Anti-Inflammatory Foods

by Dylan Bartley, MSPT, CMP

In treating any injury in physical therapy, one must take inventory of how one’s body is prepared to fight it. We all need a good immune system and a quick response to an injury. Inflammation is a necessary part of that response, helping to temporarily immobilize the area and bring valuable inflammatory cells to begin the repair process. But our inflammatory system has a tendency to get out of hand with all the stress we place on our bodies and toxins in the environment.

Tuning up your diet a little to quiet the inflammatory system is often a great way to stay in balance. Often times an improper diet is actually the cause of excess inflammation. If one has an allergy to dairy or gluten, that person’s immune system will be working on overload to fight the food that the body has decided is toxic, and inflammation will run rampant through the body. So in building a diet to fight inflammation, one must first make sure that the diet is not the cause of inflammation. Once you’ve done that, now it’s time to add in some foods shown to control an overproductive inflammatory system. Here’s a list compiled from Jennifer Cole, Editor of If your shoulder injury or knee pain has been lingering for more than a few weeks, check in with a physical therapist and go grocery shopping for some good food.



    • Certain types of fruit are well regarded for their anti-inflammatory properties, specifically red, purple and blue fruits. Red grapes, for example, contain quercetin an antioxidant which may be effective in reducing inflammation. Blueberries, contain high levels of anthocyanin, an antioxidant that is known to be effective in minimizing swelling. Try to eat organic fruit wherever possible as pesticides are often hard to wash away, especially on small berries.
    • Pineapple is known to contain an enzyme which has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. This enzyme is called bromelain. Wherever possible try to eat fresh pineapple as far less bromelain is usually present in canned products.
    • Many vegetables contain properties that may help act as anti-inflammatory agents. Try to eat plenty of fresh – ideally organic – cruciferous Vegetables. These include cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cress and bok choy. These vegetables are all loaded with antioxidants that can help rid the body of harmful compounds.
    • Salmon is one of the healthiest fish you can eat and is known to contain anti-inflammatory omega-3’s. It’s always better to eat fresh fish wherever possible and wild salmon is one of the highest regarded anti-inflammatory foods. Try to include oily fish in your diet your diet at least twice a week.
    • Ginger is known to have a host of health benefits. A 2010 study showed that daily consumption of ginger helped to reduce muscle pain associated with exercise by a staggering 25%. Ginger is simply a great addition to any diet as well as being effective in reducing inflammation.
    • Extra Virgin Olive Oil provides a large amount of those special fats that are effective at fighting inflammation – in addition to providing various other health benefits. It should be relatively easy to find a way to incorporate extra virgin olive oil into your daily diet. This pure oil is considered by many in Mediterranean culture to be the secret to longevity!
    • Garlic has been linked to positive health claims for just about everything from the common cold to heart disease. There are numerous claims and counter-claims about the effects of garlic as an anti-inflammatory food. , We decided that garlic should make this list purely based on the overwhelming amount of anecdotal evidence – but remember, the myth maybe larger than reality!
    • Turmeric is an Asian spice that is known to contain curcumin – a natural anti-inflammatory compound. Curcumin is also often found in various curry blends and is believed by many to be a powerful natural pain reliever.
    • Sweet Potatoes are well known to have a positive anti-inflammatory effect are a valuable source of complex carbohydrates, beta-carotene, fiber,manganese and vitamins B6 and C.
    • Despite numerous studies, there is little evidence to support the claims made for the anti-inflammatory properties of Green Tea. Nonetheless, the health benefits of green tea have been lauded in asia for centuries and just about every nutritionist continues to promote it’s wonders!