8 Veggies That Help Fight Inflammation, Say Experts
Vegetables not only add more flavor, texture, and color to a dish, but they also come with a slew of health benefits. For starters, many of these foods are packed with anti-inflammatory properties, which is excellent news.
Chronic inflammation in the body, which occurs when the body sends out inflammatory cells even when there is no need to, can cause a laundry list of health problems. For instance, chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and Alzheimer’s.
Melanie Murphy Richter, MS, RDN, an instructor of Nutrition Physiology at the University of California Irvine, shares that several vegetables help fight inflammation. “In fact, the fiber content in most vegetables helps to support a healthy gut microbiome which can help to modulate internal inflammation,” she says.
Murphy Richter explains that veggies are a great source of vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C, beta-carotene, and quercetin, which research has found to have antioxidant capabilities.
“Antioxidants help to fight off free radicals in the body, fight foreign entities that can cause us to get sick, and, overall, can help to reduce inflammation,” Murphy Richter adds.
If you’re looking for ways to fight inflammation through diet, keep reading. With help from experts, we’ve rounded up a list of veggies that fight inflammation you can easily integrate into your meals.
Onions don’t just add extra flavor to meals, but they also have top-notch anti-inflammatory properties.
“Onions are a rich source of quercetin and other prebiotic fibers that both reduce inflammation and support overall gut health,” Murphy Richter says.
According to a 2014 meta-analysis in the Molecular Nutrition & Food Research Journal, eating a high amount of allium vegetables, such as onions, may also help lower the risk of developing gastric cancer.
“Tomatoes contain a rich source of lycopene which is also known to improve inflammatory load,” says Murphy Richter.
According to a 2022 scientific review in Biology, eating more tomatoes is also associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, and bowel diseases.
3. Bok choy
Bok choy is also another delicious vegetable that has many inflammation-fighting qualities. “This Chinese cabbage is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins and minerals, namely vitamins A, C, and K, which work to protect cells from free-radical damage,” says Chelsey Kitazawa, MS, RD, dietitian at Bespoke Treatment.
“In fact, bok choy is loaded with 70 antioxidant phenolic substances, including hydroxycinnamic acids, which are powerful antioxidants that directly neutralize oxidative damage to cells and tissues,” she adds.
This vegetable also contains sulforaphane, a natural compound found to block the inflammatory process in mice, Kitazawa says.
How should you prepare it? “Bok choy is highly versatile but is best when steamed,” she suggests. “Steaming bok choy can bring out its natural earthy and very slightly peppery flavor.” For added taste, Kitazawa recommends dipping it in oyster sauce.
You can also serve raw bok choy raw as a slaw. “Just make sure to clean it properly and slice it into thin pieces to complement the tenderness of a grilled meat or poultry main dish,” Kitazawa says.
Another good vegetable to help squash inflammation?: Beets.
“Their deep color, which can even stain the hand and teeth during preparation and consumption, is the mark of a potent anti-oxidizing food,” says Kitazawa. “Its high content of the antioxidant betalain is what gives it its deep color, which effectively fights inflammation and repairs the cell damage it causes.”
Kitazawa shares that beets can also deliver high levels of essential nutrients, including potassium and magnesium, “addressing common deficiencies often associated with inflammatory ailments,” she adds.
Beets can be easily enjoyed as beetroot juice, which can be bought from a store or made at home using a juicer or blender. “Pickled beets are another option you can try, which offers a sweet and tangy sour flavor that can complement beets’ earthy undertones,” Kitazawa adds. “This can also be stored for longer periods of time; just make sure to use an airtight jar or container before refrigerating it.”
“Kale is high in antioxidants, like quercetin and vitamin K, which help reduce inflammation,” states Sam Schleiger MS, RDN, CD. In addition to helping with inflammation, vitamin K helps with blood clotting and also promotes bone health.
Schleiger explains some easy ways to incorporate more kale into your meals: whipping up a batch of kale chips, adding it to soups, or blending it into smoothies. You can also use it as a base for salads.
Whether steamed, roasted, or sauteed with garlic and olive oil, eating broccoli is a great way to lower inflammation in the body.
“Broccoli is rich in sulforaphane, a compound with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects,” shares Schleiger.
Speaking of cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower is also a great vegetable to add to your routine to help fight off inflammation. For starters, it’s teeming with antioxidants.
“One particular antioxidant in cauliflower, sulforaphane, may reduce your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer,” says Alyssa Pacheco, RD.
Pacheco shares that cauliflower tastes excellent roasted. “I love to add olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese when roasting it!” she says.
You can also add frozen cauliflower rice to smoothies. “Frozen cauliflower rice is also a great addition to any morning smoothie — the mild flavor doesn’t alter the taste, but it contributes a lot of health benefits.”
8. Red bell peppers
“Red bell peppers are extremely high in vitamin C — they have even more vitamin C than a glass of OJ,” Pacheco says. She mentions that vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that has been shown to help reduce inflammation.
Even better? Red bell peppers are easy to incorporate into a wide range of recipes—throw them into a stir-fry, prepare them as a taco topping, or chop some up in a salad.
“One of my favorite ways to eat them, though, is to cut a red bell pepper into strips and dip it into a homemade ranch dip that I make by combining Greek yogurt with ranch seasoning,” Pacheco adds.
Read next: 5 Anti-Inflammatory Fruits To Stock Up On