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Reducing inflammation doesn't require food that is organic or from an expensive health food store. In fact, you've probably had some of these in your kitchen for years.

By Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD
February 28, 2021
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Chronic inflammation is at the root of most chronic diseases, from heart disease and diabetes to dementia and cancer, but often times, you don't need medicines to fight inflammation. You can fight inflammation with food.

The good news is these inflammation-fighting foods don't have to be organic and expensive, or unusual and hard to find. You don't have to visit special stores or subscribe to monthly delivers either. In fact, you probably already have some key anti-inflammatory foods stocked in your pantry, fridge, or freezer right now.

Check out this list of 10 top anti-inflammatory kitchen staples.

1. Spices

Pungent spices and dried herbs may seem like they have the potential to aggravate inflammation, but research suggests they actually do the opposite. In fact, their fragrant compounds have been used medicinally in other cultures for years for their anti-inflammatory effects. And while you hear a lot about turmeric, other spices and dried herbs like rosemary, cinnamon, cumin, and ginger all have anti-inflammatory benefits.

2. Legume-based Pasta

Pastas made with flour from chickpeas, fava beans, and lentils first appeared on shelves nearly a decade ago, and they have quickly grown in popularity. Dompared to refined and whole-grain pasta, these legume-based versions have more protein, fiber, and other nutrients. This helps with satiety and blood glucose management, but it also makes it easier to throw together meat-free pasta meal with ample protein. And getting in a few meatless meals a week lowers inflammation.

3. Canned Tomatoes

Tomatoes are good sources of vitamin C, folate, and potassium, but it's a phytochemical known as lycopene that elevates them to superstar status in the anti-inflammatory food world. Lycopene reduces inflammation connected to cancer and heart disease, and cooked or minimally processed tomato products are some of best sources. In fact, tomato pastes, sauces, juices, and other canned products offer up to five times more lycopene per cup compared to fresh.

Frozen strawberries
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4. Frozen Berries

Produce that is flash-frozen shortly after being harvested often has more anti-inflammatory nutrients than even fresh produce. This is because fruits like blueberries or strawberries have the greatest amount of nutrients when picked, and then slowly lose their vitamins and minerals after that.

But freezing can halt that loss. This means frozen berries are ideal to keep on hand in the freezer for a hefty dose of antioxidants and anthocyanins that can help to tamp down existing and future inflammation.

5. Canned Tuna or Salmon

Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids offer some of the strongest anti-inflammatory benefits, and most of us don't get near enough of them on a weekly basis. But one of the easiest ways to start making this happen is by keeping a few cans or pouches of tuna, salmon, or other fish in the pantry. Cold-water fish like these are one of the few good food sources of omega-3s, so try to get them in two to three times a week.

High Angle View Of Food In Container
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6. Tea

A daily cup of black or green tea may potentially reduce or inhibit cancer cell formation, promote growth of good bacteria in the gut, and slow the onset and development of Alzheimer's disease. Research suggest these perks stem from anti-inflammatory compounds in tea called catechins. Choose green over black for less caffeine, and keep tabs on overall intake if also consuming other caffeinated beverages.

7. Extra-virgin Olive Oil

One of the "good" fats, olive oil is predominantly made up of unsaturated fatty acids, even containing a small amount of omega-3s. But what makes olive oil stand out is an unique compound called oleocanthal that suppresses inflammatory compounds.

While all olive oils contain some, less refined types like extra-virgin are the best so make those your go-to for salad dressings and when cooking at lower heats.

Eggs in carton
Credit: Lew Robertson

8. Eggs

Always in the fridge but easy to overlook, eggs are a quick, high-quality protein source. They're also one of the best sources of two anti-inflammatory nutrients, selenium and choline.

In fact, two eggs provide 50 percent of daily needs for both. Some individuals also find that eating a lower-carb breakfast, like eggs, helps to manage blood sugar the rest of the day, and this is important since frequent spikes and dips in blood sugar are associated with increased inflammation.

9. Frozen Spinach

Eating leafy greens is one of the best ways to load up on Vitamin C and beta carotene, two antioxidants that play key roles in reducing inflammation. But there are only so many salads you can make — not to mention that those fresh greens can go bad before you know it. This is why buying some frozen varieties, in addition to some fresh, is a smart option. Frozen cut spinach has a much longer life in the freezer, and once thawed and drained, can be stirred into hot stews and soups or added to entrees.

10. Canned Beans

From cannellini to black, garbanzo to kidney, you can never go wrong with an assortment of canned beans on hand. Not only are they an easy way to boost fiber and protein in a meal, but canned beans are also a good source of complex carbs that tend to have a much lower impact on blood glucose. This is important since constant glucose fluctuations are associated with increased inflammation. To minimize sodium, purchase no-salt-added, or drain and rinse canned beans before using to reduce sodium.

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Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, is author of Meals That Heal: 100 Everyday Anti-Inflammatory Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less and a culinary nutrition expert known for ability to simplify food and nutrition information. She received a 2017 James Beard Journalism award, and her work is regularly featured in or on respective websites for Cooking Light, RealSimple, Parents, Health, EatingWell, Allrecipes, My Fitness Pal, eMeals, Rally Health, and the American Heart Association. You can follower on Instagram @realfoodreallife_rd or on carolynwilliamsrd.com.