There is a pretty big chance that you have heard about inflammation and with good reason! It is being studied for its connections to many different chronic diseases. There is a big part you can play in preventing inflammation in your body. But first…
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a response from your immune system to combat things that may be harming your body including toxins, infections, and injuries. The response includes proteins, antibodies, and increased red blood cells to that area.
Chronic inflammation happens when this response lingers whether it is due to an autoimmune response, longer exposure to an irritant, or untreated cause of acute inflammation (injury or infection). Over time, chronic inflammation may have a negative impact by damaging cells, tissues, and organs.
What are some symptoms of inflammation?
In the case of acute inflammation, symptoms include:
Chronic inflammation tends to have more subtle symptoms including:
- Joint and body pain
- Brain fog
- Gastrointestinal complications including constipation, diarrhea, or acid reflux
How can we prevent inflammation?
The foods that we eat and the everyday small steps we take can either increase or help us decrease inflammation in our bodies! The standard American diet is unfortunately low in omega-3s, low in fiber, and high in highly processed foods, and sugars, all which are pro-inflammatory.
Our body naturally produces antioxidants which help us fight inflammation and the foods we eat can also supply the body with antioxidants. Here are some anti-inflammatory foods to include daily:
- Fatty fish: Provide essential fatty acids high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. The typical American diet is rich in omega-6 vs omega 3. Omega-6 can increase inflammation if it is out of balance with omega-3s. Fish such as wild-caught salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies, and sardines are all great sources of omega-3 and are low in mercury. Aim to incorporate a serving of fatty fish (4-6 oz.) at least two times per week.
- Wild game: Wild game such as buffalo and elk have a significant amount of omega-3 fats compared to meat from grain-fed animals. It is also leaner and lower in saturated fats than grain-fed beef and can be an alternative to fish. Next time you want a burger, give bison burgers a try!
- Nuts and seeds: Fish and wild game are a great source of omega-3 but nuts and seeds especially almonds, walnuts, and flax seeds are a great plant based option to obtain omega-3 fatty acids.
- Dark leafy greens: They are high in fiber and phytonutrients including glucosinolates that assist with detoxification and help protect the body from pro-inflammatory cytokines. Include kale, broccoli, collards, cabbage, and other cruciferous vegetables in your food plan and try to consume them daily. Dark leafy greens can be easily incorporated into smoothies, bowls, and are great for salads as well!
- Red and blue colored fruits and vegetables: High in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients called polyphenols. Fruits and vegetables such as red cabbage, purple onion, red bell pepper, all berries, red grapes, cherries, and plums are all great sources of polyphenols which help the body fight off inflammation. Blueberries contain one of the highest antioxidant amounts due to the flavonoid anthocyanin. Blueberries are great because they are easy to add in as part of breakfast or a snack, in smoothies, and salads!
- Spices: Certain spices such as turmeric, ginger, oregano, garlic, rosemary, cayenne, cloves, and cinnamon, have anti-inflammatory properties! They are easy to add to your daily meals whether it’s in your oatmeal, smoothies, or to season the vegetables in your stir fry and bowls. Use them in combination with food, especially when using high-heat cooking methods.
- Green tea: Green tea contains a catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Catechins are natural antioxidants that help prevent cell damage. Catechins can reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, protecting cells and molecules from damage.
Removing foods that increase inflammation is very important but it is just as important to add in foods that help your body fight off inflammation. Try to add these 7 foods to your everyday meals in order to provide your body the tools it needs to fight inflammation.
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