Inflammation isn’t always a bad thing. In appropriate amounts, inflammation helps protect your body from infection and injury. It’s when inflammation becomes chronic that it does more harm than good. Prolonged periods of inflammation can lead to autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, lupus, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and more. Inflammatory diseases occur when your body responds to triggers with an overly powerful, inappropriate reaction, and attacks your body in the process.
Benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet
Certain foods are known to contribute to higher inflammation levels in the body, like red meat, which contains a higher percentage of saturated fats. Some substances – like saturated fats, trans fats, and refined sugar – cause the immune system to release inflammatory proteins. Limiting these types of foods in your diet may help to lower inflammation levels.
Eating anti-inflammatory foods or following an anti-inflammatory diet (like the AIP diet), has proven to impact inflammation levels and treat the symptoms of certain inflammatory conditions. Research has shown diets high in vegetables, seafood, fruits, nuts, and healthy oils all can result in lower levels of inflammation.
Six Anti-Inflammatory Recipes to Serve this Holiday Season
Whether you’re hosting the whole family or keeping it small, these recipes feature at least one anti-inflammatory ingredient – and they’re bound to be a hit this holiday season!
Garlic Lemon Spinach
Image via Eat This, Not That
This recipe from Eat This, Not That, features spinach, garlic, and lemon, all of which boast powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Spinach is a great source of anti-inflammatory compounds, B vitamins, and fiber. Lemons are high in vitamin C, and the citrus flavonoids in the fruit may help reduce inflammation.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 bunches spinach, stems removed, washed and dried
- Juice of one lemon
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a large sauté or saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook gently for about 3 minutes, until the garlic is lightly browned.
- Add the spinach and cook, moving the uncooked spinach to the bottom of the pan with tongs, for about 5 minutes, until fully wilted.
- Drain off any excess water from the bottom of the pan.
- Stir in the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Image via Shutterstock
This recipe from IIN graduate Elise Museles features salmon marinated in plum vinegar and fresh-grated ginger. Ginger has been used in various forms in both traditional and modern medicine, and research has found that its active ingredient gingerol has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- ¼ cup water
- 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon umeboshi plum vinegar
- 2 4-ounce wild salmon fillets
- Lime slices, for garnish
- Make marinade by combining oil, water, ginger, and vinegar. Place fish in a shallow baking dish, cover with marinade, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to a low broil setting.
- Remove fish from marinade, then set remaining marinade aside for basting.
- In an oven-safe dish, broil fish skin-side down for 6-8 minutes, basting twice with remaining marinade.
- Garnish with lime slices and serve.
Butternut Squash and Cauliflower Curry
Image via Jessica Gavin
This recipe from Jessica Gavin is inspired by Indian cuisine and makes for a unique addition to a traditional, American holiday spread. Curry paste is made from a combination of spices like turmeric, coriander, and chili powder, which are all anti-inflammatory powerhouses.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, ghee or grapeseed oil
- 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoons curry paste
- 3 cups butternut squash, diced into ½-inch cubes
- 3 cups cauliflower florets, cut into small 1-inch sized pieces
- 15.5 ounces chickpeas, drained, (1 can)
- 13.5 ounces coconut milk, (1 can)
- 1 ½ cups water, plus more as need
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 4 ounces baby spinach, about 4 cups
- 1 cup peas, frozen
- ½ cup cilantro leaves
- 4 cups basmati rice, cooked
- Naan bread, optional
- Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large deep pan over medium heat.
- Add onions and garlic, and sauté over medium-low heat for 10 minutes until soft and lightly colored.
- When the onions are tender, add curry paste. Cook and stir for one minute.
- Add squash, cauliflower, chickpeas, coconut milk, water, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer (covered) until the squash and cauliflower are tender, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.
- Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning as needed. If the sauce is too thick, add more water until desired consistency is reached.
- Stir in the spinach, peas, and cilantro leaves. Cook over low heat until spinach has gently wilted.
- Serve with basmati rice and naan bread if desired.
