Foods to Eat and Avoid
What are the components of an anti-inflammatory diet? Follow these guidelines on which foods to take and which foods to avoid.
An anti-inflammatory diet includes the foods that help to reduce chronic inflammation. Chronic low-grade inflammation is associated with a number of chronic diseases. For example, heart diseases, diabetes, arthritis, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease and cancer.
A Quick Overview of Inflammation
An inflammation is a protective mechanism. When your body senses a threat from an injury or infection, it sends immune cells to defend the healthy cells. The chemicals released during this process cause an inflammation. These are called pro-inflammatory chemicals. An acute inflammation is “good” for your health. But the problem starts when the inflammation starts affecting your healthy cells even in the absence of any foreign particle or injury.
Unfortunately, a typical American diet is rich in the ingredients that promote inflammation (pro-inflammatory). Even worse, sedentary lifestyle deteriorates the condition. The common pro-inflammatory dietary and lifestyle factors include obesity or excess weight, poor diet, lack of physical activity, chronic stress, smoking, pollution, poor oral health and heavy alcohol consumption.
Luckily, most of these factors are modifiable. You can always change what you eat and how you live. Thus, making a change today will surely pay off tomorrow.
What are you waiting for?
In this article, you will have an insight of the anti-inflammatory diet, the foods to take and the foods to avoid.
7 Anti-inflammatory Foods You Should Not Miss in Your Diet
- Fatty or cold-water fish. Fish is one of the best sources of heart-healthy omega-3-fatty acids. These fats not only protect your heart but also work to reduce inflammation at the cellular level. Some fishes rich in omega-3-fatty acids are salmon, sardines, herring, tuna, and mackerel. Nutritionists suggest, for an optimal result, you should take two or three servings (about 12 ounces or 340 grams) per week.
- Avocados. When it comes to reducing an inflammation, avocados are one of the most powerful foods. No wonder, some individuals and experts call them a “superfood”. Avocados are rich in cancer-fighting carotenoids and tocopherols, antioxidants, minerals like magnesium and omega-3-fatty acids. All these compounds have anti-inflammatory properties. According to a 2011 study, certain sugars in avocado can effectively reduce inflammation in skin cells. In 2013, another study in the journal Food & Function revealed that eating a hamburger with avocado could lower the levels of inflammatory markers in the blood.
- Green tea. You might have heard about green tea as an effective weight-loss drink. But its benefits go beyond this. It contains a chemical called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) which has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. EGCG reduces the levels of inflammatory markers and prevents cell damage by the free radicals.
- Turmeric. This common spice is loaded with a potent anti-inflammatory chemical called curcumin. Studies suggest curcumin can reduce inflammation in the patients with arthritis and diabetes. If you already have obesity or diabetes, you should aim to get at least 1 gram of curcumin daily. Curcumin is not easily absorbed from the digestive tract. Thus, you should take it with black pepper to enhance the absorption.
- Extra virgin olive oil. An indispensable part of a Mediterranean diet, olive oil is rich in the chemicals that fight inflammation as well as prevent cell damage from oxidation. In addition, it reduces the risk of heart diseases and brain cancer. In fact, the anti-inflammatory potency of a chemical called oleocanthal is comparable to that of Ibuprofen (Advil or Brufen).
- Dark chocolate. Good news for all the chocolate lovers! Dark chocolate contains flavanols that help to reduce inflammation. Most notably, flavanol-rich chocolate protects the cells that line the interior of your arteries from oxidative damages. For the maximum anti-inflammatory effects, ask for a chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa.
- Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli and other green leafy vegetables are effective at reducing inflammation. The major anti-inflammatory chemical in these veggies is sulforaphane. According to the nutrition experts, sulforaphane may also be effective in preventing or even reversing inflammation-induced damages in the blood vessels.
Other anti-inflammatory foods to consider:
- Whole grains.
- Spices like ginger, rosemary, turmeric, oregano, cayenne, cloves and nutmeg.
Top 5 Foods to Avoid
Just like some foods have anti-inflammatory properties, other foods cause inflammation. Make sure to limit or avoid the following foods.
- High-sugar foods. Foods that contain high amounts of sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are the major culprits. They increase the risk of obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver disease, cancer and chronic kidney disease. Thus, it is critically important that you read the label on the foods before purchasing.
- Trans fats. Man-made trans fats are prepared by hydrogenating vegetable oils. These “unhealthy” fats increase the levels of inflammatory markers in the blood. Margarine, cookies, biscuits, doughnuts, and fried fast foods are some of the worst foods for inflammation. Thus, you should avoid them as much as possible.
- High glycemic index (GI) carbs. Carbs that cause a sudden rise in the blood glucose levels also increase the levels of inflammatory markers. Moreover, they may disrupt the gut flora leading to dysbiosis.
- Processed meats.
The Bottom Line
Foods can be both good and bad depending on their health properties. The key to a healthy and disease-free life lies in making better choices about your diet. This is exactly where an expert nutritionist plays a critical role.
The expert designs a dietary regimen or an eating habit based on your specific needs. An expert consultation is even more important if you already have certain chronic diseases like high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes etc.
To know more about the anti-inflammatory diet, talk to an expert. Also, know how an individually customized nutrition helps to reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Click here to set an appointment today.
- Zeyda, M and Stulnig, TM. “Obesity, inflammation, and insulin resistance-a mini-review.” Gerontology. 2009;55(4):379-86.
- Tili, E., et al. “Mutator activity induced by microRNA-155 (miR-155) links inflammation and cancer.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2011 Mar 22;108(12):4908-13.
- Donnarumma, G., et al. “AV119, a natural sugar from avocado gratissima, modulates the LPS-induced proinflammatory response in human keratinocytes.” Inflammation. 2011 Dec;34(6):568-75.
- Li, Z., et al. “Hass avocado modulates postprandial vascular reactivity and postprandial inflammatory responses to a hamburger meal in healthy volunteers.” Food and Function. 2013 Feb 26;4(3):384-91.
- Tipoe, GL., et al. “Green tea polyphenols as an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent for cardiovascular protection.” Cardiovascular Hematological Disorders Drug Targets. 2007 Jun;7(2):135-44.
- Menon, VP and Sudheer, AR. “Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin.” Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. 2007;595:105-25.
- Rhodes, JM and Campbell, BJ. “Inflammation and colorectal cancer: IBD-associated and sporadic cancer compared.” Trends in Molecular Medicine. 2002 Jan;8(1):10-6.
- Tili, E., et al. “miR-155: on the crosstalk between inflammation and cancer.” International Reviews of Immunology. 2009;28(5):264-84.