Top Anti-Inflammatory Foods, Herbs, and spices

By Dr. Mercola

Herbs and cooking spices contain a wide variety of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, and help maximize the nutrient density of your meals. Every time you flavor your meals with herbs or spices you are literally “upgrading” your food without adding a single calorie.

In fact, on a per gram fresh weight basis, herbs rank even higher in antioxidant activity than fruits and vegetables, which are known to be high in antioxidants. Many studies have also shown that most spices tend to have unique medicinal qualities.

In the featured study,1 researchers from three Universities devised an experiment to evaluate the “true world” benefits of herbs and spices, by feeding them to people in quantities that are typically consumed simply by spicing up your meals. As noted by Dr. Michael Greger MD, who produced the video above:2

“The researchers could have taken the easy route and just measured the change in antioxidant level in one’s bloodstream before and after consumption, but the assumption that the appearance of antioxidant activity in the blood is an indication of bioavailability has a weakness.

Maybe more gets absorbed than we think but doesn’t show up on antioxidant tests because it gets bound up to proteins or cells. So the researchers attempted to measure physiological changes in the blood.

They were interested in whether absorbed compounds would be able to protect white blood cells from an oxidative or inflammatory injury—whether herb and spice consumption would protect the strands of our DNA from breaking when attacked by free radicals.”

Four Spices That Pack a Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Punch

For one week, 10 to 12 subjects in each of 13 groups consumed a small amount of a particular spice each day. For example, those in the oregano group ate just half a teaspoon of oregano daily for seven days. Blood samples were drawn one hour prior to consumption, and at the very end of the experiment.

The participants’ blood was then analyzed for antioxidant capacity. The researchers also analyzed how well the blood could dampen an induced inflammatory response in white blood cells.

This was done by placing the participants’ blood onto white blood cells that had been damaged by oxidized cholesterol (commonly found in fried foods). Even at the “everyday” dosage amounts given, four spices were found to be significantly effective at quelling the inflammatory response:

  1. Cloves
  2. Ginger
  3. Rosemary
  4. Turmeric

As noted in the featured article: “[T]he results represents what might happen when cells in our body are exposed to the levels of spices that circulate in our bloodstream after normal daily consumption—not megadoses in some pill. Just the amount that makes our spaghetti sauce, pumpkin pie, or curry sauce taste good.”

Other Potent Anti-Inflammatory Spices

An earlier study published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods3 found a direct correlation between the antioxidant phenol content of spice and herb extracts and their ability to inhibit glycation and block the formation of AGE compounds (advanced glycation end products), making them potent preventers of heart disease and premature aging.

Here, cloves were ranked as the most potent of 24 common herbs and spices found in your spice rack. In all, the following were found to be the top 10 most potent anti-inflammatory herbs and spices:

  1. Cloves
  2. Cinnamon
  3. Jamaican allspice
  4. Apple pie spice mixture
  5. Oregano
  6. Pumpkin pie spice mixture
  7. Marjoram
  8. Sage
  9. Thyme
  10.  Gourmet Italian spice

Inflammation Is at the Heart of Most Chronic Diseases

It’s important to realize that chronic inflammation is the source of many if not most diseases, including cancer, obesity, and heart disease, which essentially makes it the leading cause of death in the US.

While inflammation is a perfectly normal and beneficial process that occurs when your body’s white blood cells and chemicals protect you from foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses, it leads to trouble when the inflammatory response gets out of hand. Your diet has a lot to do with this chain of events.

While among the most potent, ounce for ounce, herbs and spices are certainly not the only anti-inflammatory ingredients available. A number of foods are well-known for their anti-inflammatory properties, and making sure you’re eating a wide variety of them on a regular basis can go a long way toward preventing chronic illness.

