I’m so glad you’re here. Last week I introduced the inflammation concept. Inflammation is both a great healing part of the body, it’s the body’s immune response and without it, we couldn’t heal. And it can also be a detriment to our bodies if left unchecked and out of control, as in rheumatoid arthritis, it can damage our bodies. Plus, it really is thought to play a role in obesity, heart disease and cancer.
If you didn’t get the chance to read it, I highly suggest you do. It gives a pretty straightforward outline of the roles inflammation plays.
This week, I thought I’d introduce some of the best foods for fighting inflammation. You might be saying, why food, why wouldn’t I just take some supplements or pharmaceutical drugs to combat this? Well, my answer would be that I personally know and believe that foods can and do heal our bodies.
So lets’ begin this food journey….see how many of these things you can incorporate on a daily basis.
Salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines (often called oily fish) are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are shown to reduce inflammation. To really reap the benefits, we need to eat fish several times a week and obviously baked or boiled vs. fried.
I personally love fish, but one of daughter’s just doesn’t like fish and you may be like her. My suggestion is then to consume a high quality fish-oil supplement.
Another food that’s great for fighting inflammation is whole grains and that’s because whole grains have more fiber, which has been shown to reduce levels of C – reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation in the blood, and they usually have less added sugar as opposed to refined, white bread, cereals, pastas and rice.
Just a quick side note about grains, remember that preparation is just as important. They need to be soaked before they are consumed. I’ll share more on this topic in another article.
Vitamin E studies have shown it may play a major role in protecting the body from pro-inflammatory molecules call cytokines. Dark leafy greens, like kale, spinach, broccoli and collard greens are great examples. These same greens are also higher in vitamins and minerals, like calcium, iron and phytochemicals that fight disease.
Nuts are another great source of inflammation-fighting healthy fats, especially almonds. They are high in fiber, calcium and vitamin E and don’t forget about walnuts, which have high amounts of alpha-linoleic acid, which is a type of omega-3 fat. If we speak about antioxidants, all nuts rank high, which help your body fight off and repair the damage that’s caused by inflammation. Make sure you soak these before consuming. Here’s a great how to.
Earlier I mentioned colorful vegetables as being a healthier addition, but what I didn’t mention was peppers, which are also known as nightshade vegetables. Some say this bothers those with rheumatoid arthritis, others don’t see any problem. This is where it’s important to pay attention to how your body reacts to specific foods. Hot peppers are really rich in capsaicin, which is a chemical that’s often used in creams that reduce pain and inflammation.
Tomatoes are high in lycopene, which helps to reduce inflammation in the lungs and throughout your body. Did you know that when you cook tomatoes, they have more lycopene than raw tomatoes? These are also considered nightshade vegetables.
Beets are other really bright colored vegetables. Most of the time, they are red, my favorite color. Remember we said colorful vegetables are higher in antioxidants. They have also been shown to protect us from cancer and heart disease. They are also high in fiber, vitamin c and plant pigments called betalains.
You can eat these, cooked, fermented or think Beet Kvass, yum!
Who loves garlic and onions? Me and probably you too! Did you know that in studies, garlic has been shown to work like NSAID pain relievers like ibuprofen, which is often prescribed for inflammation. Onions have similar anti-inflammatory chemicals, including the phytonutrient quercetin and the compound allicin, which breaks down to produce free radical-fighting sulfonic acid.
There are also some spices that work incredibly well, like ginger and turmeric, which are really common in Asian and Indian cooking. Turmeric, think bright yellow curry, works in the body by helping it turn off a protein that regulates the immune system and triggers inflammation. I also mentioned ginger which has also been shown to reduce inflammation in the intestines when it was taken in supplement form. I prefer fresh myself and it’s so easy to incorporate, like in fresh juices and kombucha. Another yum!
Again with the colorful fruits and vegetables, think bright pretty berries. They have really powerful chemicals that give them their bright colors also help fight inflammation. Some of my favorites are blueberries, which help protect against intestinal inflammation, red raspberries have been shown to help with arthritis and strawberries have helped women have lower levels of CRP in their blood.
Let’s not forget a good quality olive oil, which is a plant-based fat. There is a compound called oleocanthal, which is where olive oil gets its taste, also acts similarly as NSAID painkillers in the body, like ibuprofen. I would recommend the extra-virgin kind of olive oil.
The last, and probably my absolute favorite are tart cherries, which have been shown in studies to have the highest anti-inflammatory properties of any food. Athletes often use tart cherry juice to improve their performance and reduce their use of anti-inflammatory pain meds. What I’ve seen recommended is consuming about 1 ½ cups of tart cherries or drinking a cup of tart cherry juice per day to reap the benefits. If you haven’t noticed, I didn’t say sweet cherries; they haven’t gotten the same results as the very delicious tart varieties.
Next week, I’ll share with you some of the worst offenders of the inflammation and why each of them the bad wrap that they do have.
What are some ways that you could incorporate more of the anti-inflammatory foods into your daily food plan? Remember, you can start small, so perhaps it’s just adding one, what would it be?
Until next time, here’s to your health!