Maple Roasted Squash and Brussels
Image via Calla Ramont
This recipe from IIN graduate Calla Ramont centers around butternut squash, a seasonal gourd that’s a good source of fiber and potassium, and Brussels sprouts, a cruciferous vegetable that is high in vitamins C and K. The anti-inflammatory part of this dish comes from its cinnamon seasoning – cinnamon contains potent anti-inflammatory properties.
- ½ large butternut squash
- 1 lb brussels sprouts
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil, split
- 2 teaspoons salt, split
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon, split
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- ½ cup nuts of choice (pecans, walnuts, etc.)
- ½ cup dried fruit of choice (cranberries, raisins, etc.)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204 degrees Celsius).
- Peel and de-seed butternut squash, then slice into 1” cubes. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, drizzle with avocado oil, salt, and cinnamon. Toss to coat evenly.
- Wash Brussels sprouts, trim ends, and cut in half. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, drizzle with avocado oil, salt, and cinnamon. Toss to coat evenly, then arrange face-down.
- Bake both the squash and brussels sprouts for 20-25 minutes, or until the bottom sides start to get crispy. Flip and bake another 10 minutes.
- Once cooled, combine Brussels sprouts, squash, dried fruit, and nuts in a large bowl. Drizzle with maple syrup, season with additional salt and cinnamon if desired, then toss to combine.
Image via Leanne Citrone
This recipe from IIN graduate Leanne Citrone makes for a beautiful (and delicious!) centerpiece of your holiday table. Juicy and tender, this whole turkey is seasoned with garlic, thyme, and anti-inflammatory rosemary. Research shows that rosemary may help reduce inflammation, due to its high polyphenol content. Some studies even found that rosmarinic acid (a polyphenol found in rosemary and oregano) reduced inflammation markers in many inflammatory conditions.
- 1 whole young turkey, thawed
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 1 whole onion, quartered
- 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 1 whole orange, quartered
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- Salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup white wine
To spatchcock turkey:
- Make sure turkey is completely thawed. Allow turkey to come close to room temperature, about an hour and a half depending on size.
- Discard turkey packaging and remove any giblets from the cavity. Pat the turkey dry all over to ensure crispy skin.
- On a sturdy cutting board, lay the turkey with the breast face down. Locating the backbone, cut along one side of it with designated kitchen shears. This will take more effort than you may think – you're cutting through cartilage and bones!
- Cut along the other side of the spine and remove the backbone.
- Once the backbone is removed, turn the turkey over on the cutting board so that the cut side is on the board and the breast side if facing up. Using both of your hands, press down on the breasts until the wishbone cracks and the turkey rests flat.
- Transfer your spatchcocked turkey (breast-side up) to a baking sheet.
To season and cook:
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (230 degrees Celsius).
- Melt butter in a small pan, then combine with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Once combined, brush mixture all over turkey, both sides.
- Arrange garlic, onion, celery, orange, thyme, and rosemary around the turkey, and pour white wine into bottom of the baking tray. This will also help to season any gravy you make later!
- Place turkey in oven for 20 minutes, then lower heat to 350°F (176°C) for at least one hour. Cook until the skin is golden brown, and the thickest part of the breast reads 165°F (74°C).
- Remove from oven and let rest for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
Olive Oil Cake
Image via Feel Good Foodie
This recipe from Feel Good Foodie will round out your holiday offerings with a sweet (but not too sweet) dessert option. This cake is made with extra virgin olive oil, which is high in oleic acid and antioxidants like oleocanthal. Both compounds reduce inflammation in the body.
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup olive oil
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- Zest of one lemon
- Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C) and oil a 9” round pan.
- Mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt) together in a large bowl.
- Create a well in the flour mix and add olive oil, Greek yogurt and eggs. Whisk into the flour mixture.
- Add lemon juice and zest and stir until completely combined and there are no lumps.
- Pour batter into prepared pan.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Allow it to cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
- Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt and raspberries, if desired.
The Bottom Line
These recipes offer a launching point for introducing anti-inflammatory recipes to your holiday crowd. But be mindful – this should only act as a guide when exploring anti-inflammatory foods. What works for you and your situation may not work for everyone else. Having a well-rounded diet – that means including anti-inflammatory foods, like those listed here – is good for your physical and mental health.