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23 Herbs That Are Good For Inflammation — Reduce Autoimmune Pain With Plants

Inflammation is your body’s natural response to harmful stimuli such as injury or infection. However, when inflammation becomes chronic it can lead to a host of health problems, including inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune diseases, arthritic diseases, and other chronic conditions. (Source

Thankfully, nature has provided a wealth of anti-inflammatory herbs that can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. In this article, we'll take a look at 23 herbs that are good for inflammation and explore their benefits.

From turmeric to ginger, clove to chamomile, each of these herbs has unique properties that can have an effect on inflammation. Whether you are dealing with chronic pain from an autoimmune disease or just looking to improve your overall health, these anti-inflammatory herbs may be just what you need to feel better and live a more comfortable life. So, let's dive in and discover the amazing benefits of these 23 herbs for reducing inflammation.

How Inflammation Works

Inflammation is a natural and important process your body uses to defend itself from injury, infection, or irritation. When a problem is detected, a response is triggered that includes classic signs of inflammation such as redness, swelling, heat, and pain. Inflammation may be uncomfortable, but its purpose is to prevent infection from spreading and start the healing process. However, chronic inflammation can lead to a variety of health problems, including inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis, and other inflammatory conditions. (Source, Source

While medication can help manage these conditions, there are also natural ways to reduce inflammation, such as maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, engaging in movement, and incorporating anti-inflammatory herbs into your routine.

Symptoms of Inflammation

In addition to redness and swelling, inflammation can manifest in more subtle ways, such as an upset stomach, joint pain, or arthritis. Additionally, inflammation can cause an increase in blood pressure. When inflammation becomes chronic, it can contribute to a range of inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease

As such, it's crucial to identify and address inflammation early on to prevent further complications and maintain optimal health. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms chronically, it's important to speak with your health care provider to determine if inflammation may be the underlying cause. (Source

The Power of Herbs

The health benefits of medicinal herbs have been recognized for centuries in ancient practices, such as traditional Chinese medicine. Many herbs have been found to possess strong anti-inflammatory properties, making them natural alternatives to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can have harmful side effects. Consuming anti-inflammatory herbs, along with an overall anti-inflammatory diet, can help reduce chronic inflammation and improve overall health. So, if you're looking for a natural way to manage inflammation, consider incorporating some of these potent herbs into your daily routine. (Source)

23 Herbs for Reducing Inflammation

We’ve homed in on 23 herbs that have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. If you’re looking for home remedies to manage your inflammation, consider these herbs! Numerous studies have been conducted on these herbs, including both clinical and experimental studies. The findings suggest these herbs can help alleviate symptoms of chronic inflammatory conditions. Let’s go over them!

1. Ginger

Ginger, one of the most commonly consumed herbs, is native to Southeast Asia and has long been revered for its anti-inflammatory effects. Research shows long-term consumption of ginger can actually reduce inflammation markers in the body. (Source, Source)

2. Turmeric

Turmeric, a powerful plant that is indigenous to India, contains the natural compound curcumin. Curcumin is not only anti-inflammatory but also contains antioxidant, antidiabetic, and anticancer properties. In fact, research has found it to be a worthwhile alternative to NSAIDs. Studies have found curcumin can reduce inflammation in those with rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel disease, uveitis (an eye condition), and psoriasis. (Source, Source

3. Clove

Clove has been used for its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and respiratory benefits. Eugenol, a natural compound in clove, has been shown to have a synergistic effect with anti-inflammatory diets, making it a great herb to add to your overall nutrient regimen. Clove oil and eugenol have been shown to reduce chronic inflammation and to have anticancer properties. Clove also has the ability to increase hydrochloric acid in the stomach, helping relieve digestive inflammation and discomfort. (Source, Source, Source)

4. Rosemary

Rosemary, a common household plant native to the Mediterranean region, holds immense promise for its wide range of benefits, including anti-inflammatory, diuretic, analgesic, and flatulence-relieving effects. For those with rheumatoid arthritis, rosemary oil has been shown to reduce joint pain and fatigue in just 4 weeks when applied topically and massaged into the joint. (Source, Source

5. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a potent herb that has been used in Asia for over 4,000 years to address inflammatory and gastrointestinal issues. This herb has antimicrobial, antiviral, antioxidant, antitumor, antihypertensive, antidiabetic, gastroprotective, and immunomodulatory properties. Evidence suggests cinnamon can be used to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress levels. (Source, Source

6. Oregano

A common cooking herb, oregano has been studied for its anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antifungal effects. The essential oils of oregano are antioxidant in nature, with research showing oregano consumption allows the body to manage inflammation by reducing oxidative stress and free radicals. (Source)

7. Licorice

Licorice has been used historically throughout China for the management of inflammatory diseases. Licorice extract has anti-inflammatory properties, specifically because of its ability to decrease free radicals. Licorice has also been shown to stimulate digestive function, reduce coughing, lessen phlegm production, and alleviate pain.

Impressively, licorice has been found to decrease inflammatory markers in the joints and protect against acute and chronic inflammatory conditions, including the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis. However, it’s important to note that eating too much licorice can cause unwanted side effects. Licorice contains a compound called glycyrrhizic acid which, consumed in excess, may lead to the depletion of electrolytes such as potassium and an increase in blood pressure. (Source, Source, Source)

8. Burdock 

Burdock is a plant native to Northern Asia and Europe that has historically been used to aid in digestion and relieve inflammation. Burdock root has been found to improve inflammation levels and oxidative stress due to its antioxidant levels. This herb has been shown to be a natural and effective antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. (Source

9. Fennel

Fennel is a flowering herb that is common to the Mediterranean region and known for its ability to support digestion, increase heart health, and reduce inflammation. Fennel shows significant promise as a treatment for managing neutrophilic inflammatory diseases (meaning inflammatory diseases with high white blood cell counts, such as psoriasis). Fennel seed extract may also be a potential alternative or supplementary therapy for inflammatory bowel disease — research has found that it has a protective effect on the intestinal barrier function. A natural compound in fennel, estragole, may inhibit particular inflammatory diseases due to its anti-inflammatory nature. (Source, Source)

10. Chamomile

Chamomile’s benefits far exceed simply relaxation and sleep. Chamomile has been commonly used across the world for its array of uses as a sedative, antispasmodic, skin treatment, and anti-inflammatory. Research has found this herb works by a mechanism of action similar to that of NSAIDs, which warrants its use for minor pain and inflammation purposes. One small study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice found that participants with osteoarthritis in their knees reported chamomile oil reduced their need for acetaminophen for pain relief! (Source, Source, Source, Source)

11. Dandelion

Dandelion is a yellow flowering herb that is known for aiding digestion, regulating blood sugar, and protecting the liver, but less known is its anti-inflammatory effects. Due to dandelion’s antioxidant levels, it may help improve the immune system, shrink liver fibrosis, and reduce inflammation. (Source, Source, Source)

12. Peppermint

Peppermint has a wide range of medicinal uses, as it is purported to have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, immunomodulatory, and anti-fatigue properties. This herb is especially helpful for inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract because of its ability to relax smooth muscle. (Source, Source)

13. Spanish Marjoram

Spanish marjoram is an herb originating from Spain that is known for its therapeutic antiseptic, antispasmodic, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory characteristics. Marjoram has impressively high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. (Source

14. Valerian

Valerian is white flowering herb native to Europe and Asia with such significant anti-inflammatory effects it could be useful as an alternative to other pain relieving analgesics. A small study on rats suggested consuming valerian extract might have the potential to decrease both acute and chronic pain. (Source)

15. Astragalus

Astragalus is a renowned herb in the realm of traditional Chinese medicine with a variety of indications, from upper respiratory infections and asthma to fatigue and kidney disease. Limited animal study has suggested astragalus may effectively treat pain and inflammation, but high-quality human studies are lacking. Astragalus supplements are considered to be safe in general, but may interact with immune suppressing medications. (Source, Source)

16. Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is a purple flowering herb that is native to Europe but now grows all around the world. A milk thistle extract, silymarin, is believed to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antitumor, and immune system regulating effects. Silymarin has been found to be well tolerated with no major side effects other than mild gastrointestinal reactions. However, as with many other herbal supplements, silymarin may interact with prescribed medications, so be sure to consult with your health care provider before adding milk thistle to your care plan. (Source

17. Kava Kava

Kava kava is an herb most commonly known for its ability to relax the central nervous system and lesser known for its significant anti-inflammatory effects. This herb contains a compound called kava-241 which may help manage inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. One study in mice found that it reduced an inflammatory signaling protein known as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) within inflamed joints. Research has also shown that kava kava has a positive effect on neurodegenerative diseases. (Source, Source, Source)

18. Borage

Borage is an herb from the Mediterranean region that is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It contains gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which has been shown to reduce joint pain and inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Borage oil has also been studied for its potential to improve skin health and perhaps reduce symptoms of atopic dermatitis, a chronic skin condition that causes red, itchy rashes. (Source, Source, Source)

19. Evening Primrose

Evening primrose is a plant native to Central America that contains compounds that may reduce inflammation in the body, including GLA, tetracosanol, and ferulic acid. Cholesterol-like molecules called sterols in evening primrose oil have been shown to inhibit TNF-α even more effectively than borage. Studies have found that taking evening primrose oil supplements may help reduce inflammation in conditions such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Overall, evening primrose oil has shown potential anti-inflammatory effects, but more research is needed to fully understand its effects on other inflammatory autoimmune conditions. (Source)

20. Boswellia

Boswellia is derived from the resin of the Boswellia serrata tree, which is native to India. It has been found to be effective in reducing joint swelling and pain, increasing joint flexibility, and improving walking distance in patients with osteoarthritis. It has also been shown to reduce morning stiffness and the need for NSAIDs in rheumatoid arthritis patients. Boswellia may help reduce symptoms in a form of inflammatory bowel disease known as collagenous colitis. Boswellia extract has been shown to effectively manage inflammation in both topical and oral applications. (Source)

21. Cat’s Claw

Cat's claw is a plant that is native to the forests of Central America. It has been studied for its anti-inflammatory effects in treating conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. In one study, patients with rheumatoid arthritis who took cat's claw extract along with other medications experienced some benefits in reducing joint pain, swelling, and tenderness compared to those who took a placebo. Cat's claw has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects comparable to the steroid medication dexamethasone, which is commonly used to treat inflammation. (Source, Source, Source)

22. Stinging Nettle

Stinging nettle is a plant that has been studied for its ability to reduce inflammation. Nettle leaf has been shown to enhance the effect of NSAIDs given for arthritis. Another study looked at the effectiveness of nettle leaf extract when applied to inflamed skin and found it helped to reduce pain and stiffness. Nettle leaf extract has been shown to increase anti-inflammatory effects when combined with other anti-inflammatory herbs. (Source)

23. Rosehip

Rose hips are the small, round, red or orange fruit of rose plants. The herb known as rosehip is specific to Rosa canina, or dog rose. It is known to support the immune system and is rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, and lutein. Scientists have looked into how rosehip powder may help to improve joint mobility and provide pain relief for those with osteoarthritis. One study found that rosehip powder improved knee and hip mobility, and reduced pain in almost 65% of patients. It is believed that rosehip powder inhibits inflammatory responses that eventually result in swollen joints, pain, and redness. (Source)

What to Consider Before Consuming Herbs

While herbs have been used medicinally for centuries, it is important to consider a few key factors to ensure that they are safe and effective for you. Here are some things to consider before consuming herbs:

  • quality and purity: It is important to choose herbs that are free from contaminants and have not been altered with other substances.
  • dosage: Too much of a herb may be harmful, while too little may not provide any benefits. It is important to follow recommended dosages and consult with a health care professional if unsure.
  • interactions: Herbs can interact with medications, supplements, or health conditions. Before self-treating with herbs, talk with your health care provider about possible interactions.
  • allergies: It is possible to be allergic to an herb, just as with any other substance. It’s important to be aware of any potential allergies and to speak with a health care professional if you have any concerns.
  • form and preparation: Herbs come in different forms, such as capsules, teas, tinctures, and extracts. Choosing the right form and preparation method increases the likelihood you’ll get the effects you’re looking for.