Top Seven Anti-Inflammatory Foods

The following foods and nutrients deserve special mention for their ability to quell inflammatory responses in your body:

1.  Animal-based omega-3 fat Animal-based omega-3 fats—found in fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon and fish- or krill oil—help fight inflammation throughout your body. It’s particularly important forbrain health. Research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology4 in 2012 confirmed that dietary supplementation with krill oil effectively reduced inflammation and oxidative stress.
2.  Leafy greens Dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collard greens and Swiss chard contain powerful antioxidants, flavonoids, carotenoids, and vitamin C—all of which help protect against cellular damage. Ideally, opt for organic locally grown veggies that are in season, and consider eating a fair amount of them raw. Juicing is an excellent way to get more greens into your diet.
3.  Blueberries Blueberries rate very high in antioxidant capacity compared to other fruits and vegetables. They are also lower in sugar than many other fruits.
4.  Tea Matcha tea is the most nutrient-rich green tea and comes in the form of a stone-ground unfermented powder. The best Matcha comes from Japan and has up to 17 times the antioxidants of wild blueberries, and seven times more than dark chocolate.

Tulsi is another tea loaded with anti-inflammatory antioxidants and other micronutrients that support immune function and heart health.

5.  Fermented vegetables and traditionally cultured foods Optimizing your gut flora is important for a well-functioning immune system, and helps ward off chronic inflammation. In fact, the majority of inflammatory diseases start in your gut, as the result of an imbalanced microbiome.Fermented foods such as kefir, natto, kimchee, miso, tempeh, pickles, sauerkraut, olives, and other fermented vegetables, will help ‘reseed’ your gut with beneficial bacteria.

Fermented foods can also help your body rid itself of harmful toxins such as heavy metals andpesticides that promote inflammation.

6.  Shiitake mushrooms Shiitake mushrooms contain strong compounds with the natural ability to discourage inflammation, such as Ergothioneine, which inhibits oxidative stress.

They also contain a number of unique nutrients that many do not get enough of in their diet. One is copper, which is one of the few metallic elements accompanied by amino and fatty acids that are essential to human health. Since your body can’t synthesize copper, your diet must supply it regularly. Copper deficiency can be a factor in the development of coronary heart disease.

7.  Garlic Garlic has been treasured for its medicinal properties for centuries. It’s also one of the most heavily researched plant foods around. Over 170 studies5 show it benefitting more than 150 different conditions. Garlic exerts its benefits on multiple levels, offering anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and antioxidant properties.

It’s thought that much of garlic’s therapeutic effect comes from its sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin. Research6 has revealed that as allicin digests in your body it produces sulfenic acid, a compound that reacts faster with dangerous free radicals than any other known compound.

Your Diet Is Key for Reducing Chronic Inflammation

The running thread linking a wide variety of common health problems—from obesity and diabetes to heart disease and cancer—is chronic inflammation. The key to reducing chronic inflammation in your body starts with your diet, and being liberal in your use of high-quality herbs and spices is one simple way to boost the quality of your food. They’re an inexpensive “secret weapon” that just about everyone can take advantage of. Spicing up your meals is not enough, however, if processed foods comprise the bulk of your diet.

It’s important to realize that dietary components can either prevent or trigger inflammation from taking root in your body, and processed foods do the latter, courtesy of pro-inflammatory ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, soy, processed vegetable oils (trans fats), and other chemical additives. Besides adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet, you’ll also want to avoid the following pro-inflammatory dietary culprits as much as possible:

  • Refined sugar, processed fructose, and grains. If your fasting insulin level is three or above, consider dramatically reducing or eliminating grains and sugars until you optimize your insulin level, as insulin resistance this is a primary driver of chronic inflammation. As a general guideline, I recommend restricting your total fructose intake to 25 grams per day. If you’re insulin or leptin resistant (have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, or are overweight), consider cutting that down to 15 grams per day until your insulin/leptin resistance has normalized
  • Oxidized cholesterol (cholesterol that has gone rancid, such as that from overcooked, scrambled eggs)
  • Foods cooked at high temperatures, especially if cooked with vegetable oil (such as peanut, corn, and soy oil)
  • Trans fats

Replacing processed foods with whole, ideally organic foods will automatically address most of these factors, especially if you eat a large portion of your food raw. Equally important is making sure you’re regularly reseeding your gut with beneficial bacteria, as mentioned above. To help you get started on a healthier diet, I suggest following my free Optimized Nutrition Plan, which starts at the beginner phase and systematically guides you step-by-step to the advanced level.


