This Is the Absolute Best Food for Fighting Inflammation, According to Registered Dietitians

Plus, easy ways to incorporate it into your diet.

While inflammation isn’t inherently bad and plays an important role as part of the body’s natural defense system, high levels of chronic inflammation can cause all sorts of health woes. “Chronic, low-grade inflammation can cause a host of symptoms across the whole body. Digestive issues, brain fog, cardiovascular disease, chronic aches and pains, weight gain, hormone imbalances and autoimmune disease are all signs that the body is struggling to manage inflammation,” says functional medicine nutritionist Barbara Sobel, MS, CNS, LND. She adds that what we eat is one of the greatest modifiers of inflammation.

There are many, many foods and drinks that are anti-inflammatory, helping to prevent chronic inflammation. Coffee, tea, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish and herbs are all anti-inflammatory and it’s best to eat a wide variety of these foods to get a wide range of nutritional benefits. But if you want to focus on adding one incredible anti-inflammatory food to your diet, there’s one in particular that healthy eating experts recommend: berries.

Related: How To Reduce Inflammation In the Body, According to Doctors 

Why Berries Are So Beneficial for Preventing Chronic Inflammation

Whether your favorite is blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or cranberries, there are specific properties that berries have in common that are linked to preventing chronic inflammation. According to Sobel, this includes antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols (a specific type of antioxidant).

Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD, a registered dietitian who leads a team of dietitians in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, says that since most of the scientific studies surrounding berries and health have been done on animals and in labs, it’s difficult to know exactly why they’re so powerful in protecting against inflammation, but there is a lot of research supporting the benefits of antioxidants, including polyphenols. Scientific studies show that antioxidants protect tissues in the body from damage caused by free radicals, which in turn prevents an inflammatory response.

Related: This Is the Absolute Worst Habit for Inflammation, According to a Cardiologist 

Yarker also says that fiber—which berries contain—is also linked with preventing chronic inflammation. One reason why this is particularly noteworthy is because a full 90 percent of Americans don’t eat the recommended daily amount, which is 25 grams a day. Incorporating berries into your diet is an easy (and yummy!) way to up your amount. “A diet rich in fiber, especially soluble fiber, has been shown to dampen this inflammatory process,” Sobel says. She adds that blackberries and raspberries each have eight grams of fiber per cup, while strawberries and blueberries have closer to three or 3.5 grams of fiber per cup.

Besides antioxidants and fiber, both experts say that berries have other vitamins and minerals that are linked to preventing chronic inflammation. The types and amounts of these vitamins and minerals vary slightly based on the type of berry. Their advice is to switch up which ones you eat. That way, you get a wide range of nutrients.

Related: Dietitians Agree That This Is the Worst Snack for Inflammation

How To Incorporate Berries Into Your Diet More

If you want to incorporate berries into your diet more, Sobel says that buying fresh or frozen are equally beneficial. The key, she says, is to avoid anything overly processed that contains added sugar, which can be found in some fruit cups, pre-made smoothies, or fruit juice. Also, it’s important to know that fruit juice doesn’t contain the beneficial fiber that makes berries so great for preventing inflammation.

There’s certainly no shortage of ways to incorporate berries into your diet. They can, of course, be eaten as is. Some breakfast ideas that include berries along with other anti-inflammatory foods include oatmeal, smoothies or Greek yogurt parfait. For lunch and dinner, berries can add an unexpected bit of sweetness to salads and grain bowls. And of course, there are plenty of dessert recipes that incorporate berries; just be mindful of the amount of sugar that’s used to keep it healthy.

While eating berries regularly can help prevent inflammation, both experts emphasize that it isn’t the only food to prioritize and that eating berries can’t cancel out a diet that is primarily full of foods that cause inflammation, such as simple refined carbohydrates, sugar and fried foods.

“Including a variety of different berries regularly in our diets along with a variety of other colorful plant foods, getting enough sleep, moving our bodies, managing stress, having close supportive connections with others, and addressing any microbiome imbalances all contribute to decreasing inflammation,” Sobel says.

To this point, consider upping your berry intake a starting point, not an end all be all. Through diet and lifestyle, you can work to prevent chronic inflammation, one healthy habit at a time.

Next up, learn more about the anti-inflammatory diet including what it is and what you can eat while following it.