What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is an immune response that occurs as a part of the body’s normal healing process. Without inflammation tissue repair cannot take place. Chronic inflammation, however, occurs when an inflammatory response happens inappropriately in the absence of tissue damage. This type of unwanted inflammation is common in Western culture and has been associated with many types of diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and more. Lifestyle has a great impact on the amount of inflammation that is seen in your body. Factors such as weight, stress, and sleep can contribute to bodily inflammation or lack there of. The foods we eat can also provide an effective way in which to prevent and control chronic inflammation. Below are some anti-inflammatory diet recommendations based on up to date scientific research.
Foods to Limit or Avoid
Trains Fat: Avoid trans-fat. Trans-fat is made from oils in a food processing technique called hydrogenation. That means that the easiest way to avoid trans-fat is to steer clear of processed foods and instead choose unprocessed, real foods. Be aware that trans-fat can be excluded from nutrient facts labels but will always be found on a food’s ingredient list as ‘hydrogenated’ oil.
Added Sugar and Refined Grains: Limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks. Instead choose naturally sweet options like fresh fruits. Rather than selecting white, refined grains eat whole grain food options most often.
Limit Meats: Limit your intake of red meat to no more than 18oz per week and 3oz per meal. When choosing meat prepare it by baking or broiling rather than grilling. Better yet, select a day or two throughout the week to go meatless! Avoid processed meats such as bacon, sausage, and cold cuts.
Alcohol: Avoid alcohol or limit your intake to no more than one drink a day.
Food Additives: There are thousands of food additives in our food system, some of which are perfectly harmless while others can increase inflammation. Rather than trying to wade through the information for each and every additive, avoid them by choosing unprocessed foods.
Food Allergies & Sensitivities: Food allergies and sensitivities promote symptoms by stimulating an inflammatory response. Therefore, it is important to avoid foods that you have a known allergy or sensitivity to.
Foods to Include
Produce: A high intake of fruits and vegetables is associated with less inflammation. Research suggests that consuming eight servings a day of fruits and vegetables has a positive impact on inflammatory markers. Additionally, these foods are high in antioxidants, which can reduce the damage caused by chronic inflammation. Eat a wide variety of produce and include fruits and vegetables at every meal.
The Omegas: The omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in the body’s inflammatory response. These fatty acids are responsible for the production of inflammatory messengers in the body. Omega-6 fatty acids produce pro-inflammatory messengers while omega-3 fatty acids produce anti-inflammatory ones. Remember, inflammation is an important and needed bodily function so the goal is not to omit omega-6 fatty acids from the diet but to obtain the correct ratio of these two essential fats. Since omega-6 fatty acids are generally over-consumed in the western diet, focus on including omega-3 fats in your diet daily by choosing foods like fatty fish, flax and chia seeds, walnuts, and organic canola oil.
Herbs and Spices: Many herbs and spices have been used for thousands of years in the treatment of inflammatory diseases and complications. Examples include turmeric, garlic, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon. Use these herbs and spices in your daily diet on food and in drinks. Try trading your morning coffee for this yummy anti-inflammatory Golden Milk!