By considering these factors, you can safely and effectively consume herbs for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Remember to always speak with your health care provider or your WellTheory care team before starting any new herb or supplement regimen.

The Bottom Line on Herbs That Are Good for Inflammation

There are many herbs that have been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory properties and can be used as natural remedies for reducing inflammation. Before consuming any herbs, it is important to consider the potential side effects and interactions with medications you may be taking. Additionally, some herbs may be more effective for acute inflammation, while others may be more helpful with chronic inflammation. 

Overall, incorporating anti-inflammatory herbs into your diet can be a safe and effective way to naturally reduce inflammation in the body. However, they should not be used as the only way to manage your autoimmune pain and optimize your health. There are additional lifestyle changes you can make to support your autoimmune health. Learn how WellTheory can help reduce your symptoms through a personalized nutrition and lifestyle plan that supports your healing process.

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The Ultimate Guide To Phytonutrients

Lycopene is the phytochemical that gives fruits and vegetables their red color. Lycopene is a potent antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties that protect the body from oxidative stress. Lycopene has also been found to decrease “bad” low density lipoprotein (LDL) and increase “good” high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Lycopene may also protect the skin against ultraviolet (UV) damage from the sun. One small study found that participants who added 16milligrams of lycopene to their diet every day had less severe skin reactions to UV light over 10 weeks than a control group without the added lycopene. (Of course, consumption of lycopene-rich foods doesn’t replace sunscreen!)

AIP-Compliant Red Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
Blood Orange
flavonoids, hesperidin, isohesperidin, limonene, limonin, lycopene, naringin, terpenio
anthocyanin, flavonoids, hydro-xycinnamates
anthocyanin, catechins, ellagic acid, hippuric acid, kaempferol, lycopene, triterpenoids, quercetin, quinic acid
beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, polyphenois
anthocyanin, cyanidin, ellagic acid, lycopene
Red Grape
anthocyanin, cyanidin, ellagic acid, flavonols, kaempferol, lycopene, myricetin, peonidin, quercetin, resveratrol
Pink Guava
alkaloids, ellagic acid, lycopene
Red/Pink Grapefruit
beta cryptoxanthin, lycopene, naringin, narirutin, ponciri
Red Onion
copaene, flavonols, lycopene, polysulfides, quercetin, vinyldithiins
Red Beet
betacyanin, flavonoids, lycopene, phenolic acids
Other Red Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
beta-carotene, kaempferol, lycopene, rutin
Red Bell Pepper
anthocyanin, capsaicinoid, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, lycopene, zeaxanthin
beta-carotene, canthaxanthin, lycopene, tocopherols
Red Potato
alpha linoleic acid, anthocyanin, flavonoids, polyphenols, tocopherols
beta-carotene, lycopene, zeaxanthin

Ways to incorporate more red foods into your diet

  • Add red-colored fruits and vegetables to salads.
  • Opt for red pasta sauces made from tomatoes instead of carbonara or Alfredo sauce. Red sauces can also be used as toppings for other dishes!
  • Have salsa as a dip alongside tortilla chips or eggs, or on top of potatoes.
  • Make a juice using lycopene-rich foods.
  • Add some goji berries to your chrysanthemum, chamomile, or any other tea.

Phytonutrients in Orange Foods

Carotenoids are responsible for yellow, orange, and red color in many fruits and vegetables. Research suggests that one carotenoid in particular, beta-carotene, may protect against decline in lung function. A study done in 2017 also suggested that eating fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids such as beta-carotene, alpha-carotene ,and beta-cryptoxanth in had protective effects against lung cancer.
Like lycopene, dietary intake of beta-carotene has protective effects against diseases that are mediated by oxidative stress, such as diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. High levels of alpha carotene are associated with longevity — one large U.S. study found that high levels of alpha-carotene in the blood were linked with a reduced risk of death over a 14 year period. Aside from its antioxidant effects, the carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin may prevent bone loss and may have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.

