I was recently interviewed for an article on www.Parade.com about the best food for fighting inflammation. While many foods are anti-inflammatory, think colorful plant foods, fatty fish, olive oil, coffee, tea, herbs, and spices, along with eating a variety of different foods each day.
I will cut to the chase because I know you want to know what that one food the article says is the absolute best food for fighting inflammation. This is probably not a surprise to you, but it is berries.
Berries are rich in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols (a specific type of antioxidant). They are small but mighty.
Each color and kind of berry offers different nutrients and polyphenols. We hear a lot about superfoods, but no one food offers all the answers. For maximum benefit, it is best to mix up the kinds of berries we are eating and not stick with just one kind. All berries have anti-inflammatory properties, including strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, black currant, açaí, and marionberries. It is best to eat fresh or frozen berries without added sugar because added sugar can be inflammatory for many of us.
Conventionally grown strawberries, in particular, contain very high levels of pesticide residue. When consuming strawberries, I look for organic whenever possible to help decrease pesticide exposure, which can be inflammatory. The Environmental Working Group EWG.org publishes its Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists yearly. These lists show which fruits and vegetables have the highest and lowest pesticide residue.
In addition to the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals in berries, berries are rich in fiber, especially soluble fiber. We do not digest soluble fiber. It is metabolized by the bacteria in our gut microbiome and turned it into fuel for the healthy bacteria in our gut.
When our microbiome becomes out of balance, inflammatory processes begin in the gut that can affect the whole body. A diet rich in fiber, especially soluble fiber, has been shown to dampen this inflammatory process. Adults should aim for 25-30 grams or more of fiber per day. Most of us don’t eat nearly enough fiber in our diets, and berries are generally high in fiber. Blackberries and raspberries each have 8 grams of fiber per cup, while strawberries and blueberries have closer to 3 or 3.5 grams of fiber per cup.
Including a variety of different berries regularly in our diets along with a variety of other colorful plant foods (fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, whole grains, beans, legumes, and some liquids (coffee, tea…), and some fats (olive oil, dark chocolate, dark chocolate, nuts, and seeds …)), getting enough sleep, moving our bodies, managing stress, having close, supportive connections with others, and addressing any microbiome imbalances all contribute to decreasing inflammation.
Here is a little snippet of the article:
While inflammation isn’t inherently bad and plays an important role as part of the body’s natural defense system, high levels of chronic inflammation can cause all sorts of health woes. “Chronic, low-grade inflammation can cause a host of symptoms across the whole body. Digestive issues, brain fog, cardiovascular disease, chronic aches and pains, weight gain, hormone imbalances, and autoimmune disease are all signs that the body is struggling to manage inflammation,” says functional medicine nutritionist Barbara Sobel, MS, CNS, LND. She adds that what we eat is one of the greatest modifiers of inflammation.