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  • Writer's pictureLiz Riesen, RD

Why You Should Be Eating These Top 5 Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Your Health

You may be interested in an anti-inflammatory diet because of a recent diagnosis or recommendation from your doctor. You may be trying to lose weight, or you may be looking for natural ways to manage chronic symptoms like pain and fatigue. Whatever the reason may be, I'm glad you're here! These are the top 5 anti-inflammatory foods you should be eating more of.

Anti-inflammatory foods can do so much more than just calm inflammation as the title suggests. These are medicinal foods that can boost immune response, improve metabolism, manage pain, improve skin and hair, help balance hormones, and even improve our mood!

table filled with anti-inflammatory foods

The Top 5 Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Your Health

1. Garlic

Starting with an easy one that you probably already use quite often in your kitchen. HOWEVER, here's an important tip that many people don't know and they can easily be destroying the benefits of garlic before they even get a chance to eat it!

Garlic is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It has been well-studied and used as an anti-viral, antibiotic, and cancer-fighting food. Garlic has a secret though. It's anti-inflammatory compound allicin, only gets activated when it is first chopped/cut/or minced. Unfortunately, allicin takes about 10-15 minutes to fully develop before it can be heated without being destroyed.

If you mince your garlic and add it to a hot pan right away to sauté, then you will inactivate the enzymes and lose the benefits of these compounds.

Instead, get into the habit of mincing your garlic first in a recipe and letting it sit 10 minutes while you prep the other ingredients. This way by the time you are ready to cook, the enzymes in the garlic have had time to fully develop and will be protected from heat during cooking, so you get the full benefits of this powerful food!

2. Ginger

Ginger may not be everyone's favorite flavor, but if you don't mind it, there are a lot of impressive benefits we can get from adding more ginger to our diet. Ginger is a root that you can buy at the grocery store, or you can find as a ground spice. You can tell the potency of ginger by how spicy it is.

Ginger has been well studied and used for its pain management benefits - specifically for its use in migraine headaches! I often recommend ginger supplementation to clients who are experiencing painful PMS and periods. It can also help manage premenstrual headaches and migraines.

My tried-and-true use for ginger (for years) is to help fight a cold or flu.

Ginger Tea Concentrate Recipe

Grate fresh ginger root into a pot of filtered water. Bring to a boil, covered. Turn off heat and keep covered to let steep for at least 10 minutes, or until cooled. Strain out the ginger pieces and store the concentrate in mason jars in the fridge.

You can drink this hot or iced and simply dilute with water if it is too spicy. You can flavor with lemon and honey.

cinnamon sticks

3. Cinnamon

Most people love cinnamon for its flavor without even realizing the powerful benefits it has for our health! Cinnamon is high in antioxidants and studied most often for its blood sugar balancing effects. Cinnamon can help manage insulin levels which is why it is often recommended for diabetes and weight loss.

I often recommend cinnamon to clients when we are working on gut health and microbial balance because cinnamon is a natural antimicrobial, meaning it can help kill off harmful pathogens and bacteria in the gut.

This will probably be my easiest recommendation, because cinnamon can be sprinkled on just about everything! From your morning coffee, oatmeal, smoothie, yogurt, or used in a savory meal like soup. One of my favorite ways to season salmon is a blend of garlic, cinnamon, chili powder, cayenne, and maple syrup - might sound weird but it's delicious!

4. Fresh Herbs

Okay, so this isn't one specific food - but let me tell you why they're all important. Fresh herbs have powerful medicinal properties and have been used for centuries in both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. While they all vary slightly in the range of their benefits from antiviral to cancer fighting to chelation and heavy metal detox (looking at you cilantro) - they all carry the same high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory status.

Fresh herbs can be used to make teas at home, or add flavor to recipes. Fresh herbs can be the perfect addition to marinades, dressings, soups, salads, pasta dishes, and even wraps.

  • Basil, Dill, Cilantro, Mint, Parsley, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme

Basil is the base of pesto, which is a great way to use this herb and get a nice concentration of benefits including: immune-enhancing, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Or an easy, flavorful snack of Caprese Bites - layer fresh mozzarella with tomato slices and basil leaves. Drizzle with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

5. Turmeric (Curcumin)

Curcumin is the active component in turmeric that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine for its powerful anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting benefits. Turmeric is a root or more commonly dried spice, that you can add to many different recipes.

While turmeric has a natural 'earthy' flavor, it can easily be incorporated into both sweet and savory recipes. Below is one of my favorite recipes using turmeric, the Golden Latte!

Want to use more turmeric in your diet? Check out my ebook, "Using Turmeric in Your Diet" and enjoy 16 delicious, healthy recipes!

It is important to know that for curcumin to become active and have a benefit in the body it needs to be accompanied by a healthy fat like olive or coconut oil, along with an activating food.

The most commonly used activator for curcumin is black pepper because everyone has this in their kitchen! But there are other options including fenugreek that may increase absorption of curcumin.

Turmeric Golden Latte Recipe

Turmeric Golden Latte

Makes 1


1 cup milk of choice

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp cardamom (optional but it adds a great flavor)

2 tsp raw honey or maple syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of black pepper (to activate turmeric’s curcumin antioxidant)


In a bullet blender, blend all ingredients together.

For Iced: Pour over a glass of ice - easy peasy! Adjust sweetness as desired

For Hot: Pour into a mug and microwave, or pour into a small saucepan and heat for a few minutes over medium heat. Taste and adjust sweetness as desired.

Want to use more turmeric in your diet? Check out my ebook, "Using Turmeric in Your Diet" and enjoy 16 delicious, healthy recipes!

a woman smiling and holding a coffee cup

Liz Riesen, Registered Dietitian

works specifically with women's hormones, inflammation, and digestive health. Often these conditions coexist and share common disruptive symptoms including bloating, weight gain, anxiety, mood swings, irregular cycles, and other inflammatory symptoms.

Liz is trained in identifying and healing food sensitivities, as well as balancing hormones naturally through nutrition and lifestyle. Follow me @moms.hormone.dietitian


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