What should you eat to beat inflammation?

Inflammation is a key risk factor in a host of health problems and various major diseases. A diet that counters inflammation emphasizes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats.

Often resulting from lifestyle factors like stress and a lack of exercise, chronic inflammation results when the immune system releases chemicals meant to combat injury and bacterial and virus infections, even when there are no foreign invaders to fight off.

Our daily food choices influence the level of inflammation in our bodies, hence an anti-inflammatory diet is thought to curb chronic inflammation and help prevent or treat inflammation and in return the following conditions:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Gout
  • Heart disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Stroke
  • various allergies

Foods to Eat to fight Inflammation

Research suggests that people with a high intake of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and healthy oils may have a reduced risk for inflammation-related diseases. In addition, substances found in some foods (especially antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids) appear to possess anti-inflammatory effects.

Foods high in antioxidants include:

  • Berries (such as blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
  • Cherries
  • Apples
  • Artichokes
  • Avocados
  • Dark green leafy vegetables (such as kale, spinach, and collard greens)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Nuts (such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts)
  • Beans (such as red beans, pinto beans, and black beans)
  • Whole grains (such as oats and brown rice)
  • Dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cocoa)

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Flaxseed
  • Walnuts

There’s also some evidence that certain herbs and spices, such as ginger, turmeric, and garlic, can help alleviate inflammation.

Foods to Avoid

Omega-6 fatty acids (a type of essential fatty acid found in a wide range of foods) are known to increase the body’s production of inflammatory chemicals. Since omega-6 fatty acids help maintain bone health, regulate metabolism and promote brain function, you shouldn’t cut them out of your diet altogether. However, it’s important to balance your intake of omega-6 fatty acids with your intake of omega-3 fatty acids in order to keep inflammation in check.

Foods high in omega-6 fatty acids include:

  • Meat
  • Dairy products
  • Margarine
  • Vegetable oils (such as corn, safflower, soybean, peanut and cottonseed oil)

Additionally, studies show that a high intake of high-glycemic index foods like sugar and refined grains, such as those found in white bread and many processed foods, may rev up inflammation. Avoid sugary drinks, refined carbohydrates, desserts, and processed snack foods.

The Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

More and more research suggests that an anti-inflammatory diet may play a key role in scores of health conditions. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2017 looked at the link between dietary inflammation and atherosclerosis (=plaque in the arteries) in women over the age of 70. Researchers found that dietary inflammatory index scores were associated with atherosclerosis and heart-disease-related death.

Tips on Following an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

  • Eat five to nine servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Limit your intake of foods high in omega-6 fatty acids while increasing your consumption of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as flaxseed, walnuts, and oily fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring).
  • Replace red meat with healthier protein sources, such as soy, beans and lentils.
  • Swap out margarine and vegetable oils for the healthier fats found in nuts, and seeds.
  • Instead of choosing refined grains, opt for fiber-rich whole grains like oats, quinoa, brown rice, breads, and pastas that list a whole grain as the first ingredient.
  • Rather than seasoning your meals with salt, enhance flavor with anti-inflammatory herbs like garlic, ginger, and turmeric.

Following a diet in antioxidant-rich foods can help decrease inflammation in combination with exercise and a good night’s sleep, which may improve inflammation markers and possibly reduce your risk of various illnesses.

What are the main inflammation markers in your blood?

C-Reactive Protein CRP

Fasting Insulin

Hemoglobin A1c

Serum Ferritin

Red Blood Cell Width (RDW)

Track your inflammation markers in a tool like https://www.healthmatters.io. You want to establish a self-tracking baseline. You don’t want to make health decisions on once-annual blood tests because if you took that test the very next day the values would be different. What you are interested in (in terms of blood values) is not just a snapshot in time, but rather you want to understand trends.

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