You have cut back on highly processed foods. You are eating leaner proteins and less fat. You are even eating whole grains. You think to yourself, “I am doing the right things and I am going to improve my health!”.
While making healthy food choices is a great step and should be continued, eating a healthful diet does not mean that you are eating an “inflammation free” diet.
Inflammation is defined as, “the body’s attempt at self-protection to remove harmful stimuli, including damaged cells, irritants, or pathogens – and begin the healing process (1).” The type of inflammation that is chronic can last for several months and even years, and has been linked to numerous diseases and conditions, including some cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, periodontitis, hay fever and more (1).RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Inflammation is caused by multiple factors which include smoking, stress, environmental pollutants, obesity, food choices, lack of exercise, and others. To help reduce this chronic inflammation it is recommended to avoid smoking and excessive alcohol use (2).
There are also suggestions on how to eat an “anti-inflammatory diet.” Although there’s less scientific proof that anti-inflammation diets work to directly stop chronic inflammation, many of the recommended foods are typical of the Mediterranean style of eating and in principle are nutritious and healthful choices (2).
The key components of an anti-inflammatory diet
Eating healthy amounts of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are great suppliers of antioxidants. Antioxidants work to combat inflammation through their positive impact on the free radicals from oxidation. For adults, you can find out the exact amount you are supposed to eat daily from the Centers for Disease Control
Consuming fats, such as olive oil and canola oil
Research has shown that consuming a diet that is higher in monounsaturated fats (such as olive oil) and lower in saturated fats (such as fried foods and animal fats) can help to reduce inflammation (3).
Choosing nuts for snacks
Nuts are proven to help reduce cholesterol and aid to protect your heart (4). Nuts also have unsaturated fatty acids that are valuable in reducing inflammation. And the good news is – you can select from different types of nuts as many have some nutritional benefit! Walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans and peanuts are all heart healthy (4). In selecting nuts choose either plain or lightly salted/roasted to avoid unnecessary added calories
Eating fish on a regular basis
Fish contain the fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) that are known for helping to reduce inflammation. Fish with the highest levels of EPA and DHA are salmon, tuna and herring (3). Something to consider when choosing which fist to eat is the potential for mercury contamination.
The National Resources Defense Council provides a helpful list to outline the types of fish that has the least and the most amounts of mercury
Reducing your intake of added sugars
In eating a diet that is not balanced, with high levels of sugar, you may experience marked rises in your blood sugar. This may lead to chronic inflammation in your body and over time can lead to type 2 diabetes. Foods that have high amounts of added sugar and also naturally occurring sugar tend to have a higher glycemic index, which impacts your blood sugar.
The World Health Organization recently issued a draft to propose that sugars should be less than 10% of total energy intake per day, and suggested that a reduction of less than 5% of total energy intake per day would have additional benefits. 5% equals approximately 6 teaspoons of sugar (5). For more information you may visit: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/notes/2014/consultation-sugar-guideline/en
Selecting lean cuts of pork and beef
Red meat and pork do contain saturated fat, however these meats also contain an equal or even greater portion of monounsaturated fat. Beef is also a good source of B vitamins like folic acid and B12 as well as iron, zinc and selenium (3).
Herbs and spices can have the highest quantity of antioxidants in any natural source that you may consume. Researchers measured the antioxidant quantities in hundreds of spices and herbs and found that cloves has the highest antioxidant value, followed by peppermint, allspice, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, saffron, and estragon, (all dried and ground) (6).
The researchers caution however that the antioxidant quantity can vary from these sources, as they are naturally occurring. Use a variety of herbs and spices when flavoring your foods!
The tips above are a great start, and for more information about how to achieve an “anti-inflammatory diet” you can read the book, “The Inflammation Free Diet Plan” by Monica Reinagel.
1) Nordqvist, Christian. “What is inflammation? What causes inflammation?” Medical News Today, May 2014. Web. August 2014.http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/248423.php
2) Bauer, Brent. “Buzzed on inflammation.” Mayo Clinic Health Letter, ND. Web. August 2014. http://healthletter.mayoclinic.com/editorial/editorial.cfm/i/163/t/Buzzed%20on%20inflammation
3) Reinagel, Monica. The Inflammation Free Diet Plan. New York: McGraw Hill, 2006.
4) Mayo Clinic Staff. “Nuts and your health: eating nuts for health.” Mayo Clinic, February 2014. Web. August 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/nuts/art-20046635
5) Note for media. “WHO opens public consultation on draft sugars guideline.” World Health Organization, March 2014. Web. August 2014. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/notes/2014/consultation-sugar-guideline/en/
6) Paur, Ingvild, et al. Roles in Oxidative Stress and Redox Signaling. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2011. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92763/