We all know that we should be eating our greens. No matter your health or fitness goals, you’ll be hard-pressed to find advice that doesn’t somehow include “eat more veggies!” So while we love all vegetables for their myriad of health benefits, vitamins, minerals, and key phytonutrients, we’re specifically loving these anti-inflammatory vegetables thanks to some of their seriously impressive added perks.
Here’s our roundup of some of our favorites, plus some delicious ways to enjoy them.
Why Should We Care About Inflammation?
Some inflammation is normal. In fact, it’s our body’s natural process of attacking foreign invaders. Think viruses, chemicals, pollen, or even something like a splinter under your skin.
While some inflammation is a key part of our body’s response system, when it becomes chronic it can become problematic. In fact, inflammation has been called the root of all disease, so it’s something that should be on our radar.
Load up On These Five Anti-Inflammatory Vegetables
Mother Nature provides us with tons of options for fighting inflammation from the inside out — starting with what we put on our plates.
While all veggies provide their own unique benefits and nutrients, here are five often-overlooked anti-inflammatory nutrient powerhouse vegetables.
The summer months are the perfect time to get fresh peppers — check your local farmers market and CSAs, but we love them all year round as a versatile and delicious anti-inflammatory vegetable.
Peppers contain high amounts of vitamin C, antioxidants like quercetin, and others that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.
How to Enjoy Peppers
- In salads
- Sauteed in everything from stir-fries to currys to soups
- Stuffed with grains, beans, and spices
- Grilled and served as a healthy side dish
Go sweet with bell peppers, or kick up the heat with cayenne or jalapenos.
Ok, ok, technically they’re a fruit, not a veggie, but we’re including tomatoes on our list of powerhouse anti-inflammatory vegetables because that’s how most of us think of (and eat) them!
Lycopene is the main antioxidant that gives tomatoes their anti-inflammatory properties. It’s best absorbed alongside a source of fat and seems to be more bioavailable when cooked, so this is one example where raw isn’t always best! Saute, stew, or otherwise cook down your tomatoes in olive oil if you’d like, or even enjoy tomato juice in a virgin Bloody Mary.
Other Delicious Ways to Enjoy Tomatoes
Tomatoes often get treated as an afterthought as salad toppings or maybe a thin slice on a sandwich. Start eating tomatoes like you mean it!
- Add to salads where tomatoes star instead of getting tossed on as an afterthought
- Enjoy stewed tomatoes over rice
- Blend up tomato-based soups
- Make homemade red pasta sauces
Everyone knows kale as a health food, but don’t overlook its humble cousin, good old broccoli.
Broccoli is rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that’s been known for its impressive anti-inflammatory properties.
The best part about this green veggie is that you can basically add broccoli to any healthy dish you can think of. Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy it.
Tasty Ways to Enjoy Broccoli
- Add to salads and soups
- Serve with pasta dishes
- Enjoy as a healthy pizza topping
When in doubt, steam it as a quick side to any meal.
Turnips aren’t exactly trending in the health food scene, but we’d argue they should be! If you’re not familiar with the turnip, they look a bit like a beet or other root veggie with a purple, green, or red-colored bulb/root with greens growing out.
You can eat both the root and greens, and the greens have been shown to be especially rich in antioxidants, making them one of those underrated anti-inflammatory vegetables we love to squeeze into recipes.
How to Make Turnips Taste Delish
- Roast sliced turnip and enjoy in stir-fries
- Use the root as an alternative to french fries
- Cook up the greens like you would collard greens and enjoy as a nutrient-dense vegetable side dish
Not just good for warding off vampires (we kid!) garlic is also amazing for spicing up any dish, and research has shown that it comes with some powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
If you’re worried about bad breath, that’s what teeth brushing, and mints are for — don’t be shy with your garlic! Dishes are so much more flavorful with a clove or two.
How to Enjoy Garlic
- Saute it and add to pasta sauces
- Add garlic to soups and stews
- Blend into your homemade salad dressings
- Whisk into your breakfast omelettes
Smash your garlic with the back of a knife. It makes removing the skin way easier and also releases the good-for-you compounds, meaning you get more out of it.
Underrated Anti-Inflammatory Vegetables — We See You!
We’re always a fan of multitasking with our diet whenever possible, and anti-inflammatory vegetables do just that. Not only do they give us tons of other vitamins, minerals, and benefits, but they also provide us with some seriously impressive anti-inflammatory properties (win, win!)
Remember that while these anti-inflammatory vegetables should be your BFF, you can’t undo a poor diet by throwing in the occasional veggie. (And there’s no such thing as one miracle food, anyway!)
So what foods should you be avoiding to fight inflammation? Basically, everything you already know is bad for you — think Standard American Diet staples like processed or fried foods, soda, and refined carbohydrates.
You don’t have to be a clean eating master or fully vegan or even vegetarian to reduce your inflammation. As best you can, keep inflammatory foods to a minimum and start prioritizing these anti-inflammatory vegetables in each meal as much as possible.
You’ll be doing your body and health one of the biggest possible favors, while maybe even discovering some new favorite veggies!