Simmer down: reducing inflammation through diet
This article was originally published in June 2014
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to an injury, infection or cellular damage. When our body is injured, it sends signals throughout the body that act as messengers so that key nutrients and immune cells can travel to the site of damage. Inflammation is a normal part of a healthy immune system but becomes a problem when the body can’t turn it off.
Chronic inflammation is involved in the progression of many disease states ranging from cancer, diabetes and heart disease to asthma and arthritis. Pretty much any health condition ending in “-itis” is an inflammatory condition and can therefore be improved by following an anti-inflammatory diet.
Diet & inflammation
Most often the reason our bodies can’t turn off the fire of inflammation is because of our diets. Both the pro- and anti-inflammatory “messengers” sent out by our immune system are derived from the fats in our daily diet, and consuming the wrong balance of these fats puts our bodies in a pro-inflammatory state. Consuming omega-3 fats is essential for managing inflammation.
An anti-inflammatory diet plan also should be low in sugars and refined grains because higher insulin levels stimulate inflammation — and it needs to be high in antioxidant-rich vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. The principles of an anti-inflammatory diet plan are very similar to the principles of a healthy eating pattern that will benefit our health in numerous ways.
Eat at least 5 cups of fresh fruits and/or vegetables every day. Researchers found that simply eating a bowl of vegetable soup (gazpacho) every day for 2 weeks significantly reduced markers of inflammation.
Ways to reduce inflammation
Keep your added sugar intake below 5% of your total calories
That’s a maximum of 25g sugar/day, based on a 2,000 kcal diet. Sugars raise blood insulin levels, which promote inflammation.
Drink more tea
Both green and black teas help manage inflammation; green is slightly more powerful.
Research confirms that mindfulness mediation can help lower inflammation in the body.
Add some spice to your life
Incorporate more fresh and dried herbs and spices, especially turmeric, ginger, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon and chilies.
Consider changing your cooking oil
Choose an oil rich in monounsaturated fatty acids such as olive, avocado, almond, hi-oleic sunflower/safflower, or canola oil.
Move toward a plant-based diet
Antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, seeds, beans and whole grains are the foundation of an anti-inflammatory diet.
Get more omega-3 fatty acids
Select grass-finished beef/lamb and pasture-raised poultry and eggs for more omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed options.
Eat probiotic-rich foods
Poor digestive health contributes to inflammation, as poorly digested foods trigger an inflammatory response from our immune system.
Brush and floss your teeth regularly
The plaque-causing bacteria in your mouth cause your immune system to produce inflammatory messengers that travel throughout your body.
Eat several, smaller meals throughout the day
Larger meals cause our blood sugar and insulin levels to spike, inducing mild inflammation.
Eat more cherries
Whether fresh, dried or juiced, cherries are one of the most potent anti-inflammatory foods.