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Anti-Inflammatory Diet 101

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to an infection, toxin, or injury. In other words, when something damages your cells, your body releases various chemicals that activate the immune system.


A classic example of this in the world of fitness is the inflammation that occurs after an intense training session. Strenuous exercise creates microtears in muscle fibers, and in response to this “injury” the body releases particular substances, including proteins and antibodies, that increase blood flow to the area.


This type of inflammation is not only necessary, but beneficial as it allows the muscle fibers to repair, recover, and grow stronger.


In instances of acute inflammation, the inflammatory process only lasts for a relatively short amount of time (a few hours to a few days).


However, inflammation that persists over prolonged periods of time is chronic.


In this state, the body’s inflammatory processes never get a change to “relax” and return to baseline levels. Chronic inflammation is a known contributor to several diseases, including heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, asthma, and Alzheimer’s disease. Key biomarkers y increased levels of circulating inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein (CRP), TNF-α, and IL-6.[1]


Your lifestyle can have a significant impact on the development of chronic low-grade inflammation. Factors such as not smoking, getting quality sleep, maintaining a healthy body weight, and exercising regularly can all help to promote a healthy inflammatory response.


Nutrition also has a significant impact on inflammation levels. In other words, certain foods can be more inflammatory than others, and some foods even have anti-inflammatory effects in the body.


Here are some of the top anti-inflammatory foods:


Anti-Inflammatory Diet Foods




As a kid, our parents reminded us pretty regularly (or in some cases, daily) of the importance of eating vegetables. In addition to supplying water and fiber (which is good for gut health), vegetables also contain important phenolic compounds and polyphenols.


These benefit the body in a number of ways. In regards to anti-inflammatory effects, phenolic compounds found in vegetables act on COX-2, iNOS, and eicosanoids, which inhibit immune cell activation and modulate transcription factors, like NF-KB or Nrf-2, which result in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.[2,3]


Some of the most nutrient-packed vegetables, considered “superfoods”, include:


  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Collard Greens
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Bell peppers


For added nutrition and antioxidant support, a daily greens and reds superfood supplement can also be helpful!




Fruit is another of nature’s great gifts. In addition to being naturally sweet, fruit is chock full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and micronutrients, including antioxidants proanthocyanidins, stilbenes, flavonols, and lignans. These phytocompounds benefit the body in numerous ways, including the inhibition of regulatory enzymes, free radical scavenging, and gene expression.[4]


While berries are considered the “best” fruits, due to their high antioxidant and low calorie content, you really can’t go wrong with “eating the rainbow.” Some of our favorite fruits include:


  • Cherries
  • Blueberries
  • Goji berries
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Pears
  • Grapes


One “fruit” that might fly under the radar are avocados. Yes, they’re also lumped in with the “healthy fats” category (which we’re going to discuss next), but botanically speaking avocados are a fruit!


Healthy Fats


Fat is an essential macronutrient that serves many important biological functions, including hormone production. While low-fat diets were all the rage 20-30 years ago, the reality is that you need a certain amount of fat each day to not only survive, but thrive.


The key is in choosing the right (healthy) fats, which means getting a good mix of saturated and unsaturated fats. Consuming too much of one type of fat and not enough of another can contribute to inflammation.


As we just mentioned, avocados are a source of healthy fats, monounsaturated fats, specifically. Researchers have found that avocados’ fat ratio helps improve vascular endothelial function by maintaining healthy postprandial FMD blood flow. Avocados also contain oleic acid, a particular fat enhances the absorption of lutein -- a carotenoid found in avocados that supports cardiovascular health and cognitive function.[5]


Other great sources of heart-healthy fats include:


  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Walnuts
  • Pistachios


Fatty fish, like salmon and anchovies, along with certain nuts and seeds (e.g. walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds) are particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to offer anti-inflammatory effects and support cardiovascular health.[6] Since many individuals don’t enjoy the taste of seafood, an omega-3 supplement is an effective and convenient option. 1UP Omega-3 delivers 2,000mg of high-strength fish oil concentrate in every serving!


Coffee & Tea


Aside from water, coffee and tea are the most widely consumed beverages on the planet (and, water is used to make both). Tea has been used medicinally for centuries in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and coffee represents one of the richest antioxidant sources for humans.[7]


Both coffee and tea have been found to offer anti-inflammatory effects. This is due to the high amounts of polyphenols and antioxidants contained in the brews.[8]


For those of you looking to really maximize your tea flavonoid intake, opt for green tea as it has been found to be more active than black tea, likely due to the higher flavonoid contents of green tea.[9]


Additional Anti-Inflammatory Food & Drink


This section is set aside for those ingredients that you may consume on a regular basis and offer anti-inflammatory effects, but don’t constitute a significant portion of your daily calorie intake (or shouldn’t at the very least).


