Anti-inflammatory foods

Dr. Karina Rosales Ortiz
About the Author

Dr. Karina Rosales Ortiz is a nutritionist who does research at the Department of Psychiatry, Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) in Barcelona, Spain. She is investigating the effects of food patterns on adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Prof. Josep Antoni Ramos-Quiroga
About the Author

Prof. Josep Antoni Ramos-Quiroga is the Head of the Department of Psychiatry at the Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron and a PI at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain.

Image by Laura Montagnani from Pixabay

Anti-inflammatory foods are foods that promote low levels of inflammation in the body. They are therefore considered beneficial for your health, including mental health.

Inflammation is the response of the body’s immune system against external factors that can put your health in danger. When this system feels that is attacked by something that may harm your health, it activates some molecules, called cytokines, in order to neutralize or avoid any damage so you can be safe.

Is inflammation bad? What does it do?

Inflammation isn’t a bad thing since its purpose is to protect your body, but in some cases, when the duration of this response is extended for too long – I’m talking about years –  it can cause harmful effects to your health. Especially, the active transport of cytokines to the brain can be harmful on the long term. Brain-inflammation may occur if this process isn’t stopped by itself in early stages. This plays an important role in the development of mental diseases such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder (BD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), where elevated levels of inflammation have been found (1).

What causes inflammation? 

Inflammation can occur by different factors. Some of them could be: Pathogens, injuries, chronic stress and diseases like dermatitis, cystitis or bronchitis, to mention a few. Nutritional factors like overweight and poor diet quality can also trigger this process by increasing fat accumulation in our cells and damaging them (2). The exact mechanisms that are involved in these process are not yet clear and are currently being investigated.

What decreases inflammation?

Research has found that adhering to a healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet – characterized by high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats and nuts – can decrease inflammation and protect you against depressive symptoms and anxiety (3,4). There is evidence that prebiotics, probiotics or synbiotics could also help you lowering inflammation. In addition, you should avoid eating pro-inflammatory foods which are foods that have been found to increase the risk of inflammation, and with it mental disorders. Some of these are refined carbohydrates, beverages with a lot of sugar added like soda, juice and sports drinks, processed meat and foods high in saturated fats (5).

What are anti-inflammatory foods

Anti-inflammatory foods are the contrast of pro-inflammatory foods. These are foods that have been found to promote or induce low levels of inflammation in our body, which may protect us against neurological disorders. Briefly, these foods include fruits, vegetables, olive oil, fish and species like curcuma. Here’s what YOU can do to minimize inflammation and improve your mental health.