Inflammation can lead to many long term chronic illnesses like heart disease or arthritis, so it’s key to make sure that you aren’t potentially making matters worse with a poor diet. Below we’ll discuss some of the best foods that may help you avoid inflammation as well as what to avoid.
1. Enjoy a Diet That is High in Fiber.
Eating sufficient fiber is the first way to help reduce inflammation. High fiber foods like dark leafy greens, quinoa, and flaxseed will help promote healthy bacteria in the gut, which will tell the body to release anti-inflammatories. Not only that, these foods are loaded with phytonutrients, naturally occurring chemicals that help protect plants, and are equally useful in protecting us against inflammation.
2. Eating Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables Each Day.
One of the best ways to combat inflammation, especially chronic inflammation, is to just stay generally healthy – and getting adequate amounts of fruit and vegetables is a sure way to stay feeling great. Fruits and vegetables contain various anti-inflammatory substances depending on what you eat. For example, blueberries have quercetin, a plant pigment that is well documented for its anti-inflammatory properties. Celery, beets, pineapples, leafy greens like bok choy, and broccoli are all top choices.
3. The Best Vegetables are Cruciferous.
We keep coming back to leafy greens, like bok choy, for a reason. Cruciferous vegetables are high in vitamin C, soluble fiber, and are full of phytonutrients, all of which make them a perfect combination for your anti-inflammatory diet. The typical leafy greens like the ones we’ve mentioned are great, but also consider brussel sprouts, cauliflower, horseradish, cabbage, and maca. Among other benefits include a lower risk for heart disease and cancer.
4. Consume More Omega-3’s
Omega-3s are essential for your brain’s functioning as well as your overall wellbeing. It’s important to note: omega-3s help reduce inflammation while omega-6 can actually promote it. There’s a fine balance to achieve between the two, but generally you want to be consuming more omega-3s than omega-6s, and most people have too much omega-6 in their diet while not getting enough omega-3s.
Omega-3’s come from sources like oily fish (mackerel and salmon), chia seeds, eggs (look for omega-3 enriched; make sure they were raised humanely and free range); grass fed dairy products, and even some vegetables like brussel sprouts or spinach.
Omega-6 is much more easily accessible which is why it’s so much easier to include in your diet, although that’s not necessarily a good thing. While its important to have some, many sources include a lot of other stuff you simply don’t need. Omega-6 is abundant in pizza, salad dressings, peanut butter, mayonnaise, fast food, cookies, muffins, chocolate, and beef.
5. Use Spices Liberally When Cooking.
The use of spices is a great way to overcome inflammation. Among the best spices to use include turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, thyme, pepper, and cloves.
Turmeric contains curcumin, a yellow pigment that has a long history of being used by eastern cultures to combat inflammation. In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, it also acts as an antioxidant, and may help fight off sickness or cancer. Consider adding it to your favorite soup to help give you a big time boost.
Another spice worth looking into is pepper. Pepper contains capsaicin, a substance that is more abundant the hotter the pepper. Capsaicin, despite being particularly spicy at higher concentrations, is excellent at limiting inflammation. Consider using small amounts of chili pepper and cayenne to your meals. If you’re particularly daring, jalapeno and habanero peppers are full of capsaicin and are a great addition to almost any meal. Just be sure to build up your spice tolerance a little bit at a time.
6. Limit Your Saturated Fat Intake.
Now that we’ve looked the types of food you should eat to help reduce inflammation, we need to take a close look at what is making it worse as well. Eating all of the broccoli in the world might not be doing much for your inflammation if you’re also eating an equally high amount of saturated fats.
Saturated fats have been shown to trigger adipose tissue, one of the factors contributing to low level, constant inflammation. For animal products, saturated found is found in most dairy products and fatty cuts of meat. From plants, it’s best to avoid palm oils, cooking margarine, and coconut milk. Lastly, if you are consuming packaged or processed food regularly (which we will touch on next), chances are you are consuming a lot of saturated fat. Sources like cookies, ice cream, pastries, and fried food are usually pretty high in saturated fat.
One of the largest saturated fat problems is cheese. Cheese can find its way into most meals if you let it, whether it’s omelettes, parmesan cheese, cold cut sandwiches, parmesan cheese on various meals, etc. By cutting out cheese or looking for fat free alternatives, most people will likely reduce the overall amount of saturated fat in their diet by a decent amount. As a result, inflammation levels should generally decrease.
7. Avoid Processed Foods.
There’s a lot of reasons why processed food will promote inflammation in your gut. Many processed foods have added ingredients to help preserve how long they will last, many of which aren’t great for you when digested. These are known as emulsifiers, which also increase the texture of the food – commonly in ice cream, for example.
Processed foods are much more likely to have sugar, since they are high on the glycemic index. Foods that are high on the glycemic index are processed by your body much more quickly, and as a result, can spike up your insulin levels. Excess glucose that the body cannot immediately process is a means for inflammation. Therefore, in addition to avoiding processed foods, keep an eye on how much overall sugar each meal has, even if its seemingly innocuous and well intentioned food. For example, bananas, grapes, apples, regular milk, and most name brand peanut butters are all high in sugar content.
In addition to having sugar, a lot of processed foods might contain refined flour. Think pizza, white bread, pasta, and breakfast cereals for example. Cereal alone is a major culprit, and is often marketed healthy while containing a lot of sugar and refined flour. By practicing intermittent fasting, you can skip breakfast altogether which is a common time when processed foods make their appearance: cereals, bagels, muffins, and even some oatmeals are common problems.
8. Cut Out All the Trans Fat!
There’s a reason why inflammation occurs when you ingest trans fat (short for trans fatty acids) – it’s hardly found in nature. Almost all the trans fat that you consume has been added by an industrial process. Your body’s rejection of it via inflammation is a sure sign that you should avoid it. Trans fat is also known to raise your bad cholesterol while lowering your good cholesterol – it’s bad enough that it accomplishes one of these feats, but it does both at the same time.
Trans fat is created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oils to make a solid form. Vegetable oils are something you should be avoiding anyways, while using alternatives like olive oil, instead. The whole process just makes it that much worse. Trans fat ingestion over the longer term contributes to systemic inflammation, contributing to the development of disease. There’s no beneficial role it plays in your diet. It is found in margarine, some cookies, frozen pizza, and microwavable popcorn. Simply avoid it at all costs!
What it Comes Down To
Its best to limit inflammation as much as possible since it can eventually lead to chronic and systemic inflammation. Over time, chronic inflammation can cause a host of problems in your body such as DNA damage, cancer, and arthritis. Choosing the right foods can largely limit how much your body is affected by inflammation. It’s just as important to avoid inflammation triggering ingredients like trans fat as it is to actively add more spices and omega-3s.