Inflammation in the body is a double-edged sword. Without the normal process of inflammation, the body would not be able to fight infections or respond to injuries. Problems result when low to moderate levels of inflammation occur chronically throughout the body. There are several possibilities for why chronic inflammation happens. These include an unresolved infection or injury, an autoimmune disorder, long-term exposure to irritants, smoking, alcohol use, obesity, and chronic stress.
This chronic inflammation can be damaging. It has been linked to plaque buildup in your arteries, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke. There is also an association with a higher risk of cancer, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions.
Did you know the food choices you make can help you fight harmful inflammation? Research shows that diet can affect the levels of C-reactive protein in your blood (a marker for inflammation).
What’s more, you don’t need to adopt a complicated eating plan. Anti-inflammatory foods tend to be the same foods that promote good health overall. You’ve guessed it, veggies and fruits have a central role!
Tips for Anti-Inflammatory Eating
Go for Plants
Plant foods have the anti-inflammatory nutrients that your body needs. Make half your plate veggies and fruits, include more veggies and fruits during snack time, switch to whole grains, and boost legumes (beans and peas) are great places to start.
They are substances (vitamins, minerals, and other plant chemicals) that help prevent, delay, or repair some cell and tissue damage. Go for a rainbow of fruits and veggies like berries, leafy greens, and beets, as well as legumes, whole grains, ginger, turmeric, nuts, and green tea.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Learn all about them! Research indicates that omega-3 fats are involved in regulating your body’s inflammatory process and possibly help regulate pain related to inflammation. Good sources include fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, as well as smaller amounts in walnuts, pecans, ground flaxseed, and soy.
Replace the Heavily Processed Stuff
Foods with lots of added sugars like certain breakfast cereal, sweet treats, soda, and pastries, along with deep-fried foods and other junk foods are all pro-inflammation. Added sugars help release inflammatory messengers that can increase the risk of chronic inflammation. Unhealthy fats are also linked to inflammation. Replace these foods as much as possible with veggies, fruits, grains, nuts, and beans.
Think Twice About Meats
Think twice before reaching for red meat and other high-fat processed meats such as hot dogs. These meats are pro-inflammatory, mainly because they contain large quantities of saturated fat, which can cause inflammation if you get more than a small amount each day.
Brigitte Harton is a consultant Registered Dietitian at Age Well and a Board-Certified Wellness Coach. Have more nutrition or wellness questions? Contact Age Well’s Helpline at 800-642-5119 or visit AgeWellVT.org.