What is Inflammation?
Inflammation describes a condition where the body’s immune system responds to pathogens ingested with food and drinks, or physical damage broken skin and torn muscles from exercising. It causes compromised areas to swell with an influx of immune cells that heal injuries and fight infections.
Why is Chronic Inflammation Bad?
Chronic inflammation occurs in people with poor diets, stress, sleep deprivation, and other factors that repeatedly offend this immune response. It is a symptom of a larger problem that ultimately causes serious health problems including arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and various cancers. Lesser symptoms include, join pain and stiffness, swelling, fatigue, stiff muscles, headaches, depression and poor digestion. Chronic inflammation reduces the quality of life by preventing physical and mental wellbeing.
What Foods Reduce Inflammation?
Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, arugula and Swiss chard are excellent sources of vitamin E, which is linked to protecting the body from cytokines, a pro-inflammatory molecule. The darker the color, the more healthy vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals are present. Cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, as well as roots, bulbs and other veggies such as beets, onions, squashes, peas and seaweed are also good choices.
Brightly colored fruits are good choices because they contain anti-inflammatory carotenoids and flavonoids. Apples, pears, plums, berries, grapes, cherries, nectarines, peaches, grapefruit and oranges are all excellent choices. It’s best not to eat these in combinations with other food groups to ensure effective digestion.
Studies show that whole grains are strong contributors to anti-inflammatory diets. Whole grains are an excellent replacement for refined grains and simple carbohydrates that cause blood sugar spikes and subsequent inflammation and related health issues. Try brown, basmati and wild rice, barley, quinoa, buckwheat and oats for starters.
Nuts are another great source of inflammation fighting omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidant minerals, each with their own nutritional strengths and weaknesses. Mixed, unsalted nuts are always a good choice because when combined, they deliver a variety of benefits. Almonds and walnuts are the most effective anti-inflammatory choices due to higher concentrations of vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, respectively.
High in protein and lean in saturated fats, fish can be an excellent source of highly beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, which are proven anti-inflammatories. Fish with high omega-3 concentrations are mackerel, trout, herring, salmon and cod. It’s best to go for fresh and wild-caught options, while avoiding excessive consumption of long-lived species such as swordfish and tuna as they have higher mercury levels.
Herbs and Spices
Adding spices to meals can provide more than just flavors as many of them are well known for their anti-inflammatory qualities. Spice up your cooking with cloves, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, marjoram, sage, thyme, basil, turmeric, curry, garlic and chili, to name a few options. Consult recipes to learn how to combine these with complementary foods.
While technically a beverage, authentic green tea can be consumed several times a day for a variety health benefits. It contains light caffeine, antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory flavonoids. Green tea is a great substitute for coffee, which is highly acidic and is almost always loaded with pro-inflammatory ingredients such as sweeteners and dairy products. Combine it with a touch of local honey for additional benefits.
Feeling that maybe you suffer from inflammation? NAC Members can speak to a nutritionist by phone or online to help you answer your questions and help set goals for all your health needs!
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