Fighting inflammation with food and why its important

According to a Harvard Medical School article on foods that fight inflammation one of the best ways to reduce it is through the foods we eat, not the medicines we take.

What is inflammation?

Our bodies have an inflammatory response when anything foreign, like bacteria, microbes, plant pollen, or chemicals are detected. While the inflammatory response is great at protecting us from invaders that can make us sick; chronic and long-term inflammation persisting daily and likely caused by stress, then becomes the enemy. It’s very important to note that many major diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression and even Alzheimer’s are all linked to chronic inflammation.

The good news is we have the ability to control chronic inflammation by keeping our stress levels in check and using one of natures most powerful medicines, the food we eat. Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health says, “many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects.” By eating the right anti-inflammatory foods we may be able to reduce our risk of many common chronic illnesses. However, if we consistently choose the wrong foods we can actually accelerate the inflammatory disease process.

Foods that “cause” inflammation

It’s important to avoid processed foods, sugar, high fat foods and baked goods. Examples include:

  • refined carbohydrates: white bread, cakes, pastries
  • french fries: other fried foods
  • soda: and other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • red meat: burgers, steaks, hot dogs, sausage, and processed meats
  • margarine: shortening and lard (as well as foods prepared with them)

Benefits of anti-inflammatory foods

We have plenty of options for both beverages and foods that reduce inflammation, and the good news is, we also reduce our risk of chronic disease. Foods with natural antioxidants and polyphenols (protective compounds found in plants) include fruits and vegetables like blueberries, apples, and leafy greens. Several studies have also shown that nuts also provide reduced markers for inflammation and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Coffee, which contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds, may also protect against inflammation.

Learning to control stress along with eating an anti-inflammatory diet helps reduce levels of inflammation. A good example of a healthy anti-inflammatory diet is the Mediterranean diet because it includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and healthy oils.

Another important reason to remove “processed” foods and follow an anti-inflammatory diet is; it has a noticeable effect on your physical and emotional health.

A healthy diet is beneficial not only for reducing the risk of chronic diseases, but also for improving mood an overall quality of life.”

Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health

Anti-inflammatory foods

Include the following foods in your daily diet

  • tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • green leafy vegetables: spinach, kale, collards
  • nuts: almonds and walnuts
  • fatty fish: salmon, tuna and sardines
  • fruits: strawberries, blueberries, cherries and oranges

Please consult your doctor before beginning any exercise or nutrition program and discuss an individualized plan that’s best for you.

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