“Other” anti-inflammatory foods include things like:


  • Dark chocolate (which are rich in antioxidants and flavonoids)
  • Turmeric (which contains curcumin)
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Fenugreek (which contains saponins and triterpenes)
  • Cinnamon
  • Red wine
  • Black pepper
  • Rosemary


Our daily wellness shot, Kickstart, contains several anti-inflammatory food powders, including turmeric, ginger, and lemon, which help to promote healthy metabolism and well-being.


Foods & Beverages to Avoid


Just as there are certain foods and beverages that have anti-inflammatory benefits, so, too, are there foods that are pro-inflammatory. Here are some foods to avoid/limit in your diet when looking to promote a healthy inflammatory response include:


  • Fried foods
  • Packaged foods (chips, candy, cookies, baked goods, etc.)
  • Soda and other beverages with lots of added sugar
  • Processed meats (i.e. cold cuts)
  • Alcohol


Important Note


We’re all different, and what foods work best for your body may disagree to some extent with another’s (even one of your own immediate family members). For example, you may be able to enjoy tree nuts (such as pecans or cashews) while your sibling is highly allergic to them.


Generally speaking, though, the above discussed foods and beverages tend to be less inflammatory than others, which may help to limit inflammation.




Inflammation as a natural, and essential, biological process. However, there are times when inflammation is harmful, such as when it’s chronic. Daily decisions you make (what you eat, how you sleep, etc.) can have a profound effect on your overall level of systemic inflammation.



  1. Ghavipour M, Saedisomeolia A, Djalali M, Sotoudeh G, Eshraghyan M, Moghadam A, Wood L. Tomato juice consumption reduces systemic inflammation in overweight and obese females. Br J Nutr 2013;109:2031–5.
  2. Hosseini B, Berthon BS, Saedisomeolia A, Starkey MR, Collison A, Wark PAB, Wood LG. Effects of fruit and vegetable consumption on inflammatory biomarkers and immune cell populations: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2018 Jul 1;108(1):136-155. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy082. PMID: 29931038.
  3. Ambriz-Pérez D.L., Leyva-López N., Gutierrez-Grijalva E.P., Heredia J.B. Phenolic compounds: Natural alternative in inflammation treatment. A Review. Cogent Food Agric. 2016;2 doi: 10.1080/23311932.2015.1131412.
  4. Majdan M, Bobrowska-Korczak B. Active Compounds in Fruits and Inflammation in the Body. Nutrients. 2022 Jun 16;14(12):2496. doi: 10.3390/nu14122496. PMID: 35745226; PMCID: PMC9229651.
  5. Dreher ML, Cheng FW, Ford NA. A Comprehensive Review of Hass Avocado Clinical Trials, Observational Studies, and Biological Mechanisms. Nutrients. 2021 Dec 7;13(12):4376. doi: 10.3390/nu13124376. PMID: 34959933; PMCID: PMC8705026.
  6. Giacobbe, J., Benoiton, B., Zunszain, P., Pariante, C. M., & Borsini, A. (2020). The Anti-Inflammatory Role of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Metabolites in Pre-Clinical Models of Psychiatric, Neurodegenerative, and Neurological Disorders. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11(February). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00122
  7. Ovaskainen ML, Törrönen R, Koponen JM, Sinkko H, Hellström J, Reinivuo H, Mattila P. Dietary intake and major food sources of polyphenols in Finnish adults. J Nutr. 2008 Mar;138(3):562-6. doi: 10.1093/jn/138.3.562. PMID: 18287367.
  8. Paiva C, Beserra B, Reis C, Dorea JG, Da Costa T, Amato AA. Consumption of coffee or caffeine and serum concentration of inflammatory markers: A systematic review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(4):652-663. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2017.1386159. Epub 2017 Nov 3. PMID: 28967799.
  9. Chatterjee P, Chandra S, Dey P, Bhattacharya S. Evaluation of anti-inflammatory effects of green tea and black tea: A comparative in vitro study. J Adv Pharm Technol Res. 2012 Apr;3(2):136-8. doi: 10.4103/2231-4040.97298. PMID: 22837963; PMCID: PMC3401676.

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