50 Low Sugar Snacks for Kids

Isn’t it crazy how the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you WANT to eat!  This happened to me recently.  It started innocent enough.  I had a treat one day, “because I deserve it”.  Then, the next day it turned into two.  Until a few days later, I found myself scouring my cupboard for sugar!  So, one day- I decided, no sugar for a day.  After a day, that mad craving had weakened significantly! Finding low sugar snacks for kids can be easy and still be delicious.  If you keep this list (print it here), you’ll always have something ready to feed your little ones.

50 Low Sugar Snacks for Kids. You will want to save this list-50 low sugar snacks for kids!Most of the pictures & ideas for these snacks I got from our meal plans and old blog posts. Right now we have over 866 snack recipes (and over 3000 total recipes) for healthy meal ideas. Check out the details here.

I gathered together all the snacks that my kids like to eat, and even added the grams of sugar next to them! This is for an average serving of course, and some may be dependent on the brand you use. For example, my bread is 1 gram of sugar per slice, but if you purchase a brand with 3 grams of sugar, obviously your total will be a bit different.  So, here you go!

  1. Celery and Cheese = 1 gram
  2. Hummus and Veggies = 0 grams
  3. Almond butter and Celery = 1 gram
  4. String Cheese =  0 grams
  5. Chickpeas = 0 grams
  6. Pistachios = 2 grams for one ounce
  7. Popcorn= 0 grams
  8. Pretzels = 0 grams
  9. Potato Wedges = 2 grams (half a potato)
  10. Guacamole and Pita wedges
  11. Olive, Cheese & Carrot Tiger sticks =  1 gram (one ounce)
  12. Cucumber Sandwiches = 1 gram50 Low Sugar Snacks for Kids. You will want to save this list-50 low sugar snacks for kids!
  13. Carrots and Ranch = 1 gram (2 TBL of ranch)
  14. Finger Salad = 0 g
  15. Deviled Eggs 1 gram
  16. Zucchini Chips = 3 grams (per zucchini)
  17. Quesadilla = 1 gram
  18. Snow Peas = 2 gram (per raw cup)50 Low Sugar Snacks for Kids. You will want to save this list-50 low sugar snacks for kids!
  19. Trail mix =  3 grams per 1/2 cup (qualifier- nuts and seeds only, not dried fruit and chocolate)
  20. Avocado Hummus = 0 grams
  21. Kale chips = 0 gram
  22. Spiced pumpkin seeds  <1 gram
  23. Cauliflower popcorn  = 2 grams (1 cup)
  24. Toast with egg and avocado = 1 gram (per slice)
  25. Pepper poppers = 4 grams
  26. Homemade fish crackers  <1
  27. Salad skewers  <1 gram (qualifier- the veggie skewers only
  28. Edamame = 3 grams (1 cup)
  29. Caprese bite sized snack = 3 grams
  30. Cauliflower dipper  = 2 grams
  31. Arugula pesto  2 grams50 Low Sugar Snacks for Kids. You will want to save this list-50 low sugar snacks for kids!
  32. Jicama fries 2 grams (1 cup)
  33. Tomato avocado cups  1 gram
  34. Yogurt cheese and cucumbers Ummm.. this one is a mistake- when I calculated it, it ended up being 9 grams of sugar per serving.  So, I added an extra one at the end, so you still have 50!!
  35. Cheesy broccoli bites  1 gram
  36. Cucumber cups here and here: 1 gram  Zucchini sticks 3 grams
  37. Zucchini sticks 3 grams50 Low Sugar Snacks for Kids. You will want to save this list-50 low sugar snacks for kids!
  38. Parmesan fries 2 grams
  39. Baked onion rings 2.5grms or half an onions worth
  40. Guacamole cones 0 grams
  41. Carrots and laughing cow 3 grams
  42. Tomato Parmesan Bake 1 gram
  43. Grape Tomato & Pretzel Tree = 1 gram
  44. Pepper nachos 0 grams
  45. Cherry Tomato bugs 2 grams
  46. Pea hummus = 2 grams
  47. Sweet potato chips 2.5 (for half a sweet potato worth)
  48. Peppers and goat cheese 0 grams
  49. Sail boat (or hard boiled egg) 0 grams
  50. Turkey roll up = 0 grams (turkey, mustard, and carrot sticks)
  51. Sugar snap pea boats 2 grams

3 Common Fat Loss Mistakes Women Make – Girls Gone Strong

The key to fat loss success and sustainability is a little more nuanced than simply “diet and exercise.” Your long-term success will depend greatly on your approach.

