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Anti-Inflammatory Diet Tip: Leafy Greens

Kale, spinach and arugula are packed with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant phytonutrients.

Medically reviewed in November 2020

Dark leafy greens are one of nature's tastiest and most beneficial creations. Kale, spinach and arugula are packed with fiber and phytonutrients, not to mention calcium and vitamins A, C and K. So you get anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as antioxidants that may lower your cholesterol, prevent cancer and heart disease, and boost joint and bone health. Plus, some studies show that vitamin K may ease pain.

What Do Experts Say?
"Greens, such as kale or broccoli, have a compound called quercetin. Quercetin has the ability to act like anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin, ibuprofen) and block the effects of tumor necrosis factor (TNF), which is usually found in high levels in people with rheumatoid arthritis," says dietitian Lona Sandon, MEd, RDN, LD, assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Nutrition at UTSW.

How Should You Eat It?
These days, most grocery stores offer a few types of kale, including green, red, purple, curly and dinosaur varieties. For an easy weeknight side salad, toss the raw leaves in a light dressing made of lemon juice and olive oil, and maybe top it with nuts or pears to fancy things up. Or you can chop the leaves, toss with a little olive oil and sauté just until tender. Same goes with spinach and arugula.

Caution: If you're taking blood thinners, check with your doctor before eating lots of greens rich in vitamin K, because it could interfere with blood clotting. Also, if you have a disease that affects your digestion, you may need to avoid raw veggies. Opt for steamed or sautéed greens instead -- just as delicious!

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