Inflammation is one of the ways your body defends itself from infection, injury, and toxins. Just like stress, this important protective mechanism can cause major problems when it becomes chronic.
Many diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease are linked to chronic inflammation in the body. Luckily, there are many ways to fight inflammation.
Eat the rainbow
Any dietary modification should begin with a healthy foundation. This includes a balance of lean proteins and healthy fats with a wide variety of colorful fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Variety is the key as focusing on one food, color or nutrient will prevent one from reaping the benefits of all of the others.
Anti-inflammatory foods and nutrients
There are also many anti-inflammatory foods and nutrients. One of the most researched is omega-3 fatty acids, which are polyunsaturated fats found in foods such as fatty fish like wild salmon, tuna and mackerel, walnuts, chia, flax, and canola oil.
A diet rich in antioxidants that includes foods rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and beta-carotene is also known to resist and repair the damage that is induced by inflammation. In addition, phytochemicals in plant foods can also protect against inflammation. Some examples include lycopene, ursolic acid, and lutein. Herbs and spices including turmeric and ginger are also known to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Here are some easy ways to implement an anti-inflammatory diet, along with a sample meal plan to help get you started:
- Consume a Mediterranean style diet rich in healthy fats such as fish, olive oil, and canola oil; colorful fruits and vegetables; whole grains such as whole wheat pasta and brown rice; and small amounts of lean meats such as skinless poultry breast.
- Consume more omega-3 fatty acids from sources such as wild salmon, tuna and mackerel, walnuts, flax, canola oil, omega-fortified eggs. Fish oil supplements that contain both EPA and DHA can be taken under the guidance of your physician.
- Consume monounsaturated fat from sources such as avocado, olive oil, and almonds.
- Consume more antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables full of vitamins C, E, and Beta-carotene. Vitamin C can be found in foods such as citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit), green and red pepper, kiwi, tomatoes, broccoli, and fortified foods. Vitamin E can be found in foods such as wheat germ, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. Beta-carotene can be found in foods such as carrots, sweet potato, cantaloupe, red pepper, mango, and broccoli
- Consume more colorful fruits and vegetables full of phytochemicals such as lycopene, lutein, and ursolic acid. Lycopene can be found in tomatoes, watermelon and red grapefruit. Lutein can be found in dark green leafy vegetables like spinach. Ursolic acid can be found in cranberries, prunes, and apples
- Cook with flavorful herbs and spices such as ginger and turmeric. Ginger can be added to soups, stir fry, and homemade tea. Turmeric is used to make curry, casseroles, soups, and stews.
- Avoid processed foods, convenience foods, and fast foods which do not contain the healthful properties of an anti-inflammatory diet and contain excessive sodium, preservatives, and saturated fats.
Anti Inflammatory Meal Plan
Breakfast – Add ½ cup berries and ¼ cup shaved almonds to hot or cold cereal
Snack – Fruit with low fat or non-fat yogurt or cottage cheese
Lunch – Have a salad with Romaine lettuce, and at least 3 other vegetables that you enjoy (like carrots, tomatoes, red onions, and cucumber) topped with beans or unsalted plain nuts and olive oil as a dressing
Snack – Carrots dipped in hummus
Dinner – Have a stir fry using canola oil including chicken, ground or grated ginger, and red, yellow, and green peppers over brown rice
Snack – Homemade fruit smoothie made with banana, strawberries mixed with skim milk or non-fat yogurt and a tablespoon of ground flax seed
Learn more about the anti-inflammatory lifestyle by checking out our list of inflammation preventing foods.