These Key Foods Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation. It’s not just for health headlines. Most Americans live in inflamed bodies all the time. Scientists are measuring levels of inflammation in our bodies and finding that chronic (lasts a long time) inflammation is very damaging to our health.
Inflammation has been linked to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes, cancer and most, if not all, other chronic disease conditions. We all need the kind of inflammation that occurs after, for instance, we cut a finger. You know what it looks like as it heals: it bleeds and then gets a little red at the site for a short while before healing. That is the kind of inflammation that is good – it has a definite and short-term purpose.
But chronic inflammation is different. When our tissues and organs are inflamed all the time, then chronic disease will begin. There is a number of reasons for the high levels of inflammation Americans are experiencing, but one is the poor food choices we make. For a brief summary of how this happens and foods to avoid and foods to eat, visit this link.
Eat Real Food
If there was only one rule or guideline for what is within our control, it might be: Eat Real Food. See what I mean below with my top anti-inflammatory food recommendations:
Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries
Perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods are a sweet favorite of yours?
Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fiber and antioxidant vitamins (e.g., vitamin C) and minerals (e.g., manganese), not to forget their phytochemicals (phyto=plant). Yes, many antioxidants such as "anthocyanins" and "resveratrol" are found in these small and delicious fruits.
In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.
Anti-inflammatory Food #2: Broccoli and Bell Peppers
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant "sulforaphane." This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. The other cruciferous veg’s are great for the body, too!
Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the anti-oxidants vitamin C and quercetin. Just make sure to choose red peppers over the other colors. Peppers that are any other color are not fully ripe and won't have the same anti-inflammatory effect.
Anti-inflammatory Food #3: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, fatty fish)
Fat can be terribly inflammatory (hello: "trans" fats), neutral (hello: saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory (hello: "omega-3s), Therefore, choosing the right fats is so important for your health.
The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, including omega-3s. These are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. However, a little balance is required. Most Americans consume too much Omega-6 oils from less healthy oil sources, like: soybean, corn, cottonseed, canola, and others. If you eat out a lot or eat convenience foods, you are more likely to be consuming damaged (especially through frying) O-6 oils which are inflammatory. (We are back to eat real food!)
Opt for fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, small fish (e.g., sardines and mackerel), and wild fish (e.g., salmon). Oh, and don't forget the omega-3-rich seeds like chia, hemp, and flax.
Anti-inflammatory Food #4: Green Tea
Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG. EGCG is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer's. Drinking steeped green tea is great, but have you tried matcha green tea? It's thought to contain even higher levels of antioxidants than regular green tea.
Anti-inflammatory Food #5 - Turmeric
Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing spice turmeric? Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin. This compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, as well as having anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties. Eating it with a bit of black pepper and a healthy fat helps with uptake of the beneficial properties.
Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Dark Chocolate
Ok, ok. This may be slightly more decadent than my #1 pick of berries, grapes, and cherries.
Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants (namely "flavanols"). These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy. They've even been shown to prevent "neuro-inflammation" (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke.
Make sure you avoid the sugary “candy bars” and milk chocolate. Enjoy in small portions and be aware that it contains caffeine.
There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious anti-inflammatory foods you can choose. They range from colorful berries, vegetables, and spices, to healthy fats, and even cocoa. You have so many reasons to add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet to get your daily dose of "anti-inflammation." Bottom line: eat the widest variety of real foods (ones that grow and in their least processed form) most of the time.
Invitation to Eat Real Food
Not sure which foods to eat less of and which are real foods? My free 7-day Ditch the Junk Challenge will give you a good start. Register and download the DTJ Guide and get started – a gradual transition is A-OK!
Joan Reid is a Certified Functional Health Coach and a Certified Insulin Resistance Coach. She coaches individuals and groups (especially mid-lifers) through her business, Heart of Health Coaching. She may be reached through her website here.