How I Incorporate 6 of the Highest Anti-inflammatory Foods into My Diet

IMG_6628

(Picture by Kungfoodie.org)

I do my best to closely follow an anti-inflammatory diet, a topic discussed in detail in a previous post. Although many diets focus almost exclusively on foods that need to be eliminated from our diets, when it comes to the anti-inflammatory diet, it is just as important that certain foods be added in on a regular basis. Sometimes this feels easier said than done.

Understanding the IF Factor 

Knowing which foods are most important to add can be a bit confusing. How do we know which foods are actually anti-inflammatory? In my personal search, I have come across countless lists of anti-inflammatory foods, some with questionable resources, and it can be difficult to know which lists are actually accurate.

In my search, I came across a rating system called the IF Factor, a number that indicates the level of inflammatory or anti-inflammatory properties found in any given food. Positive ratings indicate anti-inflammatory effects and negative ratings indicate inflammatory effects. IF factors are calculated based on a complicated formula that takes into account over 20 different factors found in foods including, “amount and type of fat, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, glycemic index, and anti-inflammatory compounds” (Source).

You can find a list of anti-inflammatory foods and their IF Factors at Self Nutrition Data. The foods that I included are based on some of the top results from this list.

The Problem 

Once we know which foods to add, the problem can become knowing how to add them to our diets when we are dealing with limited energy and pain that keeps us out of our kitchens for long periods of time. The problem for many chronically ill and pained individuals is that incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into our diets can feel like more trouble than it is worth.

Our energy stores are precious and limited, and sometimes the energy needed to cook healthy anti-inflammatory foods seems to cancel out their benefits. Over time, I have become more adept at finding easy ways to incorporate anti-inflammatory foods into my everyday cooking and eating. Hopefully the following list can help you as you seek to do the same. 

How to Add Anti-inflammatory Foods into Your Diet 

Salmon/Fish Oil 

I quickly learned that eating fresh fish on a regular basis is not going to happen for me. Not only is high quality fish expensive, but I only go shopping every 1 ½ to 2 weeks to save on energy, and fish does not stay fresh that long. I do eat fresh, wild-caught salmon when I can, but usually I just take a fish oil supplement. There are so many options for fish oil, and the brand you choose is important.  You are looking for a brand that has a high ratio of EPA to DHA; the higher the ratio, the greater its anti-inflammatory properties.

You can find the brand I use here. There are other good brands as well – just check your ratios when you choose which ones to buy.

Tart Cherries (and other anti-inflammatory fruits)   

I incorporate tart red cherries into my diet in two ways: smoothies and juices. When I have enough energy to spare, I make a smoothie every morning, usually based on this recipe I have posted in the past. I use the Very Cherry Berry Blend from Trader Joes in my smoothies, as it contains tart red cherries as well as raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries which are also anti-inflammatory.

When I don’t have enough energy to make my morning smoothies, I drink a glass of cherry juice every day. I buy Tart Cherry Juice from Trader Joes or purchase Cherry Juice Concentrate through Amazon.

Turmeric 

I hate the taste of turmeric. I just find it gross. Unfortunately for me, the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric are legendary, proved time and time again through empirical research. So I know I need to either get past my aversion or find ways to use it so it can’t be tasted. I do some of both.

When I do get around to making my morning smoothie, I always add a few pinches of turmeric. As long as you don’t add too much, you can’t even taste it. Similarly, every time I make rice in my rice cooker I add several teaspoons of turmeric. Once again, at this amount, it can’t even be tasted.

When all else fails, on the days I’m not eating smoothies or rice, I put about ½ a teaspoon of turmeric into a small glass of water and just chug as quickly as I can. You can also buy turmeric capsules, but because it is much cheaper to just buy the raw product, I have not gone this way personally. You can easily find recipes for various types of turmeric tea if that sounds appealing to you, but I find the thought of sipping on a turmeric-tasting beverage unpleasant, so I would rather quickly chug it down!

The official recommendation for turmeric consumption is 1.5 grams daily (A heaping teaspoon). When taken for therapeutic reasons, this may increased to 2-3 grams per day (Source). However, I have personally found that this amount of turmeric does not agree with my stomach. My digestive system can handle about ½ a teaspoon of turmeric a day, so you may need to use it accordingly based on how your body personally responds.

Ginger 

Although I will on occasion add ginger to curries and stir-fries, I don’t make these regularly enough to get much benefit from the ginger. Therefore, my go-to means of consumption is fresh ginger tea. I cut large slices of fresh ginger (no need to even peel it) and place at the bottom of a mug along with a little honey. I pour hot water over this, let it steep, and drink with a little bit of fresh lemon juice if I have it on hand. Adding a green tea bag to this mix is a great way to double up.

Garlic 

Although I use garlic in a variety of dishes, my favorite way to add a considerable quantity to my diet is to to buy pickled garlic cloves. Although I am sure they are sold other places, I like to buy them at the Whole Food’s olive bar when I happen to go there. It may not appeal to everyone, but munching on a few pickled garlic cloves a day is an easy and convenient way to benefits.

Dark Greens 

Every time I go to the grocery store I buy a big bag of pre-washed pre-chopped greens. Typically I buy spinach, but sometimes I will go for kale. Then throughout the week I add handfuls of it to…well basically anything and everything.

I put a handful in my smoothie in the morning. I add half a bag to rice as it cooks in the rice cooker – adding it about 10 minutes before the cooking process is over. I add it to stir-fries, salads, and soups. Handfuls get added to omelets, curries, and sandwiches. If you are intentional about it, you can always find ways to add greens.

What are your favorite ways to add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet?

26 Comments

  1. I do not care for the strong flavor of turmeric – so I add a little to dishes but not nearly enough for the benefits. I do however like ginger tea and crystallized ginger. I am not a real big fan of Salmon though I do like it wood-grilled in the summer.

      1. Sugar is always a concern. It still has a strong ginger taste. I did read that it has anti-inflammatory benefits but as always need to be careful on the source and accuracy. Let me know if you find anything out.

      2. Hi Bernice, I definitely think the actual ginger still has anti-inflammatory benefits. However, sugar is highly inflammatory. So, if you are eating a highly anti-inflammatory ingredient with a highly inflammatory ingredient, you will get both effects. I do know that one factor taken into account in calculating the IF factor is glycemic index, which would relate to sugar content. Who knows which one is a stronger effect to know if it is worth it? There must be some way to calculate it, but not sure 🙂

  2. It’s a little harder for a TMJ patient to eat good food, which is usually difficult to chew. But I can recommend: cinnamon, extra virgin olive oil, lots of water, and dark chocolate (of course).

  3. I too have been trying to add more turmeric to my diet. I don’t mind the taste, actually reminds me a little of curry. I mostly add it to soups, esp chicken noodle or chicken rice. I need to explore the fish oil thing more, since I am allergic to shellfish. Seems like most fish oil products have the shellfish warning on the bottle. Thanks for this informative post today.

  4. Dark greens are easy for me since I am a vegan anyway. I eat a ton of them. Garlic also easy for me as I am Italian and adding garlic to almost every recipe I cook is like breathing the air! I’ve only recently started adding ginger because I’ve only recently started cooking new Indian recipes which call for it. I like it a lot. Great post…lots of good information.

    1. My biggest problem with garlic is that it takes some effort to peel and mince. So, I try to find places I can add whole cloves. I never would have thought about it before and I’m pretty fast at chopping, but it just takes up all my spoons to stand there at the countertop. Indian recipes are great! I make a few in my slow cooker and it is so easy!

  5. Because I suffer from eczema on my hands, I have a hard time chopping fresh garlic. (Sometimes, I have to wear gloves.) I’ve tried a lot of different versions of garlic, but in my opinion, fresh tastes better… In other words, it’s worth the trouble.

    1. I also think fresh garlic tastes much better. BUT, I also end up not using it much of the time because of the effort to chop it. Catch-22 lol. I will probably end up buying prechopped garlic to use on those days I don’t want to put in the effort.

    1. It is! That’s why I love the IF Factor list I put up because it seems accurate to figure these things out. All the lists out there include different ingredients, which gets so confusing. But this list seems like one I can definitely trust.

  6. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    I like how she adds greens to everything. I’ll have to check on my Nutrilite EPA/DHA ratio. I have discovered that a magnesium supplement helps tremendously with my pain and fatigue. The relief seems to depend on the brand and amount I take per day.

Leave a Reply to Michele Morin Cancel reply