|Inflammation is part of the body's immune response. It alerts your body to a wound or injury, like when your ankle will start to throb and swell after a sprain, so your immune system can fix it. It's not just external injuries that cause inflammation, however. Things like a lack of sleep, excessive stress, genetics, and—what might be worst of all—the wrong diet can all contribute to inflammation - and inflammation builds belly fat, reduces levels of gut-healthy probiotics, induces weight gain, causes joint pain, bloating, and fatigue, and has been connected with a host of diseases, from diabetes and obesity to heart disease and cancer. And it gets worse: Once you get belly fat, just like an active volcano, it can start spewing out dangerous substances through a condition called "leaky gut." These biochemicals, collectively known as adipokines, include many pro-inflammatory chemicals that will continue to worsen inflammation, sending you into a waist-widening downward spiral.
These healing foods attack inflammation by increasing the concentration of beneficial bacteria in your gut, turning off inflammatory genes, and decreasing levels of pro-inflammatory biomarkers—many of which will torch fat in the process. Fit these foods into your diet, and you'll be on your way to a leaner, happier you. And to drop even more pounds, use our Slimmers Starter Pack.
- Blueberries - are rich in anthocyanins, that contribute to their anti-inflammatory effects by effectively turning off inflammatory and immune genes. And when it comes to anthocyanins, blueberries are king. On top of that, blueberries are rich in vitamin C and another polyphenol, resveratrol, which have both been found to promote anti-inflammatory responses through decreasing inflammatory free radicals.
- Oats - contain resistant starch, a type of carb that passes through your gut undigested. Instead of feeding you, it feeds your healthy gut bacteria, which in turn produce a fatty acid that encourages more efficient fat oxidation known as butyrate. Higher levels of butyrate reduce inflammation in your body and help reduce insulin resistance as well. Less inflammation means less bloating and a slimmer you.
- Ginger - researchers attribute ginger's health benefits to gingerols, compounds that are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-disease.
- Red peppers (capsicum, bell peppers) - are an anti-inflammatory superfood—but go red to reap the most benefits. Out of the three colors of bell pepper, red have the highest amount of inflammatory-biomarker-reducing vitamin C along with the bioflavonoids beta-carotene, quercetin, and luteolin, according to research in the Journal of Food Science. Luteolin has been found to neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation. Beta-carotene is a carotenoid, fat-soluble compounds that are associated with a reduction in a wide range of cancers, as well as reduced risk and severity of inflammatory conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. And allergy research has shown that quercetin acts as a mast-cell stabilizer, which decreases the number of cells reacting to an allergen. Mast cells are responsible for releasing histamine during inflammatory and allergic reactions.
- Turmeric - curcumin creates turmeric's beautifully bright, yellowy-orange color—but that's not all it's good for. This active compound has been found to contain potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Studies have shown curcumin directly inhibits the activation of inflammatory pathways through shutting off production of two pro-inflammatory enzymes, COX-2, and 5-LOX. For this reason, curcumin has been implicated in a range of beneficial health effects, from preventing cognitive decline, liver damage, and heart disease, while easing joint inflammation and pain associated with arthritis.
- Beetroot - besides being a source of many phytochemicals, including ascorbic acid, carotenoids, and flavonoids, beets are a unique source of betalain pigments, which have been found to display potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and chemopreventive activity. One of these pigments, betaine, is a nutrient that not only fights inflammation, but also is known to rev your metabolism, positively influences the mechanism for insulin resistance, boost your mood, and shut down genes that encourage fat to hang around. A review in the journal Nutrients has associated eating beets with lower levels of inflammatory markers—including CRP as well as interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor, which are released by harmful belly fat—as well as a decrease in risk of plaque buildup, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
- Tomatoes - Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, an antioxidant that protects your brain and fights depression causing inflammation. Because lycopene lives in tomato skins, you'll get more of the stuff if you throw a handful of cherry tomatoes into your next salad instead of slicing up one full-size tomato. And if you're not a fan of the tart, raw tomatoes, research has proven that processed tomatoes have an even higher amount of lycopene than the fresh ones. Whatever your choice, enjoy them with a little extra virgin olive oil, which has been shown to increase fat-soluble lycopene absorption.
- Chia seeds - With 9 grams of healthy fats (including inflammation-quelling ALA omega-3s) alongside a whopping 11 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein per ounce, chia seeds can stabilize blood sugar, boost weight loss, suppress appetite, and even help keep your body hydrated throughout the day. Put them all together, and you have an inflammation-fighting superfood.
- Eggs - Besides keeping brittle bones at bay, Vitamin D also fends off depression and colds, reduces the risk of certain cancers, and perhaps most importantly, diminishes inflammation. Previous research has found a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and increased levels of pro-inflammatory markers. While your body produces D whenever your skin is directly exposed to sunlight, if you've been finding that you're glued to your desk more often than you'd like, it might be best to get some vitamin D into your diet as well, and whole eggs are a great solution. The yolk contains a host of health-boosting nutrients from vitamin D to fat-blasting choline.
- Yoghurt - Cultivating a proper gut garden is essential for good health, particularly when it comes to fighting inflammation. That's because your good gut bugs break down foods into anti-inflammatory fatty acids which not only decrease inflammation but may also help shut off your fat genes. And when they aren't healthy, they can't do this. Adding cultured, fermented foods—known as probiotics—into your diet can recolonize your gut with beneficial microbes, which can then assist with fending off inflammation. Low sugar yogurt (with live active cultures) is one of the most accessible sources of probiotics.
- Apples - In order for your probiotic efforts to succeed, you also have to incorporate foods known as prebiotics into your diet. This group of high fiber foods provide your gut bugs with the fuel they use to function and ferment. Apple peels are full of pectin, a natural fruit fiber that a study published in the journal Anaerobe found to be powerful enough to support the growth of the beneficial bacteria Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus. Not to mention, apple peels also provide an average of 10 mg of quercetin—an endurance-boosting, anti-inflammatory antioxidant.
- Rosemary - this flavorful herb is also a powerful anti-inflammatory thanks to its high concentration of antioxidant compounds. (In fact, you'll often see "rosemary extract" listed on your natural processed goods as an antioxidant preservative.) Scientists believe the anti-inflammatory activity comes from the presence of carnosic acid and carnosol, two polyphenolic compounds in rosemary which a study published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine discovered could effectively inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
- Raw honey - is rich in proteolytic enzymes. These enzymes are essential when it comes to modulating the inflammatory response. They do so by helping to break down proteins and cellular debris and clears them out to reduce your body's immune and inflammatory response. Raw honey is one of the best sources of these enzymes because—brace yourself—honey is made by bees' enzyme-rich saliva. Multiple animal studies have found honey to be effective in alleviating symptoms of inflammatory diseases, such as IBS. Bonus: it is also full of anti-inflammatory polyphenols, carotenoids, antioxidants, and vitamins.