Doctors are learning that one of the best ways to quell inflammation lies not in the medicine cabinet, but in the refrigerator.Your immune system attacks anything in your body that it recognizes as foreign such as an invading microbe, plant pollen, or chemical. The process is called inflammation. Intermittent bouts of inflammation directed at truly threatening invaders protect your health.
However, sometimes inflammation persists, day in and day out, even when you are not threatened by a foreign invader. That’s when inflammation can become your enemy. Many major diseases that plague us—including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s—have been linked to chronic inflammation.
One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store. “Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Choose the right foods, and you may be able to reduce your risk of illness. Consistently pick the wrong ones, and you could accelerate the inflammatory disease process.
Fruits and vegetables
All fruits and vegetables, due to their rich nutrient and fiber content, help to combat chronic inflammation, so make sure to include adequate amounts of these foods daily. Some types of fresh produce, however, are even more potent than others.
Some terrific anti-inflammatory fruits and vegetables to include in your meal plan include apples, berries, broccoli, mushrooms, papaya, pineapple, and spinach.
This mild beverage is great for helping shrink your waistline as well as for decreasing inflammation. The flavonoids in this tea have natural anti-inflammatory properties. And the compound EGCG in green tea has been shown to help reduce body fat.
These heart-healthy fats help raise your healthy HDL cholesterol levels and reduce overall inflammation. Great sources include olive oil, almonds, and avocado.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Research has shown that a diet with a high percentage of omega-3 fatty acids and a low percentage of omega-6 fatty acids has been linked with decreased inflammation. Food sources of omega-3s include walnuts, flaxseed, and fish, such as wild Alaskan salmon.
Certain spices, including garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and chili peppers, have potent inflammation-reducing capabilities, so try adding them to meals as often as possible.
Staying hydrated is essential to flushing inflammation-causing toxins out of your body. Aim for 64 ounces of water per day. Remember: Add an additional 8 ounces of water for every 30 minutes of exercise as well.
Rich in fiber, whole grains help control the insulin response in your body. The high B vitamin content of whole grains also helps reduce the inflammatory hormone homocystine in the body.
Foods that inflame
Try to avoid or limit these foods as much as possible:
refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries
French fries and other fried foods
soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausage)
margarine, shortening, and lard
Developing a healthy eating plan can sometimes seem difficult but like anything that is new, it becomes second nature over time. And the payoff is well worth it: with a proper diet, you can take a proactive stance against inflammation and disease by incorporating these superfoods into your life.
With diet and lifestyle choices that support your health, you'll fight disease, illness and the signs of aging!