PHOTOGRAPH BY MULTI-BITS/GETTY IMAGES
Who says fat is the enemy? Research shows that combining vegetables and a source of healthy fat enhances absorption of antioxidants like lutein and beta-carotene. Lutein, an antioxidant in leafy greens, is known to diminish inflammation in the eyes, therefore helping prevent neurodegenerative disorders like age-related macular degeneration. Beta-carotene, another antioxidant, has been shown to lower all-over inflammation in older adults. Drizzle some olive oil over your next salad to ensure you get more bang for your buck.
Whip up a smoothie with spinach and blueberries and drink it before and after your workout. In one study, athletes who ate blueberries every day for 6 weeks reduced post-workout inflammation, while other research shows spinach can improve breathing and the flow of oxygen during a workout. So, the nitrate present in spinach helps muscles work more efficiently during exercise, while blueberries help decrease muscle soreness after exercise—bring on the smoothie.
If you’re a premenopausal woman, you’re at risk for iron deficiency anemia (having too few healthy red blood cells due to too little iron in the body). According to the Iron Disorders Institute, this reaction results from aninflammatory response, and it can limit the amount of iron available to the rest of your body. Eating iron-rich foods, such as lentils and beans, together with citrusy foods high in ascorbic acid and carotenoids, like lemon, substantially increases the amount of iron absorbed.
Spicy sweet potato fries can do more than satisfy a craving. Sprinkling some cayenne pepper or chili powder on orange foods rich in beta-carotene, like sweet potatoes and butternut squash, enhances vitamin A absorption. Vitamin A has been found to be beneficial in inflammatory skin conditions, such as acne, as well as bronchopulmonary dysplasia. We give this combo an A+ (see what we did there?).
Add some chopped almonds to a bowl of kefir for a happy, healthy gut. Like yogurt, this dairy product provides tons of beneficial bacteria and probiotics to the belly. To boost the friendly stomach bacteria, eat almonds with your kefir. Research shows the fiber in almond skin acts as a prebiotic, which feed the probiotics found in kefir, and creates protective intestinal bacteria that fights off chronic intestinal inflammation (and diseases like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and chronic pouchitis).
Satisfying your sweet tooth could help you beat inflammation. Raspberries and grapes are both high in antioxidants, and science shows that when it comes to antioxidants, two is better than one. Raspberries contain ellagic acid, which is known to enhance the ability of quercetin, found in grapes. When combined, they are inflammation-fighting machines. Studies say this combination can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and lung cancer.
Garlic and onion may give you less than lovely breath, but they’re a great addition to whole grains, such as brown rice and wheat pasta: Together, they can more than triple the body’s absorption of zinc. In one study, elderly people who took zinc supplements decreased their risk of chronic inflammation-related diseases (think atherosclerosis, cancer, neurodegeneration, and immunologic disorders) by 66%. We say the bad breath is worth it.