If you’ve read my story then you know I suffer from chronic inflammation. Thank you, autoimmune disease (insert rolled eyes), so for me, I have to be diligent to maintain my stress levels and of course, eat foods to combat the inflammation. Like so many of you, I don’t have time to be feeling like crap every day. Don’t allow that!
According to Harvard Health, “Doctors are learning that one of the best ways to reduce inflammation lies not in the medicine cabinet, but in the refrigerator. By following an anti-inflammatory diet, you can fight off inflammation for good.”
It’s not a secret. No guesswork is involved. There is a large body of evidence that directly points to the fact that food impacts your health, for better or for worse. Our immune system is worth protecting, and guarding against chronic inflammation and therefore guarding against many diseases is vital to your wellbeing
Which foods cause inflammation? What to eat on an anti-inflammatory diet? What are 5 of the most anti-inflammatory foods you can eat? You have questions— we have answers. Let’s get started.
What is the Inflammatory Response in the Body?
When your immune system becomes activated, it often triggers inflammation. When your body, metaphorically speaking, sounds the alarm when something it doesn’t recognize enters— this can be a microbe, pollen, or a chemical—then it activates a response, namely inflammation. This is an incredible biological response that protects our health and can even save our lives. Unfortunately, when inflammation is chronic, when you aren’t actually being “threatened” by a foreign invader, then inflammation can negatively impact your health. In fact, many diseases have been linked to chronic inflammation including diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and heart disease.
How Do You Combat Inflammation?
While there are anti-inflammatory drugs out there, let’s talk about the ways you can combat inflammation naturally. The list below reflects things that have been scientifically proven to help reduce the inflammation response in the body.
- Get enough sleep: Getting too little sleep has been shown to make the body kick on the inflammation
- Go for a walk or exercise: According to a study on inflammation and exercise, just a 20-minute walk has the power to reduce the body’s inflammatory response.
- Practice yoga: Yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is when we rest and digest. It helps to lower our levels of stress and then protects our body against chronic inflammation.
- Go easy on the alcohol: Too much alcohol actually increases the levels of toxins in your body which ramps up the inflammation.
- Drink green tea: Green tea is packed with amazing plant compounds and polyphenols, which help your body to fight free radicals and reduce inflammation!
- Stop smoking: Smoking has a long list of negative effects, but high levels of inflammation are just one of them.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity is an undisputed risk factor for inflammation
- Focus on eating anti-inflammatory foods: Swap out unhealthy foods for anti-inflammatory foods!
What Foods Cause Inflammation?
While these foods are easily found everywhere and all too popular in our society, do your best to avoid or limit these inflammation-causing foods:
- All wheat, barley, or rye or foods containing gluten
- All commercial dairy (milk or dairy products from local cows or goats is best)
- All forms of sugar and refined flour (bread, pasta, crackers, cereal, etc.)
- All processed luncheon meats
- Hydrogenated fats, margarine, processed vegetable oils (corn, canola, palm, soy)
- All fast food, processed food, genetically modified food
- Soft drinks, sodas, alcohol, caffeine
- Artificial sweeteners, aspartame, Sweet- n-Low, saccharin
What Foods Are Anti-inflammatory?
We doubt that any of these anti-inflammatory foods will come as a surprise. What to eat on an anti-inflammatory diet is generally considered a “Mediterranean diet” and is full of whole, unprocessed foods.
- Locally grown, Organic, and non-GMO foods
- Most fruits and vegetables, minimizing those with a high glycemic index and nightshade or starchy vegetables
- Wild-caught seafood and game, cage-free poultry, and beef that has been grass-fed without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics
- Healthy fats (PUFA’s, omega 3’s) from nuts, seeds, olive, avocado, and fish; only oils with minimal processing, cold pressed, or expeller pressed
Note – fruits, whole grains, and legumes are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Fruits can be very high in sugar, and only those with a low glycemic index are introduced to the “B” list. Many whole grains have been found to create similar reactions to gluten sensitivity therefore are not allowed.
Note: All beans should be soaked for 24 hours, changing/ discarding the water several times. Cook/hard boil for at least 10 minutes, then slow cook for 3-4 hours.
- Green leafy vegetables
- Olive oil
- Fatty fish like tuna and salmon
- Fruits, especially blueberries, strawberries, and oranges
What Are 5 of the Most Anti-inflammatory Foods You Can Eat?
While there are dozens of whole foods that nourish your body as they help reduce the inflammatory response in the body, here are 5 of the most anti-inflammatory foods you can eat. Luckily, none of them are too bizarre or out there, so you can find these easily at any and every grocery store.
Small and mighty, berries pack a huge punch when it comes to their anti-inflammatory powers. Berries are full of antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory effects. Specifically, their polyphenol compounds, called anthocyanins, have been proven to have “important effects on inflammatory pathways…to modulate inflammatory status and…manage the modern-day inflammatory burden.” Berries such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries are all excellent for your health!
#2. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish are amazing sources of protein and omega-3s While all types of fish do have some level of omega-3 fatty acids, namely DHA and EPA, these 5 fish are among the top sources: sardines, salmon, herring, anchovies, and mackerel. Both DHA and EPA have been proven to reduce inflammation, as the human body processes the fatty acids into compounds called protectins and resolvins, which have been linked to having strong anti-inflammatory properties.
#3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil is one of the healthiest oils you can find! Olive oil has been associated with a reduction in the risk of serious health conditions and diseases like brain cancer and heart disease. In fact, there was actually a study that has shown that consuming extra virgin olive oil daily significantly has lowered several inflammatory markers in the body.
#5. Leafy Greens
Any anti-inflammatory eating plan would be remiss without leafy greens. These are super inflammation-fighters which significant concentrations of minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients that have been proven to reduce chronic inflammation. Specifically, reach for the kale, spinach, arugula, chard, and collard greens for the best nutritional bang for your buck!
How to Get Started on an Anti-inflammatory Eating Plan?
As chronic inflammation contributes to a wide swath of diseases, including heart disease and cardiovascular events, arthritis, diabetes, and cancer, eating well means eating anti-inflammatory foods. While getting started may sound daunting, start small, and start where you are. If you’re consuming a lot of inflammatory foods like junk food and trans fat— hit up the grocery store and buy some foods you know will help your body. Start with leafy green salads with olive oil for lunch and maybe a berry smoothie for breakfast. A mid-day snack of a handful of walnuts or almonds is a great way of working in some anti-inflammatory food that doesn’t need any prep work whatsoever.
Our EatToHeal Real Food Bars are a great snack as well, with all the right whole-food ingredients to fight inflammation and keep you well!