What is inflammation?
Inflammation within the body occurs when the immune system is fighting infection, healing wounds, or attacking allergens. Inflammation does not only include redness, swelling or pain. Often inflammation can be hidden. New research indicates that long-term inflammation is linked to an increased risk for developing chronic disease.
Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and phytonutrients that have been shown to decrease inflammation. Salmon and flaxseeds contain omega-3 fatty acids that may also protect against inflammation. While chocolate, green tea, red wine, ginger, and turmeric are rumored to reduce inflammation, current research has only evaluated the effects on animals, so we cannot draw conclusions for humans at this time.
Foods high in trans fats such as fried chicken, french fries, and hamburgers can be inflammatory. Foods that are high in saturated fats such as bacon, full-fat dairy, lard, beef, and pork may also increase inflammation.
Steps to Reduce Inflammation
- Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
- Aim for half of your plate to be made up of fruit and vegetables at each meal.
- Eat a rainbow of colors: dark green, red, orange, blue, white, etc.
- Any form counts: fresh, canned, dried, frozen – just watch out for sodium and added sugars.
- Vary Your Protein
- Choose lean protein, such as skinless poultry or fish.
- Include plant-based proteins like beans, peas, lentils, tofu, or tempeh.
- Be sure to choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
- Limit processed meats like deli meat, bacon, or sausage.
- Incorporate Healthy Fats
- Include more omega-3 fats such as salmon or walnuts.
- Sprinkle chia seeds, hemp seeds, or flax seeds onto salads or blend into smoothies.
- Use avocado oil to saute vegetable or olive oil to dress salads.
- Experiment with Whole Grains
- Swap out refined flours, cereals, and grains for whole grain foods.
- Whip up a bean salad with veggies and barley or quinoa.
- Serve brown rice with stir-fried vegetables.
- Include Herbs and Spices
- Herbs and spices not only add a ton of flavor to your meals, but they also contain phytonutrients.
- Make pesto with fresh basil or pico de gallo with fresh cilantro.
- Sprinkle cinnamon on oatmeal or use cumin and smoked paprika in chili.
- Be Sure to Get Enough Sleep
- Aim for 6-8 hours of good-quality sleep.
- Your body needs sleep to fight inflammation in the body.
- Get Moving
- Physical activity can have anti-inflammatory effects.
- Try to exercise for 30-60 minutes per day, most days of the week.
- Include more movement in your day: take the stairs instead of the elevator, park in a farther parking spot to get in more steps, listen to your favorite audiobook on the treadmill, or march in place as you watch tv.
Material adapted from eatright.org