Inflammation is part of your body’s natural defenses—when a cut swells up and turns red, that’s inflammation at work healing you. But when it goes into overdrive, sparked by factors like poor diet, obesity and smoking, it can cause a host of health problems including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer and even depression. Tame it with these strategies.
1. Try Turmeric
Turmeric is having a moment, thanks largely to curcumin—a compound that gives the sunny spice its anti-inflammatory powers. According to a recent review, curcumin reduces the production of a protein that makes your immune system work overtime. These studies used high doses of curcumin (up to 1,500 mg/day), so it may be worth asking your doctor about supplements. You may not be able to get that much from food (5 teaspoons ground turmeric or 2 ounces fresh has 500 mg of curcumin). But the spice’s anti-inflammatory potential is still a good reason to sprinkle it liberally on roasted veggies or sip those trendy golden lattes.
2. Eat Your Greens
Here’s yet another reason not to skimp on green leafy vegetables: they are rich in magnesium, a mineral that about half of us don’t consume enough of. "I encourage anyone who’s susceptible to inflammation to assess their magnesium intake," says Forrest H. Nielsen, Ph.D., a research nutritionist at the USDA’s Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center in North Dakota. (Ask your doctor to check your magnesium levels with a blood test.) "There’s a lot of evidence that people with high inflammatory markers often have low magnesium levels. Plus, people who have conditions associated with inflammation, like heart disease and diabetes, also tend to have low magnesium levels," Nielsen says.
3. Eat Your Reds, Blues and Purples, Too
Speaking of color, green isn’t the only one that’s good for you. Women who regularly consume roughly 40 mg per day of anthocyanins—the compound that gives produce its deep red and purple hues—have 18 percent lower levels of C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammatory activity, compared to those who eat minimal amounts of them, U.K. researchers found. You can get that daily dose of anthocyanins from 1/3 cup of blackberries, 18 red grapes or 1 cup of shredded red cabbage.
4. Grab a Handful of Nuts
People who noshed at least five 1-ounce servings of peanuts, almonds, walnuts or cashews each week had lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers compared to those who didn’t eat them regularly, found a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Nuts’ anti-inflammatory effects are due to their combo of fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.