5 Best Anti-Inflammatory Carbs You Should Be Eating, According to a Dietitian (2024)

Did you know that chronic inflammatory diseases contribute to more than half of deaths worldwide? That's according to a 2019 article published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Inflammation is your body's way of protecting you from things like bacteria and viruses; it also helps you heal when you're injured. It's a natural—and beneficial—process. But when inflammation hangs on in the long term, that's when problems can happen. Chronic inflammation is linked to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, arthritis and other illnesses. And as the statistics show, it's alarmingly common.

You do, however, have the power to keep inflammation under control simply by being proactive about how you nourish your body. You may have heard that a good way to do that is to avoid carbs. However, nutrition experts disagree. Here's what you need to know.

It's true that certain carbs can contribute to inflammation. But not all carbohydrates are created equal. The refined kind—found in foods like crackers, baked goods, cookies, white breads and pastas—are the main culprits. While that doesn't mean you need to take all your favorite treats off the menu (we're not the food police!), it is important to focus on the better-for-you carbs that research shows can actually help lower inflammation. These include whole grains like buckwheat, oats, quinoa and bulgur, and starchy vegetables like potatoes.

A 2022 systematic review published in Nutrients found that replacing refined grains with whole grains can have a significant effect in reducing at least one inflammatory marker. Of the 31 studies the researchers looked at, they noted that the main nutrient in whole grains responsible for their anti-inflammatory benefits was dietary fiber, while other supporting nutrients like phytochemicals, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals also played a role.

If you haven't figured it out yet, the operative word here is fiber. Not only does this nutrient keep you fuller for longer—helping support a healthy weight—it also provides food for your microbiome (the healthy bacteria in your gut) that, in turn, helps lower inflammation throughout your body.

So in addition to curbing refined carbs, try adding these five anti-inflammatory ones to your meal plan today.

5 Best Anti-Inflammatory Carbs You Should Be Eating, According to a Nutrition Experts

1. Buckwheat

Culinary dietitian Wendy Jo Peterson, M.S., RDN, author of 10 cookbooks, including Bread Making for Dummies, is an avid supporter of including whole grains in a balanced everyday diet. Peterson, who lives in Germany, says that the bulk of breads in Europe are made from ancient grains, like buckwheat, and contain more fiber than their wheat counterparts commonly found in the U.S. For example, according to the USDA Nutrient Database, 100 grams of buckwheat flour contains more than three times the fiber of all-purpose wheat flour (10 grams versus 3).

Peterson notes that this gluten-free seed also contains the phytochemicals rutin and quercetin—antioxidants known to reduce inflammation. A 2021 review published in the journal Infectious Disorders Drug Targets highlights the anti-inflammatory benefits of buckwheat alongside its potential neuroprotective, anti-diabetes and anti-hypertensive effects, among others. Antioxidants help protect your body against foreign invaders and the damage they can do to your body over time, which can lead to conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Regular consumption of foods high in antioxidants can help prevent and also lower inflammation that contributes to disease.

All good reasons to add buckwheat into your diet. "Start by substituting half of the wheat flour with buckwheat in foods such as pancakes, waffles, crackers and tortillas," says Peterson. "Or, experiment with buckwheat groats as a delicious breakfast porridge."

Try It: Buckwheat Pancakes

2. Oats

If you haven't jumped on any of the TikTok oat trends, then here's your friendly reminder to get on it. Oats are an affordable whole grain abundant in the diets of countless cultures. Not only are they shelf-stable and easy to keep on hand, but they make an excellent addition to both sweet and savory dishes.

You may be familiar with the cholesterol-lowering effects that the beta-glucan fiber present in oats offers. But oats may offer anti-inflammatory effects, too. They contain phenols that reduce free radicals in the body. Over time, these free radicals can lead to inflammation. Unfortunately, you're exposed to them on a daily basis, even if you exercise, eat a balanced diet and don't smoke. (It's just part of life!) However, diets high in foods with phenols may combat free radicals—essentially kicking them out before they let inflammation set in.

A 2021 study published in the journal Foods supports this. It found that the phenols in oats not only provide anti-inflammatory properties, but also have potent antioxidant, antiproliferative and anti-itching powers, as well.

