Okay, you got us… it’s not a coincidence that these anti-inflammatory recipes are whole food plant-based because whole food plants are by nature, anti-inflammatory, which is why so many folks turn to a WFPB diet when they need to kick inflammation.
That being said, some fruits and veggies are extra anti-inflammatory… and we’ve used them as main ingredients in our 3 favorite anti-inflammatory dishes.
Before we start, what even is inflammation?
(Or if you're hungry, skip to the recipes here.)
OK, back to inflammation. Turns out, inflammation isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it’s designed to protect us. When we are hurt or sick, our immune system sends armies of white blood cells to fight off the injury or illness and repair damaged tissue. With more blood flowing to the source of harm, we feel discomfort, swelling, redness, and heat. This is why an ankle swells up when sprained. It can be a pain (literally) but without inflammation, we wouldn’t be able to heal.
While inflammation as a defense mechanism is a healthy and necessary response, chronic inflammation is not.
In these chronic cases, inflammation occurs even when there isn’t an injury or illness. Your body, unable to tell the difference, sends white blood cells to attack healthy tissue instead.
How does inflammation work?
Oxidation is a normal process that takes place in the body when atoms or molecules become unstable because they contain unpaired electrons. These unstable, oxygen-containing molecules are called “free radicals.” Free radicals cause damage to cell structures and DNA by taking electrons from other molecules in order to stabilize themselves.
High antioxidant food helps to stabilize free radicals without causing harm. Free radicals, when not met by antioxidants, interact with and damage other molecules in the body, causing large chain chemical reactions, which we call oxidative stress.
To put it in simpler terms: think of your body as an apple.
If you slice up an apple and leave it on the counter for half an hour, it quickly browns due to its exposure to oxygen.
If you want to prevent that apple from oxidizing (or turning brown), you might toss it in a little bit of lemon juice, a high antioxidant food.
Voila! Your apple stays fresh. The antioxidants from the lemon juice stabilize the process of oxidation and neutralize free radicals.
Pretty cool, huh?
The same process happens in your body! The more high antioxidant food you take in, the more likely you are to preserve your cells.
What causes oxidative stress?
A lot of things contribute to oxidative stress, including alcohol use, toxins in the air and on your skin, sun damage from UV rays, stress.
And diet is a big contributor!
Why do so many Americans experience chronic inflammation?
Nutrition research shows that diet plays a big role in inflammation. The Standard American Diet is chock full of inflammatory foods that are highly processed, fried, and comprised of refined flours and sugars.
The good news? An anti-inflammatory plant-based diet can protect against chronic inflammation and many of the diseases that accompany it.
What anti-inflammatory foods should I eat on a WFPB diet?
While nearly all whole plant-based foods have anti-inflammatory properties, there are three elements — antioxidants, certain minerals, and essential fatty acids — that are particularly helpful in fighting inflammation.
1. Lemon Lentil Soup
Refreshing, hearty, flavorful. This unique all season Lemon Lentil Soup is packed with healthy, healing ingredients like garlic, lemon and turmeric. Enjoy this anti-inflammatory recipe hot with crushed black pepper, or pour it over a baked sweet potato.
2. Berry Blast Smoothie
This Berry Blast smoothie is rich, filling, and naturally sweet. It's the perfect summertime breakfast when berries are in season, but can also be enjoyed just as much with frozen berries. It’s packed with vitamin C, fiber and tons of antioxidants.
3. Ginger Turmeric Latte
Whether you're trying to ease off caffeine or satiate that latte craving (without suffering sugar spikes and dairy bloat), this turmeric latte is the perfect dairy-free beverage. Kick start your morning or cap off an evening with this naturally anti-inflammatory beverage (thank you turmeric!).
No time to cook? Get healthy meals delivered!
Reduce your inflammation without spending hours meal prepping. Our MamaSezz Moroccan Stew is the perfect anti-inflammatory meal for these chillier months. It's loaded with turmeric and other anti-inflammatory spices, along with beta-carotene rich carrots and sweet potatoes, and even the jackpot of antioxidants: red grape raisins!
Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.