Recently studies showed that there is a link between ingesting low levels of salicylic acid, the resulting decrease in inflammation, and preventing heart disease, cancer and strokes. Plant foods are naturally occurring sources of low levels of salicylic acid, and unlike unnatural sources like aspirin, they do not have unhealthy side effects when used long term. Aspirin, whose main component is salicylic acid, can cause stomach and intestinal ulcers and even cause internal gut perforation and bleeding, which can be fatal. When a side effect free alternative is easily accessible, why not go with that instead?

The best sources of these low levels of salicylic acid are fruit like nectarines, vegetables like asparagus, and herbs like mint, cumin, thyme and paprika. Nectarines are not always in season, lots of people do not love the taste (and smell) of asparagus, but herbs can be easily incorporated into daily meals. Cumin does not go with everything, but mint, thyme and paprika are easily added to almost any dish. Paprika is great in dinner sauces, and mint is good in, well, everything. Thyme is my favorite however. Fresh thyme is so tasty when added to any dinner and isn’t so overwhelming of a flavor that you will get sick of it. A few leaves of this herb every day could help keep the doctor away.

Of course plant foods contain other anti-inflammatory phytonutrients that help to prevent our bodies from making too many inflammatory compounds. The more you can add anti-inflammatory foods like thyme into your diet, the healthier you will be!

Thank you to Dr. Michael Greger, M.D. for the information about salicylic acid, visit www.nutritionfacts.org and sign up for the daily emails for more great plant-based information.