AIP-Compliant Orange Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
beta-carotene, lycopene, rutin, tartaric acid
Butternut Squash
alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, phenolic acids, zeaxanthin
beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, gallic acid, kaempferol, lutein, zeaxanthin
alpha-carotene, beta-carotenes, beta-cryptoxanthin, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, lycopene
Mandarin Oranges
alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, flavonoids, lutein, zeaxanthin
beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, beta-glucogallin, ellagicacid, quercetin
beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, flavonoids, hesperidin, isohesperidin, naringin, terpineol, limonene, limonin
beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin
alpha-carotene, anthocyanidins, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, phenolic acids, rutin
beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, catechin, kaempferol, proanthocyanidins, quercetin, triterpenoid
alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, phenolic acids, phytic acid, zeaxanthin
Sea Buckthorn
beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, lycopene, quercetin, zeaxanthin
Sweet potato
alkaloids, anthocyanin, betacarotene, flavonoids, oxalic acid, phenolic acids
alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, tangeritin, zeaxanthin
curcumin, curcumenol, demethoxycurcumin, eugenol, turmerin, turmerones, zingiberene
Winter Squash
alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin
alkaloids, beta-carotene, flavonoids, phenol
Other Orange Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
Orange Lentils
beta-carotene, flavonoids, phytic acid, tocopherols, flavonols
Orange Bell Pepper
beta-carotene, lycopene, capsaicinoid, lycopene, phenols

Ways to incorporate more orange foods into your diet

  • Have a baked sweet potato instead of white potato
  • Add turmeric powder to stir-fries, or make a warm cup of ginger and turmeric tea.
  • Have orange-colored foods as a snack throughout the day, such as tangerines, papaya, or peaches
  • Make a pumpkin, butternut squash, or carrot soup.
  • Make a smoothie out of orange-colored foods

Phytonutrients in Yellow Foods

Lutein and zeaxanthin are also part of the carotenoid family, along with beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only dietary carotenoids that reach the retina, the thin layer of tissue that lines the inside on the back of the eye. They are known to support eye health and have preventative effects against age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that can lead to the loss of vision as we age. However, lutein and zeaxanthin also have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities. Zeaxanthin can also help to recycle glutathione, another important antioxidant in the body. (9, 15)

AIP-Compliant Yellow Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
Yellow Apple
catechin, chlorogenicacid, flavonols, quercetin, rutin
beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, tartaric acid
beta-carotene, lutein, oxalic acid, zeaxanthin
Golden Beet
beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, flavonoids, lutein, phenolic acids, zeaxanthin, flavonoids
Yellow Cauliflower
beta-carotene, polyphenols, protocatechuic acid, quercetin
Yellow Dragon Fruit
betacyanin, betacarotene, flavonoids, lutein, phenolic acid, zeaxanthin, phenolic acid
alpha-carotene, anthocyanin, betacarotene, flavonoids, lutein, polyphenols, zeaxanthin
alkaloids, betacarotene, biolaxantin, gallicacid, neoxanthin, quercetin, terpenoids, zeaxanthin
gingerol, monoterpenes, oxalicacid, quercetin
Golden Kiwi
beta-carotene, betacryptoxanthin, caffeicacid, chlorogenicacid, lutein, phenolics, quinic acid, zeaxanthin
alkaloids, alphacarotene, betacarotene, flavonoids, lignans, lutein, phenolics, terpenoids, zeaxanthin
alkaloids, betacryptoxanthin, flavonoids, phenols, quinines, rutin, terpenoids
anthocyanin, betacarotene, phenols
Yellow Pear
beta-carotenecaffeic acid, pectin, quercetin, tocopherols
anthocyanin, betacryptoxanthin, lutein
Rutabaga/Swedish Turnip
beta-carotene, indole 3-carbinol, lutein, luteolin
Summer Squash
beta-carotene, betacryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin
Star Fruit
alkaloids, flavonoids, phenolics, phytofluene
alkaloids, betacarotene, betacryptoxanthin, chlorogenic acid
beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin
Yellow Watermelon
beta-carotene, betacryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin
Yellow Zucchini
alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin
Other Yellow Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
Yellow Bell Pepper
beta-carotene, capsaicinoid, lutein, phenols, zeaxanthin
anthocyanin, betacarotene, flavonoids, phenolic acids
beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, ferulic acid, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid
Yellow Potatoes
beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, flavonoids, phenols, anthocyanin

