Inflammation Fighters: The Foods That Help

We generally lead high-stress lifestyles. We're working full time, have deadlines to meet, travelling for work, exercising multiple times a week (hopefully 😉), driving around the city picking and dropping off our kids from school and activities, running errands on the weekend, and prepping for the week ahead.

When you’re constantly putting your body under stress–whether from work, illness, or exercise–your body turns its protection mode on, which is often in the form of inflammation. Inflammation is a normal process that is designed to help your body recover. The inflammatory response, however, can cause your body to have aches and pains. Inflammation is meant to protect you but can cause your body to fight against itself. You can become more vulnerable to injury, slow your muscle recovery, and becomes susceptible to certain diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

This healing process your body undertakes can be improved with several small, simple changes, including the foods you consume. Food is medicine, and a lot of food substances contain anti-inflammatory compounds that can alleviate your pain symptoms and reduce swelling in the body. Below are 5 foods that provide the most powerful boost to your body’s ability to regulate and reduce inflammation.

1. Ginger

Ginger is a flowering plant that originated in China. Gingerol is the main bioactive compound in ginger, responsible for much of its medicinal properties, including its powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. This flavorful and fragrant root is available all year and used in everything from soda to stirfry. In conjunction with anti-inflammatory benefits, gingerol has been shown to prevent free radical damage, protect against colorectal cancer, and decrease muscle soreness. Ginger is also a natural anti-emetic, often used to alleviate motion sickness and morning sickness. Try adding ginger into your cooking, and my personal favourite way to ingest it is by steeping ginger, lemon, and honey in hot water for a warm comfort drink on a cold day.

2. Flaxseed

Flax seeds are one of the oldest crops and have been grown since the beginning of civilization in both brown and golden forms which are equally nutritious. Flaxseeds provide a good amount of protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids, in addition to being a rich source of some vitamins and minerals. The abundant amount of omega-3 fatty acids found in flax has been found to reduce inflammation in the body. The Harvard School of Public Health reports that omega-3 found in flaxseed may help in blocking pro-inflammatory agents. Furthermore, animal studies have shown that the flax seeds prevented cholesterol from being deposited in the heart blood vessels, reduced inflammation in the arteries, and reduced tumor growth. To get the most out of flaxseed, it is recommended to grind it up to release the oils, thereafter you can add it on top of salads, cereal, yogurt, and other dishes. and then add a spoonful of it to your salad, oatmeal, or yogurt.

3. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of the world’s oldest and most coveted spices and has been prized for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. The antioxidants in cinnamon have anti-inflammatory effects, which may help lower your risk of disease. Research has shown that cinnamon not only reduces inflammation but also fights bacteria, assists with blood sugar control, and enhances brain function. Sprinkle cinnamon over yogurt, oatmeal, or add it to a smoothie.

3. Turmeric

Tumeric has been used in India for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb and gets its yellow colouring from a compound called curcumin. Curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. The University of Maryland Medical Center found that curcumin can help to improve chronic pain by suppressing inflammatory chemicals in the body. Keep in mind that most studies use turmeric extracts that contain mostly curcumin itself, up to 1 gram per day.

It would be very difficult to reach these levels just using the turmeric spice in your foods, so to get the most out of this potent spice, I would recommend you take a supplement that contains significant amounts of curcumin. Moreover, curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream, therefore it is suggested you consume black pepper with it, which contains piperine, a natural substance that enhances the absorption of curcumin by 2,000%.

4. Pineapple

Pineapple originated in South America, where early European explorers named it after its resemblance to a pinecone. This delicious tropical fruit is packed with nutrients, antioxidants and other helpful compounds, such as enzymes that can fight inflammation and disease. Pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain, which is helpful in treating musculoskeletal injuries like sprains and strains. According to a study in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Disease, this enzyme may also help to improve digestion along with aches and pains associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Moreover, it has been found to speed up recovery from surgery. Add pineapple to a smoothie, salad, desserts, or eat by itself to help improve your body’s aches and pains.

5. Walnuts

Walnuts are one of the healthiest nuts you can eat. So much so that there’s enough interest in this one nut that for the past 50 years, scientists and industry experts have gathered annually at the University of California, Davis, for a walnut conference discussing the latest walnut health research. Walnuts contain polyphenols which can help fight oxidative stress and inflammation. The beneficial bacteria in your gut converts subgroups of polyphenols, ellagitannins, to compounds called urolithins, which have been found to protect against inflammation. Omega-3 fat, magnesium, and the amino acid arginine in walnuts may also decrease inflammation. Walnuts provide more antioxidants than Brazil nuts, pistachios, pecans, peanuts, almonds, macadamias, cashews, and hazelnuts, and are also a great source of protein and fiber. I love adding walnuts to my breakfast quinoa and adding them to salads.

Inflammation is at the root of many diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. It is important we take matters into our own hands when we can, even if it is just the small choices we make in the kitchen. I hope this list of anti-inflammatory foods were of value to you, and you start adding them into your diet regularly!

If you have any further questions about health and wellness topics, or if you've been looking for a personal health coach, and/or personal trainer to supplement your healthy eating, email me at

I offer personal training services out of a local Vancouver gym and would be honoured to kickstart your fitness journey and help you crush your fitness goals :)

Chelsea Ellacott

'Commit to be Fit'