Most of us have probably come across the term “anti-inflammatory diet” from a friend, magazine, or online. With the sheer number of new diets coming out of the woodwork seemingly every day, it can be easy to lose track of legitimate dietary tips vs. fads and marketing ploys. When it comes to combating inflammation with dietary choices, there are actually some simple ways to make a very real impact on your overall health.
Today, we will discuss the reason why inflammation is such a serious issue and cover five (5) easy methods you can use to fight inflammation with your diet!
The Problem with Inflammation
Before we get into our five pieces of advice, let us first define what we mean when we talk about inflammation. In its basic form, inflammation is an essential bodily function that is one of our body’s ways of dealing with harmful microbes and healing damaged tissue.
Chronic inflammation is an extremely common condition which gets even more common as we age. Chronic inflammation plays a role in cancer, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, Alzheimer’s, and many others. When we talk about inflammation in this article, we are primarily concerned with chronic inflammation.
Acute inflammation is a “short-term process occurring in response to tissue injury, usually appearing within minutes or hours.” Acute inflammation is what we typically think of as causing noticeable swelling, redness, discomfort, and so forth. In most cases, acute inflammation is a temporary and healthy response.
1. Avoid these foods that cause inflammation
It can sometimes be easier to avoid a few harmful foods than it can be to drastically alter our diets. According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, the following foods may cause or worsen chronic inflammation:
- Fried foods including french fries, chicken wings, doughnuts, onion rings, etc.
- Refined carbohydrates including sugars, white bread, certain cereals, white flour, and many packaged foods
- Soda or other sweet beverages including sweet tea and certain fruit juices
- Red meat including steaks, ground beef, hot dogs, sausage, etc.
- Margarine, lard, shortening, and trans fats
2. Try the Mediterranean Diet
There are a number of diets that claim to be anti-inflammatory in nature. While many of these diets are likely effective, the Mediterranean diet has stood the test of time for being anti-inflammatory purposed, heart-healthy, and relatively easy to follow. This diet is meant to mimic the traditional eating habits of the cultures surrounding the Mediterranean including Italy and Greece. The primary tenets of the Mediterranean diet include:
- Plenty of fatty fish, beans, eggs, and poultry
- Daily inclusion of fresh fruit, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains
- Limited consumption of red meat
- Moderate consumption of dairy products
3. Don’t be afraid of healthy fats
As we can see in the Mediterranean diet, healthy fats are a great way to minimize chronic inflammation. The low-fat diets of the 70’s and 80’s changed our public perception of eating healthy fats. These diets have since been shown to be largely ineffective and in some cases downright damaging to overall health. Instead, consider a diet rich in omega-3s by including nuts, fatty fish, olive oil, and more. Healthy fats are nutrient-dense and calorie-dense, so they should be consumed regularly but in moderate portions.
4. Other Superfoods to fight inflammation
Of course, healthy fats aren’t the only foods that fight chronic inflammation. Here are a few other heavy hitters when it comes to combating inflammation:
- Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables: if it’s a leafy and/or dark green vegetable, odds are pretty good that it is a solid dietary choice. Broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, swiss chard, and others are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and iron.
- Tomatoes: another staple of the Mediterranean diet, tomatoes are extremely nutrient-dense. Tomatoes are packed full of lycopene, potassium, vitamin C, and more.
- Dark chocolate: if you are finding a decided lack of desserts on our list so far, look no further than dark chocolate. Consider choosing dark chocolate with a high cacao content level (70% is the minimum to be considered “dark chocolate”) for maximum benefits. Do be aware that stronger dark chocolates do contain higher levels of caffeine.
- Many others: blueberries, bell peppers, avocadoes, grapes, and mushrooms are all great choices!
5. Try incorporating Green Tea
Recent scientific studies have shown the anti-inflammatory power of green tea. In an independent study, black tea and green tea were both shown to have anti-inflammatory properties due to their high levels of natural flavonoids and other polyphenols. In fact, green tea outperformed black tea, making it a great choice for your morning beverage or afternoon pick-me-up.
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