6 Anti-Inflammatory Drinks to Start Your Morning
Move over almond milk. Flax milk is a great nondairy option if you're looking for an anti-inflammatory boost, says Staci Small, a registered dietitian based in Indiana. The milk is made with flax oil, which is rich in an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). People who get more ALAs into their diet may be less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, because flax may help reduce inflammatory markers that damage arteries, found a Canadian research review. Added bonus: One cup of unsweetened flax milk typically contains just 25 calories. Though the drink is naturally devoid of protein, if you buy the version with pea protein, it can contain about eight grams per cup, the same amount you'd find in a glass of cow's milk.
If you're among the 64 percent of Americans who drink coffee every day, you'll be thrilled to know of one more health benefit: It may reduce inflammation. A long-term study found that people who drank at least 1.5 cups of coffee a day were 54 percent less likely to develop Type-2 diabetes than those who didn't drink coffee. Why? The researchers noted that one inflammation marker was lower in coffee drinkers, which may explain the link. And if you need another reason to enjoy a cup, in some older adults, caffeine may also stymie an inflammatory process that increases risk of heart disease. Just ask for it black (if that's not possible, add a splash of milk; but stay away from the sugary creamers) and keep it to one or two cups.
Drinking one glass of orange juice daily has been found to cut your odds of developing inflammatory arthritis conditions (like rheumatoid arthritis) just about in half, says Richard Mayfield, DC, certified clinical nutritionist and faculty doctor at The Institute for Functional Medicine. And studies show that citrus fruits are a good source of carotenoid antioxidants. However, there's one big asterisk: Fruit juices contain sugar (one cup can have 21 grams and none of the natural fruit fiber that can blunt the resulting blood-sugar spikes and dips. In the context of an otherwise healthy diet, Mayfield says, drinking some juice is fine, as long as you don't eat too much added sugars. But for the majority of us, even drinking just a small amount can be beneficial.
Another superfruit juice that could do a number on inflammation: pomegranate juice. The ruby-red drink contains a plant compound called ellagic acid that has anti-inflammatory properties. Some research has found that ellagic acid can lessen inflammation in the GI tract to reduce conditions like ulcers, while other research indicates it may have cancer-fighting potential, too, says Mayfield. Though the nutrient is present in fresh pomegranate, the juice is chock-full of it. Again, try not to go overboard on juices; Mayfield recommends sticking to a few ounces daily, max.
The star of golden milk is turmeric, a spice that's been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits—and may help defend against metabolic disease. We know that turmeric (and curcuminoids, the active substances in the spice) isn't a magic bullet—since research hasn't borne out that you can prevent these chronic diseases simply by eating it (or forgo necessary medications). However, curcuminoids top the list of anti-inflammatory compounds, says Mayfield. The antioxidant-rich spice can be considered a healthy addition to an all-around anti-inflammatory diet. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder to a cup of warmed almond milk with honey, to taste. (If possible, buy organic ground turmeric to lower the risk of heavy-metal contamination, he says.) Finish with a pinch of black pepper—it contains piperine, a compound which can help improve absorption of curcumin.
"A smoothie is a wonderful way to get in a high number of anti-inflammatory foods into one drink," says Mayfield. He recommends blending together a couple kale leaves, one cup of citrus, three ounces of pomegranate juice, a few blackberries (berries contain the same ellagic acid that pomegranates do) and an inch of ginger root. Small also loves the anti-inflammatory smoothie, opting for a mix of flax milk, strawberries, avocado (for inflammation-reducing monounsaturated fats), banana, ground flax seed and dark cocoa powder. Enjoy!