You Are What You Eat: Fight Inflammation by Changing What You Eat
Recent headlines show that awareness is growing about the connection between chronic inflammation and many serious health conditions. In fact, it appears that chronic inflammation may be the cause – rather than a symptom – of these conditions.
Your diet and other lifestyle strategies can play a major role in prevention of this dangerous inflammation.
Here’s what you need to know about chronic inflammation and how to fight it.
The Facts About Inflammation
- Acute inflammation. Acute inflammation is good for you. In fact, it’s necessary for the healing process. When you get an injury or infection, blood flow increases to the damaged area. Special cells start removing irritants and damaged cells.
- Chronic inflammation. On the other hand, inflammation can undermine your health when it fails to shut off. Even though the symptoms may be invisible, chronic inflammation appears to play a role in heart disease, cancer, diabetes and maybe even Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
- Benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet. Eating natural, unprocessed foods instead of sugar and processed foods can alleviate the inflammation and greatly strengthen your health.
Food Choices That Fight Chronic Inflammation
- Cut down on processed foods. Steering clear of processed foods is a quick way to avoid many inflammatory agents. These include omega-6 fatty acids, trans fats and refined carbohydrates.
- Emphasize plant-based foods. Making plant-based foods the mainstay of your diet will automatically increase your supply of antioxidants and important phytochemicals that act as anti-inflammatory agents. Aim for at least 5 servings a day of vegetables and fruits.
- Eat more fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are especially effective at reducing swelling. Eat fish at least twice a week. Pick the healthy-fat varieties including tuna, salmon and mackerel.
- Switch to whole grains. Opt for whole grains whenever possible. Many restaurants are now offering a choice, so order brown rice instead of white.
- Indulge in olive oil. The ingredient oleocanthal in olive oil is another inflammation buster. It’s what gives extra-virgin olive oil its peppery taste.
- Limit the red meat. Research findings are mixed, but a diet high in red meat has been found to make rheumatoid arthritis symptoms worse. Saving steak for special occasions may improve your overall health, and it’s certainly good for your heart.
- Spice it up. Certain spices prevent inflammation while making your food taste better. Be generous with the ginger, curry, clove, black cumin and cinnamon.
- Shop around. It seems like there’s a new diet book published every week promising anti-inflammatory effects. Find what works for you. One safe strategy is to stick with Mediterranean style diets that get high ratings across the board.
Additional Strategies That Fight Chronic Inflammation
- Lose weight. Extra pounds put an extra burden on your joints and vital organs. Trim down safely with a balanced diet and regular exercise.
- Manage stress. Elevated stress hormones contribute to inflammation. Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing or take long baths.
- Quit smoking. Smoking is another irritant. Even if you’ve tried to give up tobacco in the past, consider taking another run at it. New methods are being introduced all the time to make it easier.
- Consult your doctor. Many new discoveries about chronic inflammation have emerged in the past year. Your doctor can help explain the findings and what they mean for you.
A healthy diet can help reduce your risk of chronic inflammation, enabling you to live a longer and more active life. Eat a variety of whole foods including plenty of fruits and vegetables and talk with your doctor about your individual health concerns.