A ½-cup serving of cooked oats provides 4 grams of filling fiber for just 150 calories. Plus, it also delivers some iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc. You can even pulse whole oats into a flour to use for baking, or use them in savory dishes like the one here.

Try It: High-Fiber Scrambled Oats

3. Purple Potatoes

Despite what you may have heard, potatoes are a great addition to a well-balanced diet. Lauren Manaker, M.S., RDN, LD, a registered dietitian and author of Fueling Male Fertility, says, "Past data published in 2010 in The Journal of Nutrition showed that consumption of potatoes with pigment, like purple potatoes, reduced inflammation and DNA damage in healthy adult males. The purple hue comes from a high concentration of antioxidants, namely phenols, anthocyanins and carotenoids, a trifecta powerhouse that helps rid the body of those free radicals mentioned above."

"Plus," she says, "purple potatoes are a natural source of carbs that provide fiber, vitamins and unique antioxidants." With 80 calories, 17 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of fiber in a small potato (about 3.5 ounces, or a 100-gram portion), purple potatoes make a great addition to a balanced diet.

Try It: German-Style Purple Potato Salad

4. Sorghum

Step aside quinoa, there's a lesser-known ancient grain in town that packs a strong nutritional punch (note, we still want you to eat quinoa too!). According to Manaker, "Sorghum is an ancient grain that is naturally gluten-free and contains bioactive compounds that provide anti-inflammatory effects." According to a 2021 article published in Foods, the antioxidants in sorghum, like phenolic acids and flavonoids, fight off free radicals (those foreign invaders) that can cause damage over time, leading to diabetes, inflammation and other health conditions.

Nutritionally speaking, ⅔ cup of cooked sorghum contains 8 grams of fiber. Experiment in your kitchen with your favorite grain recipes by swapping in sorghum.

Try It: Healthy Grain Salads

5. Spelt

Spelt is an ancient cousin of wheat that is widely used in German baking, according to Peterson. "It's lower in gluten than wheat flour, but still contains gluten. While spelt is not suitable for those living with celiac disease, people with wheat intolerances can often tolerate spelt," she says. (Still, be sure to talk to your health care specialist if you'd like to try spelt and have a wheat intolerance.)

Spelt is a great way to make every bite count, with a ½ cup of cooked spelt providing 4 grams of fiber and just over 125 calories. Plus, Peterson notes, it also contains manganese, vitamin B2, thiamin, niacin and copper.

If you're interested in trying spelt, Peterson recommends purchasing spelt flour or spelt berries to gain the benefits of fiber and nutrients. If you'd like to try spelt berries, they can be cooked and prepared much like farro. However, if you're interested in baking with spelt flour, she recommends starting by swapping in half spelt flour for half of the all-purpose flour in recipes.

Try It: Spelt Indian Flatbread

The Bottom Line

Not only do you not have to avoid carbs if you're looking to keep inflammation under control—eating the right kind of carbs can actually help reduce inflammation. Just focus on including a variety of nutrient-rich sources, like buckwheat, oats, purple potatoes, sorghum and spelt, as part of your anti-inflammatory eating plan. Consider adding these foods into one of these 27 recipes—which contain other anti-inflammatory ingredients—to get dinner on the table tonight!

5 Best Anti-Inflammatory Carbs You Should Be Eating, According to a Dietitian (2024)

FAQs

What is the #1 anti-inflammatory carb? ›

These include whole grains like buckwheat, oats, quinoa and bulgur, and starchy vegetables like potatoes. A 2022 systematic review published in Nutrients found that replacing refined grains with whole grains can have a significant effect in reducing at least one inflammatory marker.

What are the top 5 anti-inflammatory foods? ›

Top 8 Anti-Inflammatory Foods You Should Eat
  1. Dark, leafy greens. Save. Vegetables like kale, spinach, and swiss chard pack a high antioxidant punch. ...
  2. Colorful fruits. Save. ...
  3. Ginger and turmeric. Save. ...
  4. Nuts. Save. ...
  5. Green Tea. Save. ...
  6. Chia seeds and flaxseeds. Save. ...
  7. Fatty fish. Save. ...
  8. Beans. Save.

