There are certain staple foods I rely on to help combat daily inflammation. Berries and leafy greens are two of them. Not only do they both taste amazing, but they have important compounds that help stop inflammation and oxidative stress in their tracks. Keep reading below to discover why berries and leafy greens are important to fight inflammation in your body.
What Are Berries?
Berries are a group of fruits that are small, pulpy, juicy, and brightly colored. Popular berries include strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and red, black, and white currants. They have been a staple in our diets for thousands of years. The hunter-gatherers ate them as a seasonal staple. Berries were also commonly used to make jams and preserves as a way to eat them in the winter. Berries contain these super anti-inflammatory compounds called polyphenols. Polyphenols are found in plants and can help resolve inflammation and protect our tissues from damage.
Studies have shown that polyphenols can do a number of good things for our bodies, including:
- support our immune system
- reduce inflammation
- reduce blood pressure
- regulate blood sugar
- promote good bacteria growth in our gut
One study found that people who have higher circulating polyphenols have less risk of developing chronic disease and early death.
There are many different types of polyphenols. One of the groups that berries have are called flavonoids. Flavonoids help fight oxidative stress and regulate cellular activity. One of the common flavonoids in berries is anthocyanins. These flavonoids give berries red, blue, and purple coloring. Anthocyanins fight free radicals and inflammation and they also have been shown to be effective in preventing cancer cells from multiplying. They may help in preventing other chronic diseases such as type two diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They’re also great for your brain too!
Another polyphenol found and berries are called ellagic acid. It is also a potent antioxidant and has both anti-cancer and anti-mutagenic properties. There have been a number of studies on the positive effect of ellagic acid and liver disease.
How To Get More Berries Into Your Diet
How do you get more berries into your diet? Summertime is the best time for berry consumption because they are so fresh and tasty. Some of my favorite ways to include a daily dose of berries are:
- adding them to a smoothie
- topping salads with berries
- adding them to your breakfast cereal or as a side dish
- eat as a dessert with whipped cream or whipped coconut cream on top
- puree into salad dressing
- as a sauce for fish or vegetables.
What Are Leafy Greens? How Do They Help Inflammation?
Leafy greens are a broad term that includes the edible leaves of vegetables. What you may not know is that each type of green has a distinct flavor profile and texture. Leafy greens aren’t just your typical lettuce either. These include spicy greens like arugula and mustard leaves, tough leaves like kale, and chard, mild greens like red and green leaf lettuce, and sweet greens like spinach. Leafy greens are super nutrient dense and contain plenty of vitamins and minerals to stop inflammatory reactions. They contain a number of antioxidants that help to protect your tissues and cells by sequestering free radicals. These greens are also rich in beta carotene, another antioxidant that converts your body to vitamin A. It is really important for your immune system but also helps reduce inflammation.
One study in 2019 found that people who adhered to a diet rich and dark leafy greens had lower CRP levels than those that did not follow the diet. Leafy greens are also rich in vitamins C and D, which we know are important for immune system functioning. They also contain magnesium to help with this as well.
How Does Chlorophyll Help With Inflammation?
Leafy greens are also fantastic for supporting your body’s natural detoxification process. These greens contain chlorophyll, a compound that helps plants absorb light so they can convert it to energy. Chlorophyll has actually been shown to help pull heavy metals out of the body to enhance the detoxification process that your body naturally does on its own.
Some leafy greens like collard greens and kale contain isothiocyanate. These compounds are made from glucosinolates, which have potent anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. In addition, isothiocyanate help the body activate detoxification enzymes to get the detoxification process moving along faster.
Leafy greens also have some other great benefits including :
- loaded with fiber to feed and support the gut microbiome.
- calcium for bone support
- potassium to help manage fluid balance
- folate to support serotonin and dopamine production to make you happy.
Leafy greens are super important to include on a daily basis. I would even go so far as to say you should have them at every meal. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Puree spinach into your morning smoothie
- Include a side salad with lunch or dinner
- Saute some greens as a side dish
- Make kale chips as a snack
For more help with including these anti-inflammatory foods into your daily eating routine, please reach out and schedule a free discovery call with me. You can also follow me on Instagram at @the.autoimmune.dietitian or Facebook at @annierubinnutrition or my website.