Ways to incorporate more yellow foods into your diet

  • Add diced yellow bell peppers and corn to your stir-fry.
  • Make honey and lemon tea.
  • Make stove-top popcorn with healthy fats such as olive oil and coconut oil.
  • Roast, bake, or mash yellow (Yukon) potatoes instead of white potatoes.
  • Use bananas to make banana pancakes and bread.
  • Slide some banana into your oatmeal.
  • Blend frozen pineapple, almond milk, and honey or maple syrup to make pineapple sorbet.

Phytonutrients in Green Foods

Dark green, leafy cruciferous vegetables are a good source of sulfur (isocyanate, sulforaphane, glucosinolate). Our body needs sulfur in order to synthesize certain essential proteins. These sulfur compounds break down into isothiocyanates and indoles in the gut, which are known to have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory effects. (36, 52, 33)

Research suggests that sulforaphane may support heart health by reducing inflammation and lowering blood pressure. It may also have antidiabetic effects. One study found that sulforaphane reduced fasting blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes. (55, 41, 47)

Glucoraphanin, a glucosinolate that’s found in some cruciferous vegetables, has been found to protect the blood–brain barrier in mice with induced experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (used to study MS, which can’t be induced in the same way), suggesting it may reduce the risk of developing MS. (16, 40)

AIP-Compliant Green Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
cynarin, gallic acid, quercetin, rutin, silymarin
glucosinolates,indole-3-carbinol, lutein, sulforaphane, thiocyanates, zeaxanthin
lycopene, rutin, glutathione, quercetin, caffeicacid, kaempferol, ferulic acid
Bitter Gourd
anthraquinones, beta-carotene, glucosinolates, isoflavones, lutein, phenolic acids, sterol,
Bok Choy
beta-carotene, flavonoids, glucosinolates, kaempferol, lutein
alpha-carotene, betacarotene, glucosinolates, kaempferol, lutein, sulforaphane
Brussel Sprouts
indole-3-carbinol, isoflavonoids, isothiocyanate, kaempferol, lutein, zeaxanthin
beta-carotene, chlorogenic acid,indole-3-carbinol,lutein, sulforaphane, tocophero
beta-carotene, lutein,indole-3-carbinol, isothiocyanates, sulforaphane, zeaxanthin
beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin
Gai Lan/Chinese Broccoli/kale
beta-carotene, carbinol, chlorophyll, indole-3-carbinol, lutein, sulforaphane, zeaxanthin
Honeydew Melon
beta-carotene, caffeicacid, ellagic acid,ferulic acid, gallicacid, kaempferol, lutein, terpenes
glucosinolates, lutein, polysulfides, zeaxanthin
beta-carotene, glucosinolates, indole-3-carbinol, kaempferol, lutein, zeaxanthin
anthocyanin, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, flavonoids, lutein
anthocyanin, beta-carotene, glucosinolates, isothiocyanate
allicin, alliin, betacarotene, gallic acid, isothiocyanate, kaempferol, lutein
beta-carotene, chlorophyll, lutein, zeaxanthin
Mustard Greens
glucosinolate, betacarotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, phenolicacids, anthocyanin
beta-carotene, chlorophyll, flavonoids, lutein, phytosterols, zeaxanthin
apigenin, beta-carotene, caffeic acid, citral, dillapiole, elemicin, limonene, luteolin, myristicin
beta-carotenes, lutein, quercetin, zeaxanthin
Swiss Chard
catechin, epicatechin, kaempferol, lutein, myricetin, quercetin, zeaxanthin
beta-carotene, glucosinolates, lutein, zeaxanthin
Other Green Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
apigenin, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, chlorophyll, flavonoids, kaempferol
anthocyanin, betacarotene, chloroform, lutein, phytosterols, violaxanthin