Unfortunately, we see women making the same common mistakes in their approach to fat loss, time and time again. Mistakes that prevent them from achieving their goals, or from maintaining their results.

Let’s talk about the top three fat loss mistakes that women make — and how you can avoid them.

Mistake #1: Trying to change everything at once.

If you’re like most normal human beings, when you decide that you want to make changes, your natural inclination is to do a major life overhaul in attempt to meet your goal more quickly. If small changes are good, then huge, sweeping changes must be better. Right? We’ve all been there with one goal or another.


Unfortunately, if you’ve tried this approach before, you know that when it comes to making habit and behavioral changes, it’s nearly impossible to make any of it stick this way. You simply can’t become an entirely different person over night. It is possible to change your habits for the better, but the best strategy for success isn’t the “overhaul” strategy.

Leo Babauta, best-selling author and habit expert, estimates that when you focus on changing one habit at a time, the likelihood of retaining that habit for a year or longer is 80%. However, if you try to change more than one habit at a time, the success rate drops to as low as 20%.

This means that if you are working towards change, your best bet is to focus on changing one thing at a time in order to be successful.

I realize that may not sound exciting or hardcore enough, but this approach has proven to be incredibly effective. (How many times has the hardcore approach worked for you, long-term? Uhh…yeah. That’s what I thought.)

So, you want to make a habit change — where do you start?

Step 1 — Identify your long-term goal

In order to assess where to start, it’s important to establish your long-term goal, and the why behind it. When you’re establishing your goal and your why, you may find it helpful to ask yourself, “How will achieving this goal improve my life, or make me happier?”

For example, maybe your big goal is to improve your body composition by losing some body fat, and the why is so that you are able to move more comfortably and keep up with your kids. Or, perhaps the big goal is to get into better physical shape, and the why is because you want to play recreational sports again for the camaraderie.

Step 2 — Choose a small, specific, action-oriented short-term goal

Your very next step is to consider your starting point, and set a small, specific, action-oriented short-term goal that you’ll practice for the next two weeks. This should be something that is realistic, achievable, and moves you towards your bigger goal. It should be reasonable enough that you’re confident that you can do it consistently.

Approaching your goal in this manner sets you up for success. Achieving small, short-term goals over and over again builds positive momentum, gives you a sense of pride, and allows you to celebrate small wins, which will further motivate you to continue to work towards your bigger goal.

Let’s say that your big goal is to improve your nutrition to help you lose body fat. When you take a look at your current nutrition, your starting point, you notice that the majority of your meals are convenience foods and restaurant meals with a heavy emphasis on carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, bagels, and cereal, and very little protein. This seems like a good place to start.

Remember that protein is paramount for both muscle growth and recovery, and it’s the most satiating of the macronutrients (which are protein, carbohydrate, and dietary fat). How about starting with a protein goal?

You set a short-term goal of consuming one palm-sized serving of protein with at least two of your meals each day, for two weeks. It’s fits the criteria because it’s small, specific, and action-oriented, and most importantly, nothing else in your diet needs to change right now. Your only focus is to incorporate a serving of protein at two of your meals each day, and you’ll practice this new habit for two weeks.

Step 3 — Track your habit practice and evaluate your success to determine your next steps

We use 80% as a “consistency goal” meaning that if you are successfully practicing a new habit 80% of the time, you’re ready to move on to a new habit (and continue practicing this one, of course). If you’re shooting for 2 servings of protein each day, 7 days a week that means that you need to include protein in at least 11 meals each week to achieve 80% consistency.

As you’re evaluating your habit practice for the two-week period, you may encounter one of two scenarios.

