What is inflammation?
Inflammation is the true embodiment of a two-sided coin. On the one hand, acute inflammation helps manage injuries by alerting white blood cells, which then converge on the affected area to protect the body and begin the healing process. This is a good thing! And though it may cause some discomfort and swelling, it is the natural way that your body deals with stress and injury.
The key factor here is that it dissipates over time. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is usually caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, stress, lack of exercise, and poor diet. When inflammation occurs regularly, it can lead to hyperactive healing that can damage tissues and thrust your immune system into overdrive. It begins to kill bad cells and good cells alike and can contribute to many severe health issues such as cancer and heart disease. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that chronic inflammation is the greatest threat to human health, listing it as one of the most significant causes of death in the world.
The good news is, there are ways that you can reduce the chronic inflammation in your body and reverse its effects, naturally.
Before you even begin to focus on anti-inflammatory foods, it is important to eliminate the inflammatory foods from your diet. Otherwise, you are going to be counteracting your better intentions. These foods have been shown to cause inflammation and should be avoided whenever possible:
Foods that contribute to inflammation
- Fried foods
- Red meat
- Refined carbs
- Artificial trans fats
- Excessive alcohol
- Sugar and high fructose corn syrup
- Soda and other high-sugar beverages
- Artificial sweeteners
- Dairy (depending on the person)
- Seed oils (canola, corn, sunflower, vegetable)
How to choose anti-inflammatory foods
Creating a meal plan that includes tons of anti-inflammatory foods will not only help decrease inflammation in your body. These foods are loaded with other nutrients that can benefit your overall health and well-being and help keep you at a healthy weight, while improving your gut health, and increasing your energy levels as well.
Remember, a healthy lifestyle includes regular exercise, listening to your body, and keeping a positive outlook on life along with a healthy, whole foods diet. Also, many of these anti-inflammatory foods are even more powerful and effective than traditional nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. Food truly is medicine!
Always choose organic whenever possible and search for grass-fed meat and fresh-caught fish. Food with these labels will be of higher quality and will be free of any nasty preservatives, pesticides, or hormones.
Top anti-inflammatory foods:
- Avocados – Contains carotenoids and tocopherols, which are linked to reduced cancer risk and decreased inflammation. Truly a superfood in every sense of the word.
- Berries – Improve memory, motor function, deliver a serious dose of antioxidants, phytoflavinoids, and vitamin C.
- Kale – Has almost 50 different types of flavonoids, all of which possess potent anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Broccoli – Rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Dark Chocolate and Cocoa – Flavanols give chocolate its anti-inflammatory effect and keep your arteries healthy. Choose dark chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa.
- Coconut oil – The lipids in coconut oil are packed with anti-inflammatory properties.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Full of monounsaturated fats, which are a staple in the inflammation-reducing Mediterranean diet.
- Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines – Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation.
- Celery – Fights infection and lowers inflammation.
- Grapes – Contain a beneficial flavonoid, known as anthocyanins, which reduce inflammation and could lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and eye disorders
- Green Tea – Healthiest beverage you can drink, apart from water, due to its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
- Mushrooms – Truffles, portobello mushrooms, and shiitake contain phenols to resist inflammation.
- Ginger – Gingerol, the main compound in ginger, is a strong anti-inflammatory agent.
- Peppers – Bell and chili peppers are high in vitamin C and antioxidants.
- Turmeric – Can reduce inflammation related to arthritis, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Always enjoy black pepper to help your body absorb the anti-inflammatory compound curcumin.
- Walnuts – Another great source of healthy fat and omega-3s
- Beets – Loaded with betalain, a powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant.
- Tart cherries – Rich in antioxidants that help fight free radicals
- Tomatoes – Great source of vitamin C, potassium and lycopene, which is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties