fight strokes. It can also help fight off inflammation, according to a long-term study out of Athens. The people who drank coffee regularly had lower amyloid levels, an inflammation marker, and were less likely to develop diabetes. Enjoy it black for the best health benefits.

Virgin olive oil

Olive oil is like the pizza of culinary oils; it's great for any occasion. As a cooking oil, drizzling over veggies, or a dip for (healthy, whole-grain) bread. Another bonus is its anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to the concentration of oleocanthal. Oleocanthal has been proven to fight not only inflammatory responses like arthritis, but also chronic inflammation. Another reason to stock up on EVOO.


Turmeric is one of those spices you always have in your cabinet, but don't really know what to do with. Here's some incentive to start sprinkling it on everything: turmeric is composed of curcumin, which studies have shown can fight inflammation. People even take curcumin supplements to reap the benefits, which is a great idea in case turmeric-covered sweet potato fries sound gross to you. It's in the ginger family, and ginger, which is slightly more tolerable, has been touted as a powerful anti-inflammatory, especially in people with arthritis. 


Walnuts are fatty and delicious, but luckily packed with the healthy Omega-3 fats great for weight loss and fighting inflammation. Nuts can also help lower cholesterol, another health risk linked to inflammation. Definitely add walnuts to your grocery list, since they're the only nuts that have a significant source of Omega-3s, but cashews and almonds are pretty good sources of other healthy fats, too. 

Garlic and onions

Aside from fighting off vampires and making your breath smell like a garbage can, garlic is actually pretty damn good for you. It's been a natural remedy for centuries, and modern studies have shown that garlic's antioxidant properties can help fight inflammatory diseases, such as metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disorders. Onions are in the same realm; they contain similar antioxidants as garlic, and also polyphenols to fight inflammation. 


Vitamin D is something you need but are probably deficient in, what with skin cancer fears and all. It's good for the immune system, can help stave off Type 2 diabetes, and is a proven anti-inflammatory. Luckily, you don't need to become tanorexic to reap the sunshine vitamin's benefits; fatty fish such as salmon, trout, and albacore tuna contain healthy doses. They're also packed with anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids, so opting for surf over turf is a double-whammy against inflammation. 


You're probably so sick of hearing about kale right now, which is totally understandable. People walk around in kale clothing these days and aren't even embarrassed about it. But it's important to mention here because kale and other similar greens are really, really good for you. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and collard greens are packed with Vitamin K, an inflammation fighter. One cup serving of raw kale has almost 1,000 micrograms of Vitamin K, which is nearly 10 times the recommended daily amount. At the very least, you can throw a handful into a smoothie and barely taste it. 


Tomatoes, which are technically a fruit, are chock-full of lycopene, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Cooking them brings out lycopene's powers even more, so add a homemade marinara sauce to your diet to really reap the benefits. 


Blueberries are probably the most antioxidant fruit available. They can help boost brainpower, are delicious in mojitos, and are rich in types of antioxidants called anthocyanins, which has been proven to fight inflammation. It helps that they're so tasty; add a handful to Greek yogurt or enjoying by themselves as a sweet snack. Other berries that pack similar anti-inflammatory benefits include cherries, raspberries, cranberries, and strawberries. 

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Christina Stiehl is a Health and Fitness Staff Writer for Thrillist. She doesn't know how to say no to a glazed donut. Follow her: @ChristinaStiehl.