10 Smoothie Add-Ins That Fight Chronic Inflammation

A dash of this and a sprinkle of that are just what the doctor ordered.

January 13, 2017
smoothie
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"When inflammation becomes chronic, it's like having the alarm bells going off in your body 24/7," warns Michelle Babb, MS, RD, author of Anti-Inflammatory Eating for a Happy Healthy Brain. "Those signals become maladaptive and can lead to chronic disease."

Enter smoothies—the easiest way to sneak more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, if you load them with the right superfood ingredients. Here are 10 tasty additions that will elevate your blended drink to disease-fighting status.

This article was originally published by our partners at Prevention.

turmeric
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Turmeric

Turmeric is like anti-inflammatory gold. The Indian spice adds color and a sweet-bitter kick to smoothies, plus a hefty dose of anti-inflammatory flavonoids, notably curcumin, that work by lowering histamine and enzymes linked to inflammation. Studies have found that curcumin can improve brain function and even reduce arthritis pain as much as anti-inflammatory drugs do. 

Pairs with: Banana, mango, carrots, orange, pineapple, almond milk 

Related: Turmeric Smoothie with Homemade Hemp Milk

kefir
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Kefir

Yogurt isn't the only probiotic superstar in the dairy section. Kefir, a fermented drink with a tart tang, also helps populate the good bacteria in the gut. "A healthy microbiome leads to less inflammation," says Babb who recommends the plain, unsweetened kind—even better if it comes from 100% grass-fed cows. Researchers at the University of Calgary also found that probiotics can help fight the fatigue and depression associated with chronic inflammatory conditions. 

Pairs with: Blueberries, strawberry, peach, banana, pear, kale, mango

acai powder
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Acai Powder

Made from freeze-dried acai berries, acai powder is packed with anthocyanins, health-promoting antioxidants that reduce inflammation and may help prevent disease. The sweet-tart dust works by suppressing pro-inflammatory cytokines, proteins that can cause inflammation and pain. The Amazonian berry also delivers inflammation-fighting fatty acids for a mood and brain boost. 

Pairs with: Kale, spinach, chocolate/cocoa, banana, almond butter

Related: 20 Super-Healthy Smoothie Recipes

frozen berries
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Berries

Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and cranberries have a superpower in common: They're packed with antioxidants to squelch inflammation-causing free radicals. "I recommend mixed berries because they each contain unique phytonutrients," says Babb. "Blueberries get a lot of accolades, but raspberries are also high in antioxidants and contain a potent dose of ellagic acid, which is anti-inflammatory." 

Pairs with: Banana, Greek yogurt, avocado

cherry juice
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Tart Cherry Juice

Tart cherry juice may relieve your aches and pains. Hailed as having the "highest anti-inflammatory content of any food" by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University, studies have shown that drinking the sour stuff can reduce muscle pain and weakness after exercise. So what's the secret ingredient? As well as antioxidants and anthocyanins, there are 30-plus compounds in this beverage that could quash inflammation. 

Pairs with: Lime, mango, orange, almond milk

Related: Drink This, Sleep 90 More Minutes A Night

flaxseed oil
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Flaxseed Oil

While ground flaxseeds are a fiber force, the oil is the way to go when it comes to fighting inflammation. "Flaxseed oil is a great way to add omega-3s, which are essential fatty acids that cool down inflammation," says Babb. In fact, the oil boasts more than three times as much of the inflammation-fighting essential acids. One study found that it reduced inflammation markers by up to 46%, plus it's been linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases such as arthritis and heart disease.

Pairs with: Bananas, oats, nut butter, pumpkin, apple, cinnamon

cocoa powder
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Cocoa Powder

Permission to eat chocolate, granted! Studies show that flavanol-rich cocoa can reduce the production of pro-inflammatory molecules involved in inflammation, cutting heart disease and stroke risk. What's more, scientists from Louisiana State University found that cocoa powder is converted into molecules in our guts that reduce inflammation. Opt for regular or raw cocoa powder (skip the "Dutch process") for the most flavanols.

Pairs with: Banana, nut butter, blueberry, cherry, acai, yogurt, matcha, coconut

baby kale
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Baby Kale

"Baby kale is packed with vitamin K, which helps shut down the inflammatory process, and it's milder than grown-up kale, so it's easy to disguise in a smoothie," says Babb. The little lettuce is also rich in the mineral magnesium, known to help reduce chronic inflammation. 

Pairs with: Pineapple, mango, orange, lemon, kiwi

Related: 25 Delectable Detox Smoothies

ginger
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Ginger

Ginger doesn't just soothe an upset stomach; the slightly spicy root acts as an anti-inflammatory, too. Researchers from the University of Miami found ginger significantly reduced knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis and may even work as a natural ibuprofen

Pairs with: Leafy greens, lemon, coconut, pineapple, apple, chocolate

matcha powder
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Matcha Powder

Move over, green tea! Matcha, the powdered form of green tea leaves, is not only an ideal smoothie ingredient; it also has 130 times more of the cancer-fighting antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Studies show EGCG has an anti-inflammatory effect on immune cells and could even help treat or prevent autoimmune diseases. 

Pairs with: Peaches, mint, cocoa, coconut, vanilla

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