You’ve probably heard about inflammation and how certain foods contribute to it, but what exactly is inflammation and why do you want to avoid it? Most importantly, what lifestyle factors could you change to take control over inflammation?
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation refers to the immune system’s response to a potentially harmful substance (an antigen), such as a virus or bacteria. When your body detects an antigen, a cascade of biochemical reactions is initiated that ultimately results in the production of antibodies that can help fight the antigen.
Inflammation causes redness, pain, swelling, loss of function, and heat at the site. In the short term, this is a helpful response to fight infection and start healing. For example, swelling helps isolate the injury and spares damage to nearby cells. But sometimes, the body attacks its own cells (known as an autoimmune response) and causes chronic inflammation.
It is estimated that chronic inflammation is involved in 8 out of 10 of the leading causes of death in the United States since inflammation is a leading cause of many diseases. Examples of these diseases include rheumatoid arthritis (joints), Crohn’s disease (bowel), Alzheimer’s Disease (brain), cardiovascular disease (heart and vessels), and asthma (airways).
Your overall eating habits, as opposed to specific foods, make the biggest difference when it comes to health. However, there are some foods that are known to have anti-inflammatory effects.
Include These Foods
Healthy Fats: Your body needs fat; it’s part of many important physiological processes like hormone production and nervous system functioning. But not all fats are created equal. Make sure to eat “healthy fats.” These are the unsaturated ones, especially Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help suppress molecules involved in the inflammatory process, reducing the risk of contracting various chronic diseases. The best sources of these fats are, eggs, soy products, nuts, and seeds. Aim for two servings of fish per week if you can.
Unfortunately, the Western diet tends to favor Omega-6 fatty acids, which are linked to increased inflammation. The Western diet ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids hovers around 15:1, but ratios closer to 1:1 can reduce inflammation and your risk of chronic disease. For example, one study showed that a ratio of 2-3:1 suppressed inflammation in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. Reduce Omega-6 intake by using less refined oil (vegetable, canola), eating less meat (especially red meat), and avoiding processed foods.
Add: Wild-caught salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts, flaxseed oil, eggs, edamame, and anchovies. You can also take a daily Omega-3 fatty acid supplement. OmegaPure made from naturally-sourced fish oil from the Arctic waters of Norway.
Fiber: Fiber feeds the “good” bacteria in your gut, which allows them to release substances that help reduce inflammation and aid in digestion. Fiber-rich foods are also full of nutrients such as antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients, which all help with inflammation. Fiber is also very important for maintaining a healthy weight, and obesity is strongly associated with inflammation. Research has linked a fiber-rich diet with lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a biomarker that is elevated in people with inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
Add: Whole fruits and vegetables (especially artichokes, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, avocado, pears, and berries), whole grains and cereals, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Fruits and Vegetables: Whole fruits and vegetables convey a host of health benefits since they are packed with important nutrients, including antioxidants. Antioxidants reduce inflammation by reducing the amount of free radicals (molecules that can damage cells and DNA) floating around your body. Many compounds have antioxidant properties, including vitamins E and C, beta-carotene, and polyphenols. Plus, fruits and vegetables are fantastic sources of fiber, especially when eaten whole.
Add: Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, broccoli, Brussel sprouts), berries (blueberries, strawberries, goji berries), tomatoes, oranges, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
Herbs and Spices: Adding herbs and spices to your meals not only improves the taste of your food, but also reduces inflammation. Turmeric is a superstar spice known for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties thanks to curcumin, a compound that inhibits pro-inflammatory molecules. Ginger and cinnamon contain gingerols and polyphenols, which also exert antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Add: Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, oregano, and rosemary.,
Avoid These Foods
Refined Sugar and Processed Foods: Processed foods are loaded with added sugars, Trans fat, and salt which all contribute to inflammation. You’ve probably noticed that sugar has a lot of names. always read labels carefully and avoid anything with high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, fructose, malt syrup, etc. In addition to promoting inflammation, excessive sugar consumption throws off hormonal balance and blood-sugar regulation, leads to weight gain, and is associated with numerous disorders like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
If you need to sweeten things up, trade out refined sugar for natural organic maple syrup. Pure maple syrup (not “table syrup”) contains lots of inulin, which acts as a prebiotic to encourage healthy gut bacteria growth.
Avoid: Artificial sweeteners, soda, cookies, refined flours, and frozen meals.
Saturated and Trans Fats: These fats promote inflammation. Saturated fats are found mostly in animal products like red meat, poultry, and dairy products. Many baked goods, deep-fried, and processed foods also contain high levels of saturated and/or Trans fats. Try to replace saturated fat with unsaturated fat – for example, switch out some portions of meat for beans or legumes. Also steer clear of “hydrogenated oil” or “partially-hydrogenated oil” since these oils have been altered to extend shelf-life and have higher levels of unhealthy fats.
Tran’s fats are created through the hydrogenation process and should be avoided. They are found primarily in deep-fried and processed foods. Studies show that increased trans-fat consumption is associated with increased inflammation amongst many other detrimental health effects like increased risk of stroke and heart disease.
Avoid: Margarine, fried foods, packaged snacks, vegetable shortening, and coffee creamers.
Inflammation is at the root of many common chronic diseases. To prevent and reduce inflammation, aim to eat as many whole foods as possible and limit your consumption of processed and sugar-laden foods. Diet is a major part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but also make sure you get regular exercise, plenty of restful sleep, nurture positive relationships, and learn to manage stress in a healthy way.
If you’ve overdone it on the processed foods, you can cleanse your system with a detox. Aim to detox at least 3-4 times each year. Our 28-Day Cleanse is a great option for anyone who’s trying to minimize inflammation and clean up their diet.
For more tips on optimizing your diet to minimize inflammation, contact Lisanne Wellness Center today at 713-461-WELL.