Inflammation is a hot topic these days. You've probably heard the term over and over again, but you might not have a good understanding of what it is.
Put simply, when your body recognizes a foreign body such as a food, pollen, drug or microbe, an immune response is triggered. In the short term, this is a good thing. It protects your health and fights disease.
One of the main problems with the modern diet is it fosters an environment where this inflammation persists. When there is no outside invader, we don't want our immune system acting as if there is. This is chronic and systemic inflammation, and it's bad news.
Chronic Inflammation and Long-Term Health
Chronic inflammation may play more of a role in disease than we first thought, and luckily, we are starting to understand more.
Some of the more insidious diseases plaguing the modern population may be directly attributable to inflammation. Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Crohn's disease are just a few examples of the wide ranging conditions that can result or be exacerbated by chronic inflammation.
Fighting Inflammation with Diet
Your first line of defense against chronic inflammation is what you're putting into your mouth several times per day.
There are a whole host of foods you should be avoiding because they have been shown to cause inflammation. If you're stuffing your face with tons of sugar, refined carbs, artificial sweeteners and the like, guess what? You're setting the table (ha!) for inflammation to flourish.
Conversely, there are some foods that can help fight inflammation and get you back in line.
Anti Inflammatory Foods
This list is by no means comprehensive, but all of these foods share some common elements that make them inflammation fighting powerhouses. Specifically:
- Essential Fatty Acids
Let's look at some foods.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Healing yourself of inflammation begins in the produce aisle. Veggies and fruits are full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and beneficial flavonoids.Most people reach for the baby spinach or romain lettuce blends, which are fine choices, but Swiss chard is an often overlooked vegetable that is packed with nutrition.
Everything from potassium and vitamin K to magnesium and and calcium is found in one place.
Also, try adding one good green smoothie into your daily routine if you have trouble getting enough leafy greens.
Ah the beet.
Colorful, earthy and flavorful, these little guys have long been loved by endurance athletes for their high concentration of nitrates, but even if being an Ironman isn't in your plans, you can benefit from adding them to your diet.
Beets are tremendous at helping to repair the cellular damage of inflammation. Beets owe their signature color to the antioxidant betalain which is a powerful anti-inflammatory.
Put a few beets on your salad or grab a beet juice on the go.
Broccoli is usually the first vegetable that people reach for when they're trying to get healthy, and for good reason.
Potassium, magnesium and a host of vitamins make this a must have addition to an anti-inflammatory diet.
If you've been reading the list so far and craving some sweetness, then next two foods are just what the doctor ordered.
Pineapple is packed with an enzyme called bromelain which has been observed to have immune modulating properties.
As an added benefit, bromelain can also help with heart health due to it's ability to fight blood clotting.
Long heralded as a superfood, blueberries contain a flavonoid called quercetin which may help fight cancer as well as inflammation.
Salmon and Other Fatty Fish
Let's leave the plant kingdom for a moment, and head under the sea.
Salmon and other fatty fish such as herring should be a staple in your diet. Not only are they a powerful weapon in the fight against inflammation, but the Omega-3 fatty acids they contain have benefits for your brain and cognitive function.
Like anything else, quality matters here. Farmed fish is vastly inferior to the wild caught alternative. Yes, you will pay more for the additional quality, but it's worth it.
Aim for three servings of some kind of fatty fish every week.
Much like kale a few years back, turmeric is having a zeitgeist moment in the health and wellness world. But the status of it-girl of the spice world is well-deserved. Turmeric contains curcumin, which is an outstanding antioxidant with numerous health benefits.
A 2004 study even suggests that curcumin is a more effective and potent anti-inflammatory than aspirin or ibuprofen.
Turmeric is about 3% curcumin by weight, so exogenous supplementation is a good idea to boost levels.
Add These Anti-Inflammatory Foods Today
On top of eliminating the inflammatory foods mentioned earlier, start adding these seven anti-inflammatory foods into your diet today.
If you really want to go the extra mile, head to your doctor and get your inflammatory markers tested, change your diet, then head back after a couple of months and repeat the test.
You might be surprised at how much good you've done.