Inflammation. It’s not just for health headlines. It’s a fact.
Scientists are measuring levels of inflammation in our bodies and finding that it can be harmful for our health; this is especially true when it’s chronic (i.e. lasts a long time).
Inflammation has been linked to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, just to name a few.
What Causes Inflammation?
Inflammation is caused by many different things. In acute inflammation, it is the response from the immune system to release white blood cells and the substances they produce to protect us from infection with foreign organism’s, such as bacteria and viruses. Chronic inflammation can be caused by untreated causes of acute inflammation, an autoimmune disorder, which involves the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy tissue. Chronic inflammation also occurs from long term exposure to irritants including chronic stress and the hormones released from it, industrial chemicals and polluted air. From the perspective of the foods we eat, fried and processed foods, red meat, margarine and lard, gluten, sugar, dairy and alcohol all contribute to chronic inflammation in the body. Opting to swing by and grab a slice of pizza and a beer with the boys even on a weekly basis can be enough to cause pain for some people. Adding a bit of sugar to your coffee? These small amounts should not be discounted as culprits into your discomfort. Although the quantity may not significant, the frequency is. Continuously adding inflammatory foods to your diet regardless of the amount, can add to cellular damage, increased pain and even the onset of diseases.
To protect your health, especially if you are experiencing signs of inflammation or live with an auto immune disease, focusing on foods that reduce inflammation will support your health.
What are the symptoms of inflammation?
The most common signs of acute inflammation are:
- Reduced range of motion
These five inflammation signs only apply to inflammations of the skin. If inflammation occurs deep inside the body, such as internal organs, only some of the signs may be noticeable.
For example, some internal organs may not have sensory nerve endings nearby, so there will be no pain, such as in certain types of lung inflammation.
Symptoms of chronic inflammation present in a different way. Theses can include:
- Mouth sores
- Chest pains
- Abdominal pain/digestion discomfort
- Rash/skin irritations
- Brain fog
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Loss of appetite
To reduce symptoms of inflammation, here are my top anti-inflammatory food recommendations:
Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries
Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fiber, and antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese). They are a low glycemic food which means although they have a sweet, delicious flavor, they will not spike your blood sugars as some other foods do which contributes to the inflammatory response.
Oh, and did I forget to mention 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.
Add them to your oatmeal in the morning, blend hem into a smoothie, add them to salads for a taste of summer or keep them on hand for a quick go to snack. However, you like it, get these little nutrient powerhouses into your body.
Anti-inflammatory Food #2: Broccoli and Peppers
I knew I loved those little trees! Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant “sulforaphane.” This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.
Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidant vitamin C and quercetin. That’s right, peppers have more vit C than oranges! So not only will these be helpful to reduce inflammation, they will support your immune system too. How’s that for a bonus?
NOTE: Be 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 (“trans” fats from fried foods and pastries), neutral (saturated fats from animal products), or anti-inflammatory (“omega-3s), this is why 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.
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 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 have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties.
NOTE: in order to obtain the anti-inflammatory properties in turmeric, you must add in black pepper as it enhances the absorption in the body by up to 2000%!
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 “flavonols”). 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.” Or leftover Easter treats. Lesser quality chocolate will contribute to inflammation. Get the good stuff if you want it to be good to your body.
Chronic inflammation is your body’s warning signs that it is under stress. It needs help to soothe the response and save your tissues from damage and the potential for onset of disease.
There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious anti-inflammatory foods. Choose colorful berries, vegetables, and spices, healthy fats, and even cocoa. Focus on whole unprocessed foods with a variety of colors and you will give your body the tools it needs to keep inflammation at bay.
To learn more about how what you eat can either support your health to harm it, CLICK HERE to book a Free call. I realize the world of nutrition can be confusing. every week there seems to be a new diet with bold claims. As a nutritionist, i help you weed through the BS and build a menu (notice I didn’t say diet) that works for you.