Foods to Fight Inflammation
Inflammation is a natural process which helps our bodies to fight infections. But when it is chronic, it can lead to long term damage of tissues and may contribute to many serious diseases including obesity, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia and heart disease. As we learn more about inflammation, the more we understand how our diet and lifestyle can help prevent or reduce chronic inflammation.
Symptoms of chronic inflammation can include achy joints, brain fog, weight gain, muscle soreness, bloating and even anxiety and depression. It is essential that, when presented with any of these symptoms, we try to find the root cause and make the necessary changes to our diet or lifestyle in order to prevent long term disease.
Fortunately there are certain foods which we know are anti-inflammatory. As Hippocrates once stated, food is medicine! So every time we eat, we have the opportunity to prevent or reduce inflammation in the body. Pro-inflammatory foods include sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, vegetable and seed oils and refined carbohydrates. By consume these foods regularly, we increase the risk for chronic inflammation. It is therefore best to replace them with foods known to fight inflammation, such as:
Oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies and herring. These cold water fish are high in the omega 3s EPA and DHA which help reduce chronic inflammation and maintain healthy blood vessels. It is best to eat wild caught fish as the content of omega 3s is higher. Aim for 2-3 portions of oily fish per week, incorporating it in lunches or dinners.
Suggestion: Make a broth using onion, garlic, ginger and lemongrass and some vegetable broth. Simply poach the salmon fillets until cooked through and serve on a bed of noodles & a sprinkling of corriander.
Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, rocket, and collard greens. These plants contain high levels of phytochemicals called carotenoids which can protect against certain cancers. Aim for at least a cupful daily.
Suggestion: Have a daily salad with one of these greens as the base. Or mix in a handful into soups or stews.
Flaxseeds. These seeds are high in omega 3’s so ideal for those that do not eat fish. They also contain high levels of lignans which have anti-cancer properties.
Suggestion: Grind them up in a coffee grinder or purchase ground seeds. Ensure to keep them in the freezer to preserve the delicate fats. Add 2-3 tablespoons into your overnight oats or breakfast yogurt bowl, or sprinkle over salads. You can even add a couple of tablespoons to stews at the end of cooking.
Berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, tart cherries, strawberries, and cranberries. They are rich in antioxidants known as anthocyanins that reduce inflammation. Also, they add essential fibre to your diet which feed the good bacteria in your gut; these then produce metabolites which calm the immune system.
Suggestion: Add half a cup to your morning breakfast bowl, or into a smoothie with a banana and a handful of spinach.
Turmeric. Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The body is not easily able to absorb curcumin so always try to pair it with fat & black pepper thereby increasing its bioavailability by up to 2000 percent.
Suggestion: Sprinkle liberally onto potatoes & vegetables prior to roasting, or add to soups & stews. You can also make an anti-inflammatory warm drink by adding 1 tsp each of turmeric, cinnamon and ginger, and a dash of honey into oat or soy milk.
Adding these anti-inflammatory foods to your diet is a start to preventing or reducing chronic inflammation. You may also want to make lifestyle changes which include movement every day and keeping your stress levels in check. Working with a registered Nutritional Therapist like Nutrition Applied can guide you on your healing journey by testing your inflammation levels, formulating a Health Plan tailored to your unique lifestyle and needs, and holding you accountable to ensure you maximise the chances of optimising your health.