5 Anti-Inflammatory Ingredients to Cook With
Inflammation is defined by Health.com as the body's response to outside threats like stress, infection, or toxic chemicals. When the body thinks it's about to experience this, the immune system responds by activating proteins to protect cells and tissue.
"In a healthy situation, inflammation serves as a good friend to our body," said Mansour Mohamadzadeh, PhD, director of the Center for Inflammation and Mucosal Immunology at the University of Florida. "But if immune cells start to overreact, that inflammation can be totally directed against us." This type of inflammation can be harmful especially when it continues and becomes chronic.
These simple ingredients, which were recommended by functional doctors and nutrition experts, can help result in reduced inflammation and can greatly improve your overall health. MBG Foods spoke to these doctors and nutritionists and found the single ingredients they add to their dinner to maximize the meal's anti-inflammatory effects.
I use a lot of herbs in my cooking, fresh in season, dried when not. Oregano, thyme, basil, cilantro—the list goes on. Not only do herbs make everything taste more flavorful and vibrant, but they have numerous health benefits from supporting healthy weight to their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant effects. Start with a few seasonings from your favorite cuisine: If you love Italian, emphasize basil and oregano; if Asian is your favorite, try ginger and garlic; if you love Mexican, try oregano, chilies, cilantro, and cumin. For fresh herbs all year round, try growing chives, oregano, thyme, and cilantro as houseplants in a sunny windowsill!
Dinner is not dinner in my home if there is no garlic. Not only do I love the way it smells when it starts cooking, but I also love the way it adds such a powerful flavor to everything. The bonus is that it has so many health benefits, including fighting inflammation. If I'm actually following a recipe (which is rare!), I'll always double the amount of garlic it calls for. As I think about it, I must always end up with garlic breath, but it is so worth it, and luckily my husband doesn't mind!
I try to incorporate garlic into almost every single meal since it is one of the most versatile ingredients. No matter what type of dish I am cooking, whether it is a simple grass-fed burger or an Asian-inspired stir-fry, garlic is the perfect addition that will complement the flavors that are already present in the dish. Garlic contains sulfur, which plays a role in inhibiting pro-inflammatory cytokines like NF-kb and increasing glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that also helps drive down inflammation in the body. This is something I talk about at length in my new book, The Inflammation Spectrum.
I love to add oregano to vegetables, fish, chicken—basically whatever I'm making. Oregano contains thymol and carvacrol, plant-based compounds that fight inflammation and help boost immunity. Plus, they make everything taste good!
I always incorporate a green veggie at dinner. Partly because my momma always had a green veg on the dinner table, usually green beans, which is probably why I avoid green beans as an adult. But you can always find something green on my plate. Asparagus, arugula, and broccoli (or broccolini if I'm feelin' fancy) are my top three faves! They offer so many fabulous health benefits, including fiber (keeps me regular, which is very important), folate (aka vitamin B9), and vitamin K. In fact, this study showed that one serving (just ONE serving!) of green veggies slowed the process of cognitive decline with age. Boom. Need I say more? Green veggies for the win.
GARLIC POWDER, ONION POWDER, & TURMERIC
When I cook, I try to select foods and ingredients with intention based on their benefits. I often roast seasonal vegetables for a dinner side dish, and my favorite trifecta of spices I incorporate are garlic powder, onion powder, and turmeric. Not only does this add something different, but multiple studies have shown that curcumin, the ingredient that contributes to turmeric's color and flavor, is a potent anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent. If I can eat delicious, real food while fighting disease at the same time, that is a win!