Scenario 1:

At the end of two weeks, you review how it went and realize that you easily got a full serving of protein at two of your meals each day with 80% (or higher) consistency. You made it a priority, and it has become a regular part of your meals. Congratulations! You have created a new habit! This is so exciting! You feel successful, and find yourself ready for more.

At this point, you go back to Step 2. Choose another small, short-term goal and work toward it, by first analyzing your current starting point again. For example, you notice that your vegetable intake is rather paltry. Knowing that vegetables are packed with nutrients you need for good health, and the food volume from eating vegetables can help keep you satisfied longer after a meal, your decide your next goal is to work on your vegetable intake.

This time, you continue having two servings of protein per day and aim to also incorporate two servings of vegetables each day for two weeks. Nothing else has to change. Eating a serving of protein at two meals should be feeling pretty normal and automated by now, so you’ll work on having two servings of veggies each day, and evaluate your progress again in two weeks.

Scenario 2:

Sometimes things don’t go as smoothly. Perhaps you had a hard time consistently having two servings of protein each day. At the end of the two weeks, you’ve achieved only 65% consistency, and the habit still doesn’t feel normal and natural. You have two options in this scenario:

  1. Continue practicing this same small goal for two more weeks and shoot for 80% consistency — you’re almost there! Sometimes, we just need a bit more time to work on our small goal, and that’s OK. The key is to work on it until it’s cemented as a habit, and feels easy to do.
  2. If it feels like too much, back it down a little bit. Shoot for a serving of protein atone meal a day. If you nail it for two meals in any given day, that’s awesome! But for now, make the goal just one. Scaling your habit back is not failure.  It’s quite the opposite. It’s setting yourself up for long-term success. Eating protein at one meal every day is still an improvement compared to how you were eating just a few weeks ago. Plus, racking up wins, no matter how small, is a key to your long-term success. Shoot for 80% consistency with just one serving of protein per day — that’s 6 servings that week, instead of 11.

All of these small goals push you towards your bigger goal, and as long as you focus on one thing at a time, your chances for success are substantially higher than if you dive head-first into a massive overhaul.

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” This is one of my favorite quotes is, and it’s a great reminder of how we should approach a goal.

Mistake #2: Having unrealistic expectations.

Nothing is more demotivating than setting unrealistic expectations and then not being able to meet them. When you set your goals, it’s important to make them reasonable and realistic, based on where you’re starting, and what you’re willing to do (or not do) to achieve them.


Molly Galbraith’s abs and my legs are a great example of this.


Molly has visible abs whether she is at 25% body fat or 15% body fat. Her abdominal muscles show because that’s her genetic makeup. However, Molly has said that in order for her lower body to look very lean, she has to diet extremely hard and do a lot of exercise.

I’m the exact opposite. My legs stay very lean whether my body fat is 15% or 25%, but my abdominal muscles will only show if my body fat is less than about 13%. I have to diet very, very hard, and do a lot of exercise in order to show some ripped abs.

I’m not willing to participate in another extreme diet to have a shredded midsection, nor is Molly willing to diet like crazy in order to have super lean legs. In fact, we’ve both “been there and done that” when we competed in Figure, and suffered some extreme health consequences when we pushed our bodies that hard.


We understand what our bodies are naturally capable of, and what a healthy body fat percentage looks like for us, so we set our goals based on realistic expectations, what we are willing to do, and what we most certainly are not going to do.

After you set your goals based on realistic expectations, it’s important to understand that even with fantastic nutrition and a solid training plan, progress is unpredictable. It depends on many things beyond what you eat and how you move your body.

Your hormones, sleep quality and quantity, and chronic stress all play a huge role in how quickly and how much progress you’ll make.

Even if you make consistent progress over the course of six weeks, it’s very common to go through a period where everything comes to a screeching halt for a few weeks. Then, suddenly — WHOOSH! Things are on the move again!

Fat loss, muscle growth, and strength gains will all ebb and flow throughout your journey. This is natural. Expect it. The most important things that you can do are remain consistent and focus on enjoying the process.

Speaking of enjoying the process…

Mistake #3: Believing you have to suffer in order to see results.

