Who knew that TJ's had so many anti-inflammatory finds?

By Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD
June 11, 2019
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It's no surprise that Trader Joe’s has developed a cult-like following. Who doesn’t want fresh produce and quality staples at super low prices? Not to mention, Trader Joe’s is constantly adding new products—like cauliflower gnocchi, Everything But the Bagel Seasoning, and a shakshuka starter kit—that you can’t find anywhere else.

But how well does the trendy grocery deliver on the health front? Reducing inflammation in your diet is one of the best ways to slow aging, support gut health, ease autoimmune issues, and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. And since I’m trying to incorporate more anti-inflammatory foods in my family’s diet, I decided to which ones I could find at Trader Joe’s.

Turns out, there are lots of options to choose from! Here are my top 17 anti-inflammatory foods to buy the next time you shop at TJ’s.

Refrigerated Trader Joe’s Cruciferous Crunch, $2.49

All vegetables reduce inflammation, but the cruciferous vegetable family—which includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, and kale—has some extra inflammation-fighting superpowers (particularly in regards to cancer). This shredded mix falls somewhere between leafy greens and broccoli slaw, so it’s good to keep on hand for salads and slaws, as well as to add to dishes like stir-fries.

Trader Joe’s Kale, Cashew, and Basil Pesto, $3.79

I was hesitant to try this vegan pesto, but as it turns out it's really good! Cashews deliver a mild, buttery nut flavor similar to pine nuts and contribute an umami flavor that Parmesan cheese usually adds. Kale adds a little bulk so you can use the pesto as a sauce or spread, and I loved its fresh taste and homemade-like consistency.

Trader Joe’s Sauerkraut, $3.99

Permeable gut walls allow irritants and foreign bodies to “leak” through them and into the body. So creating and maintaining a healthy gut is key to reducing inflammation. One of the most effective ways to boost gut health is to regularly eat probiotic-rich foods, and sauerkraut is one thanks to the fermentation process used to make it. I like this brand because it’s lower in sodium than many others, and the ingredients are simple (it’s made with just cabbage, cucumbers, sea salt, and garlic).

Trader Joe’s BaLeLa, $2.99

My favorite find of the day, balela is a Mediterranean salad with chickpeas, black beans, and chopped tomatoes tossed in a light vinaigrette. Choosing high-fiber, lower-glycemic carb foods like beans is key for reducing inflammation—particularly for anyone with a family history of heart disease or diabetes.

Trader Joe’s Super Green Salad Palette, $4.49

Chopping and tossing an elaborate salad isn’t always realistic on busy weeknights, so I was excited to find this Super Green Salad mix. It’s as easy as a bagged salad to make, but packs lots of fresh flavor and texture. The salad base is a combination of baby spinach, broccoli, kale, and green beans, topped with feta, walnuts and an avocado-citrus dressing. Bonus: the cruciferous veggies and healthy fats help tamp down inflammation.

Trader Joe’s Avocado’s Reduced-Guilt Chunky Guacamole, $3.99 

Some prepared guacs have a packaged, preservative tang, but not this one! The ingredient list contains the expected stars (mashed avocado, tomato, red onion, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, and jalapeno), but it also has the unique addition of plain, low-fat yogurt! The end product is a creamy, fresh-tasting guacamole with half the fat and some inflammation-fighting probiotics.  

Frozen Trader Joe’s Organic Wild Blueberries, $2.99

What’s the healthiest berry to eat? Based on research, it’s wild blueberries, and these organic bags are a steal at $2.99! Wild blueberries rank the highest in mean antioxidant levels, which help ease inflammation and protect our cells from further damage. Grown on bushes in the Northeast U.S., they’re frozen immediately after harvest to preserve nutrients, so you’ll only find them sold frozen. The trick to buying the right kind? Make sure the you see “wild” on the label.

Trader Joe’s Riced Cauliflower Stir Fry, $2.99

Riced cauliflower is a staple I use regularly to reduce carbs and avoid blood sugar spikes that some refined and whole-grains cause. However, the market has become so saturated with riced cauliflower options that I almost didn’t give this a try. But, I sure am glad it ended up in my cart! Thanks to tamari, ginger, sesame oil, and a little garlic, one bag is an instant skillet meal—especially if you add a protein like edamame, eggs, chicken or shrimp. And don’t forget about those cruciferous superpowers it provides!  