Ways to incorporate more green foods into your diet

  • Add chopped spinach and asparagus to an omelet or frittata.
  • Make a green smoothie using a variety of green vegetables and fruits.
  • Make kale chips using green kale.
  • Use basil or any dark green vegetable of your choice to make a pesto sauce.
  • Dip cucumbers in hummus, or celery in peanut butter.
  • Make wraps using lettuce leaves, cabbage leaves, perilla leaves, or Swiss chard.
  • Saute your choice of green vegetables with garlic, lemon, and olive oil.

Phytonutrients in Blue/Purple/Black Foods

Anthocyanins are phytochemicals that give red, blue, and purple plants their vibrant coloring. Anthocyanins have antioxidant properties that may boost heart health and reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular-related and other chronic diseases. (26)

Anthocyanin-rich foods have been linked to reductions in inflammation and reduced blood sugar concentrations, suggesting they may also have antidiabetic effects. Anthocyanins have also been found to protect eye health. One study found that daily supplementation with pharmaceutical anthocyanins improved the visual function of individuals with normal tension glaucoma (where the optic nerve is damaged despite pressure in the eye being normal). (30, 43)

Other phytochemicals called stilbenoids are typically found in grapes and blueberries. Like anthocyanins, stilbenoids have been shown to have a variety of benefits such as protective effects on the heart and brain, as well as antidiabetic, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory properties. (4)

AIP-Compliant Blue/Purple/Black Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
Purple Asparagus
anthocyanin, beta-carotene, ecdysterone, lutein ,zeaxanthin
Purple Basil
anthocyanin, betacarotene, kaempferol, myrcene, phenolicacids, quercetin, rutin, terpinolene
anthocyanin, caffeicacid, chlorogenic acid, kaempferol, myricetin, quercetin, terpenoids
anthocyanin, beta-carotene, lutein, salicylic acid, zeaxanthin
anthocyanin,catechins, ferulic acid, gallic acid, myricetin, phenolic acids, quercetin, stilbenoids
Purple Cabbage
anthocyanin, betacarotene, flavonoids, glucosinolates, indole-3-carbinol, lutein, sulforaphane, zeaxanthin
Purple Cauliflower
anthocyanin,beta-carotene, glucosinolates, iindole-3-carbinol, lutein, sulforaphane, zeaxanthin
Purple Carrots
alpha-carotene, anthocyanin, betacarotene, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, lutein, zeaxanthin
Black Currants
anthocyanin, caffeicacid, kaempferol, phenolic acids, lignans, myricetin, quercetin
anthocyanin, flavonoids, polyphenols
anthocyanin, betacarotene, chlorogenicacid, lutein, rutin, zeaxanthin
Purple Grapes
anthocyanin, betacarotene, caffeic acid, catechins, coumaricacid, ellagic acid, ferulicacid, kaempferol, lutein, myricetin, quercetin, stilbenoids, zeaxanthin
Purple kale
anthocyanins, betacarotene, flavonoids, glucosinolates, indole-3-carbinol, lutein, sulforaphane, zeaxanthin
anthocyanin, chlorogenic acid, lutein, phytosterols, sorbitol, terpenoids, zeaxanthin
anthocyanin, ellagicacid, lutein, lycopene, quercetin, zeaxanthin
Other Blue/Purple/Black Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
Chia Seeds
caffeic acid, quercetin, myricetin, phenolic acids, chlorogenic acid
phenolic acids, tocopherols, flavonoids, anthocyanin, phytosterols, phytic acid
anthocyanin, aubergenone, flavonoids, glycoalkaloids, phenolic compounds

Ways to incorporate more blue/purple/black foods into your diet

  • Substitute purple cabbage, carrots, and onions for green cabbage, orange carrots, and white onions.
  • Add blueberries, blackberries, black currants, figs, and plums to yogurt or oatmeal.
  • Have a baked purple sweet potato instead of a white potato, or use them to make sweet potato patties.
  • Make sauerkraut using purple cabbage.
  • Use purple vegetables in salads.
  • Make a cannelloni using eggplant.