For some reason the idea persists that in order for a nutrition strategy to “work,” eating for fat loss means the food must be miserable and the process, completely unenjoyable. Many people believe that enjoyment couldn’t possibly deliver desirable results.

“Oh, I have to start dieting tomorrow. Nothing but cod and spinach for me for a while,” she says with disgust.


The problem with this approach is that it will never, ever last. You can only eat so much bland, dry chicken and soggy broccoli, or egg whites and limp asparagus, before your taste buds (and willpower!) frantically wave the white flag of surrender.

When it comes to fat loss, I recommend the exact opposite approach. Eat a wide variety of foods, and make sure that every meal tastes delicious. The goal here is satiety. Feeling satisfied by the foods you’re eating is crucial when it comes to adopting sustainable nutrition strategies. Everyone appreciates a fantastic meal. When we force ourselves to eat bland, repetitive food, it a recipe for disaster (i.e., desperately raiding the pantry in search of something that pleases the palate).

When choosing your foods, pick foods that make you feel good physically. Foods that energize you, digest well, enhance your health, fuel your performance — and that taste amazing. Satisfaction is clutch!

Food for thought: you eat a dry chicken breast and broccoli, but end up digging through the pantry and fridge for something to satisfy you. Next thing you know, you’ve eaten a handful of tortilla chips, some cheese, a few pepperoni slices, and half of a brownie (maybe even the whole brownie, because why not, right?).

You would have been better off making your chicken and broccoli meal more satisfying by adding a generous pat of butter to the broccoli, and a delicious sauce to the chicken — even if that meant adding some extra calories.

I’ve actually had clients say that this “doesn’t feel difficult enough.” They’ve asked, “Do we need to make this harder? It feels too easy.”

While eating for fat loss may not always be easy, there very well may be moments of discomfort, but it should never be miserable. Why? Because…

It doesn’t have to be miserable in order to be effective.

We understand that there is a ton of information out there, and making heads or tails of it can be really challenging.

You may read about celebrities who prepare for award shows or starring roles using extreme approaches, but those results aren’t lasting. You can overhaul your diet, starve yourself, and temporarily achieve dramatic changes… until you resume eating “normally” again, and those changes disappear.

Mainstream media encourages women to take a “hardcore” approach to dieting because it makes for a more interesting story. They want you to believe that losing fat is really, really difficult because they are trying to sell you something that promises to make it effortless! Many of these companies make their money by setting you up for failure, urging you to make drastic changes and promisingunrealistic results. When you start to struggle, they swoop in to “help” with products that they claim will deliver the results you want, once and for all.

These companies don’t have your best interest at heart, and in fact, they actually hope you fail over and over again so they can continue selling you solutions to “fix” yourself.  Remember, the faster the fat loss happens, the less sustainable the results.

Just know that fat loss doesn’t have to be miserable.  Which leads us to our next point…

(BONUS!) Mistake #4: Berating your body into fat loss.

Many women believe that if they love their bodies, they won’t be “motivated” enough to change them.  So they fuel their fire for their hardcore training and dieting by saying nasty things to themselves:

“Why did you eat those brownies? Don’t you have any willpower?”

“Ugh! I’m as big as a house. I have got to start runing!”

“My ass looks awful. I’ve HAVE to get that thing to the gym.”

Sound familiar?  We hope not, but if you’ve been struggling to lose fat for a while, you may have a similar soundtrack playing in your head.

We are here to tell you that you that not only is that not necessary, but it’s detrimental to your long-term results. Hating your body into leanness is not sustainable, and even if it were, it’s not true health.

As my girl Molly Galbraith says, “You can love your body in this moment while wanting it to look or perform differently than it does right now.”

And she’s right.

You can't hate yourself into positive change.

Focusing on changing your lifestyle because you love your body and want to treat it well leads to long-term, sustainable results because it’s enjoyable and it’s something you want to do for yourself; not something you feel like you have to do.

We want to help you avoid making these common mistakes. You deserve to look and feel your very best, and you deserve to enjoy each day, no matter where you are in the process.

Jen Comas –