Trader Joe’s Melange a Trois, $1.99

Bright, vibrant colors are almost always a sign that a fruit or vegetable is packed with antioxidants—or compounds that act like them—which protect our cells from oxidative damage. Keeping a frozen mix of red, yellow, and green bell pepper strips makes it super easy to add a handful of color to any dish. Use these to help you eat more of the rainbow (unless you have arthritis or an inflammatory joint condition that may be aggravated by nightshades like peppers).

Trader Joe’s Very Cherry Berry Blend, $2.79

Anthocyanins are key compounds that reduce inflammation in the body, and berries and cherries are packed full of them! In addition to a much longer shelf-life, frozen fruit is just as healthy—and sometimes even more healthy—than fresh. I love this deep red-purple blend to keep in the freezer for last-minute smoothies.

 

Trader Joe’s Shakshuka Starter, $1.99

A dish that traditionally requires simmering over a hot stovetop can now be ready in just five minutes! This frozen “starter” kit is a slow-cooked Middle Eastern tomato mixture that includes peppers, onions, cilantro, garlic, olive oil, and spices. After heating the tomato base in the microwave, crack two omega-3-rich eggs and cook for two more minutes. The benefits come from the fragrant spices and herbs in this dish, which are associated with easing inflammation, particularly in cases of arthritis and joint pain. Plus, eggs are packed with vitamin D, which research suggests may have an anti-inflammatory effect on the brain.

Trader Joe’s Wild Alaskan Salmon, $11.99

Fatty fish like salmon are considered one of the top anti-inflammatory foods due to their content of two specific omega-3 fats, DHA and EPA. These fatty acids are key when it comes to preventing heart disease and neurological conditions, and fattier fish are one of the few food sources that can provide adequate amounts. This wild-caught Alaskan salmon is also one of the best choices to buy since it comes from sustainable, well-managed fisheries and is low in contaminants like mercury.

Trader Joe’s Teeny Tiny Avocados, $3.49 

Avocados are a weekly (and sometimes daily) food for me. However, the rest of my house isn’t quite as avo-obsessed, and I hate letting them go to waste. Since these petite avocados are about 1/3 of the size of a normal one, they’re the perfect solution. The antioxidants and monounsaturated fats in this green fruit soothe inflammation, and one study even suggests avocados may be able to counteract the effects of inflammatory foods eaten around the same time.

Trader Joe’s 50% Less Salt Dry Roasted and Salted Almonds, $5.99

Almonds are packed full of nutrients that can reduce inflammation like omega-3s, vitamin E, and fiber. Plus, they’re a delicious plant-based protein! Keeping sodium in check is key to an anti-inflammatory diet, but unsalted nuts aren’t always as appealing. This is why I love having an in-between option, and a 1/4-cup serving of these almonds has just 60mg of sodium. They also come in individually packaged servings for built-in portion control.

Trader Joe’s Premium Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, $7.49

Olive oil contains oleocanthal, an anti-inflammatory compound that may reduce risk of heart disease, joint issues, cancer development, and neurological diseases. Extra-virgin olive oil contains the most, and for the quality you’re getting at TJ’s, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one at a better price point.

Trader Joe’s Matcha Green Tea Powder, $6.99

Compounds in green tea called are thought to have the potential to halt or prevent cancer cell development and growth, as well as the formation of plaques in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s. This means that drinking a cup daily should be a no-brainer, but I find it being more of an afterthought on busy day—which is why I was excited to find these individual packets of instant tea. Toss them in your purse, car, or work bag; then combine with hot or cold water when you’re ready to enjoy.

Trader Joe’s Mini 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate Bars, $1.99

Okay so chocolate isn’t exactly a top anti-inflammatory food, but dark chocolate does offer some key phytochemicals that can aid in reducing inflammation—particularly if it’s 70% or higher in cocoa. These bars also come perfectly portioned 100-calorie servings, so they are a great way to incorporate a treat in moderation.

 

Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, is author to the new cookbook, Meals That Heal: 100+ Everyday Anti-Inflammatory Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less, and a culinary nutrition expert known for ability to simplify food and nutrition information. She received a 2017 James Beard Journalism award, and her work is regularly featured in or on respective websites for Cooking Light, RealSimple, Parents, Health, EatingWell, My Fitness Pal, eMeals, Rally Health, and the American Heart Association. You can follow her on Instagram @realfoodreallife_rd or on carolynwilliamsrd.com.

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