Eating to Fight Inflammation
by Catherine Lawson
Inflammation is a hot topic right now because it’s at the heart of nearly every chronic disease we face in the modern world and finding ways to fight it can be quite the challenge. It’s a challenge worth taking, though, because inflammation gone rogue can cause chaos in our bodies, damaging healthy cells and organs and preventing the body from fighting infection and recovering from injury.
It’s not that we shouldn’t have any inflammation at all, in fact, healthy inflammation is what we need when our body is under attack from infection or injury – it’s how we heal. The problem arises when inflammation goes into overdrive and is triggered at the wrong times so instead of helping us, it starts doing all kinds of damage on the inside.
If you’ve ever suffered from the effects of inflammation you’ll know the misery that comes from a body which appears to be its own worst enemy, causing fatigue, pain, persistent infections, anxiety, depression, chronic skin conditions and stomach complaints to name but a few. As you would expect, lifestyle has a lot to do with whether or not you fall foul of this, with poor diet, alcohol, smoking, toxic stress and lack of exercise being the main culprits. When it comes to diet, though, there are some key changes you can make which can significantly improve your chances of winning the fight against inflammation.
First up, let’s look at the foods which should be avoided. It’ll be no surprise to you that highly refined and processed foods top the list, followed by foods we know should only ever be consumed in moderation. These include, but are not limited to:
- Refined sugar (cakes, biscuits, pastries, cookies, sweets, chocolates, fizzy drinks…)
- Processed/refined carbohydrates and gluten (white breads, pasta, white rice, cereals, crackers, grains…)
- Red meat and processed meat products (bacon, hotdogs, burgers…)
- Fried foods
- Trans fats (found in margarines, microwave popcorn, frozen pizzas…)
- Dairy products
We’re not hard-wired to process unnatural, highly processed substances, so when we eat too many of the above foods the body doesn’t know what to do with them. As a result, these foods behave like toxins in the body, throwing us off balance and triggering the inflammatory response that can do so much damage. Instead, our bodies are programmed to eat naturally and to absorb and use the nutrients found in fresh, wholesome produce – the kind of food we should be eating in the fight against inflammation. Foods and drinks which top the list here include, but are not limited to:
- Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines (we need that Omega 3 to fight inflammation and prevent heart disease and stroke)
- Berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries all have exceptional anti-inflammatory properties not to mention being high in fibre and rich in antioxidants)
- Nuts and seeds (high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds – walnuts are exceptionally good)
- Extra virgin olive oil (one of the healthiest oils you can eat and a staple in the Mediterranean diet, viewed by many to be the healthiest diet on the planet)
- Avocados (inflammation fighters and guardians of heart and cardiovascular health)
- Ginger, garlic and turmeric (there’s almost no end to the benefits of including these nutritional powerhouses in your food and in the fight against inflammation – they really are nature’s medicine)
- Fermented foods (gut health is key to tackling inflammation)
- Dark chocolate (good news chocolate fans! 70% + dark chocolate is packed with flavanols which fight inflammation and help keep blood vessels and circulation healthy)
- Tea and coffee (you can relax – your daily cuppa is safe)
- Water (you know the guidelines – drink lots, drink often)
Making switches in your diet to maximise natural, wholesome foods and minimise highly refined and processed options might just be the biggest favour you do yourself to safeguard your current and future health. As always, it’s all about the balance and enjoying a smaller glass of red with a bigger helping of gut healthy greens might just be where you start to find it.