Inflammation, is it good or bad? Well the answer is yes to both. Inflammation is important to our body’s immune response. It is the body’s way of fighting against foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria, or healing damaged tissue. The problem starts when it becomes a part of the whole body; this refers to chronic, imperceptible, low-level inflammation. Now there is mounting evidence that this can lead to many serious, age-related diseases including heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and the many autoimmune diseases that are on the rise.
Symptoms of inflammation may include:
- Susceptibility to bacterial, fungal, and viral infections
- Acid Reflux
- Psoriasis and Acne
- Chronic pain
- High blood pressure
- Heart Disease
- Urinary tract infections
Bite by bite, meal by meal, we can change the state of inflammation in our bodies.
Foods high in sugar and saturated fat can spur inflammation. “They cause over activity in the immune system, which can lead to joint pain, fatigue, and damage to the blood vessels,” says Scott Zashin, MD, clinical professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. So we want to at least reduce if not eliminate these from our diets.
So What Foods Fight Inflammation?
Real food, not processed food, is the best place to start. Here are some healthy choices to help your body fight inflammation.
Greens: Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, chard, arugula, endive, turnip greens, beet greens, and collard greens all contain significant concentrations of vitamins and other nutrients that have been found to reduce chronic inflammation. Vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K, just to name a few, have all shown, in research, that they can fight inflammation. Many leafy greens also contain alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat that is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits.
Eating a salad filled with dark leafy greens every day is a great way to start your fight against inflammation. Pair the greens with cold pressed olive oil, as many of the important vitamins in greens can only be absorbed by our bodies in the presence of oil. It is a good idea to eat greens both raw and cooked. Cooking greens makes some nutrients easier to absorb even though some of the other nutrients may be lost. Variety is very important and it is fun to experiment, too.
Vegetables and Fruits: Eating a wide variety of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables will give your body the most nutrients to keep fighting inflammation. They are also high in fiber and antioxidants. Berries have especially strong anti-inflammatory benefits. Eating 5-9 servings a day of fruits and vegetables is a great goal.
Healthy Meats/Protein: There are many sources of healthy meats to add to your diet. Adding fatty fish such as wild-caught salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring, and black cod are all fairly “clean” fish sources. These fatty fish choices are a great source of omega-3’s which battle inflammation. Eating fish a few times a week, cooked in a healthy manner (not fried), is a great goal.
Other healthy proteins are grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken and turkey, wild game, and free-range eggs.
Fermented Foods: Optimizing your gut flora is important for a well-functioning immune system and helps fight chronic inflammation. Fermented foods such as kombucha, kefir milk, kefir water, natto, kimchee, sauerkraut, and other fermented vegetables will help to improve your gut with beneficial bacteria. Another benefit of fermented foods is that they help your body rid itself of harmful toxins such as heavy metals and pesticides that promote inflammation. Here is a recipe for a great sauerkraut.
Nuts: All nuts are packed with antioxidants that can help your body fight off and repair the damage caused by inflammation. They are great as a snack. Nut butters are another option, just make sure there is no added sugar!
Bring on the Flavor: Another easy way to incorporate anti-inflammatory foods into your diet is through the use of spices and herbs. They are power-packed when fighting inflammation.
Turmeric – contains a compound called curcumin which may reduce inflammation in the body.
Ginger – The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger have been praised for centuries.
Cinnamon – Studies have shown it has anti-inflammatory properties that can ease swelling. It is so easy to sprinkle in tea and oatmeal.
Garlic – The anti-inflammatory properties of garlic have been proven to ease arthritis symptoms. Fresh garlic can be added to almost any savory dish for its health benefits. Remember, a little bit goes a long way!!
A few more spices that can be added to your food for additional anti-inflammation support: cayenne, black pepper, clove, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
Wrap up: As you can see, it is real food that battles inflammation. Replacing processed foods with whole, ideally organic, foods is a great way to help your body with this battle; plus If you add fermented foods, you will be better able to absorb all the nutrients these foods have to offer.
Are you battling inflammation? Have you considered that food could be part of the healing process? Have you added any of these foods to your current diet and seen any improvements? I always appreciate your comments.
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