As a functional medicine practitioner, I say the words “chronic inflammation” at least five times a day. Almost every single one of my patients is struggling with inflammation that’s creating symptoms like anxiety, depression, and brain fog or contributing to diseases like heart disease, cancer, autoimmune conditions, digestive problems, and hormone issues.
In other words, inflammation is a pretty big deal.
So what can we do about it? For many of us, making simple changes to our diet can make all the difference when it comes to inflammation. And it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, either. In the past I’ve proven to you that you can maintain a plant-based keto diet on a budget; today, I’m going to share 10 of my favorite low-cost, non-perishable, anti-inflammatory foods that you can always have on hand. Feel free to add them to your meals, snacks, smoothies, and drinks with abandon!
Control your health at its roots
1. No sugar added almond butter
I am a huge fan of peanut butter, but eventually I had to admit that almond butter contains more healthy fats and other beneficial nutrients. If you’re having a blood sugar crash, a scoop of almond butter is a great place to turn. You’ll often find me eating almond butter on celery sticks for an afternoon snack at my functional medicine practice.
This wouldn’t be a proper list of anti-inflammatory foods without turmeric, the functional medicine world’s favorite spice. We can thank the compound curcumin for turmeric’s anti-inflammatory powers (and it’s bright yellow color!) and while you can find turmeric in many different forms—as an herbal tincture, in a supplement capsule, as a golden milk drink mix—I like to keep it simple and douse my veggies in a simple turmeric powder before I roast them. Just don’t forget to add black pepper as well, it enhances turmeric’s bioavailability in a major way.
3. Canned seafood
I write about the importance of healthy fats all the time. In fact, it’s a major theme throughout my book Ketotarian. We need fats for optimizing brain function, fending off inflammation, and maintaining healthy hormones—and that’s just the short list. Luckily, keeping canned, wild-caught seafood on hand is a great choice for your health (due to it’s high levels of anti-inflammatory omega-3s) and your bank account. Fresh fish can be out-of-this-world expensive and you have to use it right away or it goes bad. When looking for canned fish, make sure you opt for low-mercury fish like pole-caught albacore tuna, sardines, and salmon and look for BPA-free cans like those used by the brand Wild Planet.
4. Frozen broccoli
We’ve all known broccoli is healthy since we were kids, but what does it really do in our body that’s so great? For one, the B vitamins in cruciferous vegetables support methylation, the pathway in your body responsible for supporting detoxification and inflammation systems. The good news is that frozen veggies are cheaper and can even maintain more of the B vitamins that really get to work supporting your health. They defrost super quickly and you can also use them as a low-sugar frozen base for your smoothies.
5. Avocado oil
Coconut oil and olive oil tend to get all the fame, but avocado oil is a great oil to always have in your pantry. It’s chock full of monounsaturated fats and has a mild flavor but a high smoke point, which means you can use it for roasting and sauteing but also on salads and other cold meals. As an added bonus, it’s a reasonable price. In fact, it can be less than $10 dollars for a 25-ounce bottle.
Let’s talk about satiety—one of the reasons why healthy fats are so great. Fats contain 9 calories per gram and unlike carbs, you naturally hit your limit when you’re eating fats. Olives are the perfect example of this: At your next movie night, try eating olives instead of chips or popcorn and observe how you end the movie feeling more satisfied. They also cut down on the blood sugar spikes and crashes that lead to irritability, fatigue, and cravings. Win-win!
7. Hemp protein
In addition to healthy fast, protein helps keep you full and your blood sugar stable. That said, it can be tough to find a protein powder that doesn’t have unnecessary ingredients and that also tastes good. I typically recommend looking for protein powder made from hemp instead of soy or whey. Hemp is a super clean food and has 12 grams of protein per serving, which is about 4 tablespoons.
8. Canned coconut milk
Dairy is a classic inflammatory food, so food most of my patients I recommend they cut down on dairy or even eliminate it entirely. Cue: full-fat canned coconut milk. This super creamy food can be added to any number of recipes—including oatmeal, chia pudding, smoothies, homemade iced cream—as a milk substitute and is a delicious base for curries and stir-fries. It’s non-dairy and contains no lactose or casein, so you don’t have to worry about uncomfortable gas or bloating.
9. Spirulina powder
Did you know that spirulina contains three times as much protein as beef? It’s true. This algae is one of the most impressive superfoods out there and is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. You can add it to your morning smoothies, juices, elixirs, acai bowls and more. Just make sure you look for a product that’s been tested for contaminants and sourced responsibly, there have been some issues with spirulina in the past.
Ready for a last-minute bonus? All of these pantry and freezer staples also happen to be ketotarian-friendly—which means they fit nicely into a clean, mostly plant-based ketogenic diet that is low in carbs and high in anti-inflammatory healthy fats and veggies.
About the Author
Dr. Will Cole is a leading functional expert who focuses on clinically researching and identifying the root factors of chronic disease – as well as providing a customized integrative medicine approach for thyroid conditions, autoimmune disease, and digestive disorders. He has won acclaim as one of the top 50 functional medicine doctors in the United States and is the author of the best-selling book Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum. For more information on his work and a link to the original article, visit this page.