What are inflammatory foods for dietitians? ›

In particular, experts recommend avoiding these inflammatory foods:
  • Red meat, such as steak and hamburgers.
  • Processed meat, such as bologna, bacon, sausage and lunchmeat.
  • Commercial baked goods such as snack cakes, pies, cookies and brownies.
  • Bread and pasta made with white flour.

Which carbs are not inflammatory? ›

The Best Carbs for Inflammation
  • Corn Tortillas. ...
  • Berries. ...
  • Yogurt. ...
  • Edamame. ...
  • Sweet Potatoes. ...
  • Veggie Noodles and "Rice" ...
  • Quinoa. ...
  • Legume-based Pastas.
Apr 13, 2022

What is the number one carb to avoid? ›

1. Sugary Foods. Most people already think of many of the foods in this category as unhealthy treats. Candy, soft drinks, and sweet desserts such as cake, chocolate, and ice cream are all expected entries on a list of carbs to avoid to lose weight.

What is the strongest natural anti-inflammatory? ›

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids , which are abundant in fatty fish such as salmon or tuna, are among the most potent anti-inflammatory supplements. ...
  2. Curcumin. ...
  3. S-adenosylmethionine. ...
  4. Zinc. ...
  5. Green tea. ...
  6. Frankincense. ...
  7. Capsaicin. ...
  8. Cat's claw.

What is the #1 anti-inflammatory fruit? ›

According to Zappulla, pineapple contains a compound called bromelain, which has inflammation reducing properties. Pineapple is also a good source of fiber and antioxidants like vitamin C (a half cup provides you with around 40 percent Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin C), and vitamin A.

What is the number one inflammatory food? ›

The five types of foods that cause inflammation include: Red meat and processed meats, including bacon, hot dogs, lunch meats and cured meats. Refined grains, including white bread, white rice, pasta and breakfast cereals. Snack foods, including chips, cookies, crackers and pastries.

What is the #1 best drink to reduce inflammation? ›

What is the #1 best drink to reduce inflammation?
  • baking soda and water.
  • parsley and ginger green juice.
  • lemon and turmeric tonic.
  • bone broth.
  • functional food smoothie.
  • matcha tea.
  • greens and berry smoothie.

Are eggs inflammatory? ›

Eggs are rich in choline, a nutrient required for various bodily functions. However, when choline is metabolised by gut bacteria, it can produce trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), a compound associated with inflammation and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

What are the 10 worst foods for inflammation? ›

Here are the top ten worst offending foods that can trigger or cause inflammation:
  1. Refined Sugar. No surprises that sugar is at the top of the list. ...
  2. Vegetable Oil. ...
  3. Dairy Products. ...
  4. Wheat, Rye, and Barley. ...
  5. Fried Foods. ...
  6. Refined Flour. ...
  7. Red Meat. ...
  8. Processed Corn.
Dec 9, 2023

What bread is best for inflammation? ›

Refined grains, such as the grains found in white bread and white pasta, are known to increase inflammation across the whole body. Sourdough bread and rye bread are both good options for an anti-inflammatory diet. The best sourdough and rye bread varieties to reduce gut inflammation are those made from whole grains.

What vegetable is not good for inflammation? ›

Nightshade Vegetables:

Nightshades continue glycoalkaloids, which has been shown in some studies to cause inflammation. However, these vegetables affect people differently, and not everyone that eats them will have inflammation. The nightshades include: Tomatoes, Tomatillos.

What foods quickly reduce inflammation? ›

What are six anti-inflammatory foods? Berries, fatty fish, nuts, leafy greens, oatmeal, and olive oil can all be part of an anti-inflammatory diet. But it's best to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

What is the single best supplement for inflammation? ›

Best Anti-Inflammatory Supplements Backed By Science
  • Turmeric. ...
  • Ginger. ...
  • Fish Oil. ...
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine and Glutathione. ...
  • Bromelain. ...
  • Vitamin D. ...
  • Green Tea. ...
  • Sulforaphane.
May 24, 2024

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