Phytonutrientsin White/Tan/Brown Foods

Allicin, a phytochemical produced when garlic is chopped or crushed, has been associated with a lower risk of coronary events in older adults. Research suggests allicin may help reduce LDL and total cholesterol levels when consumed for more than 2 months. (8, 39)

Garlic is well known for its antimicrobial effects and has historically been used to combat infectious diseases. It is also known to be effective against a variety of bacteria, such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and Staphylococcus aureus. (8)

Another phytonutrient that is found in many white, tan, and brown foods is quercetin. Quercetin has anti-inflammatory properties and may be effective against obesity, cancer, viruses, allergies, and high blood pressure. (5)

Serum C-reactive protein (CRP) levels are a biomarker of inflammation in the body. High CRP levels are associated with heart disease, obesity, and lupus. One study done in 2008 found that the intake of foods rich in flavonoids, such as quercetin, is associated with lower serum CRP concentrations. (12)

AIP-Compliant White/Tan/Brown Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
beta-carotene, flavonoids, glucosinolates, indole-3-carbinol,lutein, sulforaphane, zeaxanthin
beta-carotene, flavonoids, lutein, phenolic acids, zeaxanthin
Japanese Turnip
anthocyanins, betacarotene, ferulicacid, glucosinolate, lutein, quercetin, violaxanthin
allicin, allin, caffeicacid, ferulic acid, kaempferol, polysulfides, quercetin, triterpenoid
gingerols, paradols, shogaols, terpenes
Lotus Root
catechins, catechol, gallic acid, phenolic acids
anthocyanidins, catechins, malvidin, quercetin, rutin
catechins, gartanin, mangostin, normagostin, rosin, xanthones
beta-glucans, ergosterol, ganoderic acid, lucidenic acid
hydroxytyrosol, oleuropein
allicin, alliin, caffeicacid, ferulic acid, fumaric acid, phytosterols, quercetin, rutin
alkaloids, flavonoids, glycosides, phenols, quercetin, terpenoids
Other White/Tan/Brown Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
catechin, kaempferol, methylquercetin, protocatechuic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, resveratrols, vanillic acid
caffeine, flavonols, quercetin, theobromine
caffeoylquinic acid, gallic acid, kaempferol, myricetin, quercetin
flavonoids, lutein, phenolic acids, tocopherols, zeaxanthin
lignans, phytosterols, sesamin, sesamolin, tocopherols
beta-sitosterol, daidzein, genistein, isoflavone
gallic acid, phenolic acids, phytosterol, proanthocyanidins
Whole Grains
beta-cryptoxanthin, flavonoids, lutein, zeaxanthin
White Potatoes
flavonoids, phenolic acids, beta-carotene, chlorogenic acid
beta-carotene, caffeine, chlorogenic acid, phenolic acids
campesterol, lignans, triterpenes, sitosterol, stigmasterol

Ways to incorporate more white/tan/brown foods into your diet

  • Use dates instead of refined sweeteners to sweeten a dish or drink.
  • Add onions and mushrooms to a stir-fry.
  • Make your own granola or trail mix using whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
  • Stir-fry lotus root with bell peppers and garlic sauce.
  • Add cacao to smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal.
  • Pickle some Japanese turnip to have as a snack or side dish.

The Bottom Line on Phytonutrients

The thousands of phytochemicals produced by plants for their own protection may also help prevent and treat many of our own medical conditions and diseases. Phytonutrients give fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and other plant foods their variety of colors, so “eat the rainbow” to maximize the health benefits offered by these plentiful chemical compounds.