Did you know that nearly every ailment known to mankind has to do with inflammation? Whether it's joint pain from arthritis, fatigue from heart disease, or the terrible effects of certain cancers, inflammation has it's ugly hand in adding to your pain. I know what you're thinking now. How can I fight inflammation? How can I avoid things that cause inflammation? In this article, I'll list out something simple that can help us in our battle against inflammation. It's something we do every day, multiple times a day. That's right - eating! Let's discuss which foods are adding to your ailments and which ones can go to bat for you against inflammation.
Foods that Cause Inflammation
1) The 3 “P’s” – Processed, packaged, and prepared. These foods contain harmful oils, food additives, and nasty ingredients. This includes synthetic sweeteners – Nutrasweet, Splenda, Saccharin, Aspartame, etc. Use Agave! This also includes white sugar and sweets, which are highly inflammatory. But be watchful of your amount of sugar consumption. Reach for some fresh fruits when you’re craving something sweet instead of defaulting to the chocolate!
2) Hydrogenated and Trans fats – found in margarine, shortening, or lard products that are made with them. Foods high in trans fats create “bad cholesterol”, which feeds inflammation in arteries. These foods include baked goods, cookies, pies, etc.
3) Meat – Over-doing it on your meat consumption can encourage inflammation. Increase your amounts of leafy greens and colorful fruits and vegetables while decreasing the size of your steak or chicken.
4) Fried foods – French fries, onion rings, potato chips, nachos, etc.
5) Iodized salt – Choose unrefined salt like Sea Salt.
6) Food Additives – colors, flavor enhancers, stabilizers, preservatives, etc.
7) Wheat products – Wheat can be highly inflammatory. Gluten is found in most grains and is incredibly inflammatory. Choose grains or seeds like buckwheat, bulgur, or millet for your baking or cooking.
8) Alcohol – High in sugar and burdening on the liver, best used in moderation.
Okay, so we’ve listed out some of our enemies in our fight against inflammation. Who are our allies?
Foods that Fight Inflammation
1) Fatty Fish – Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines) have been shown to help reduce inflammation. (Baked or broiled!)
2) Whole Grains – Consuming most of your grains as whole grains (as opposed to refined grains, white bread, cereal, rice, and pasta) can keep inflammation at bay.
3) Dark Leafy Greens – Studies suggest that Vitamin E may play a key role in protecting the body from pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines. One of the best sources of Vitamin E is dark green veggies such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and collard greens.
4) Nuts – Nuts are a source of healthy fats that fight inflammation. Almonds and walnuts are especially great for fighting inflammation.
5) Low-fat dairy – Low-fat and non-fat milk have some anti-inflammatory properties. Also, yogurt can contain probiotics, which can reduce gut inflammation.
6) Peppers – Colorful peppers have high quantities of antioxidant vitamins and lower levels of starch. Hot peppers like chili and cayenne are rich in capsaicin, which reduces inflammation.
7) Beets – Beets function as anti-inflammatory compounds. They contain lots of antioxidants as well.
8) Ginger and turmeric – These spices have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger has been shown to reduce inflammation in the intestines when taken in supplement form. Turmeric works in the body by helping to turn off proteins that trigger the process of inflammation.
9) Garlic and onions – Garlic has been shown to work similarly to NSAID pain medications like ibuprofen, shutting off the inflammation pathways. Onions contain similar anti-inflammatory chemicals.
10) Olive Oil – The compound oleocanthal, which gives olive oil its taste, has been shown to have a similar effect of NSAIDs also.
11) Berries – Berries have been shown to have great anti-inflammatory properties. This could possibly be because of anthocyanins, the powerful chemicals that give berries their rich color.
12) Tart Cherries – Researchers have suggested that tart cherries have the highest anti-inflammatory content of any food. And yes – they have to be tart! Sweet cherries just don’t have quite the same effects.
13) Water - Plenty of fresh drinking water is good to help manage inflammation. Water can flush toxins and other irritants out of the system.
Bottom line: You only get one body, and you need to choose every day to feed it well. Taking care of it now means it will take care of you later. Choose what you put into your body wisely!