Inflammation is part of the body’s natural immune response, without it we can’t heal, but like most things when it becomes out of control it can be damaging. The immune system attacks anything in the body that it recognises as foreign – this particular process is called inflammation. However, sometimes inflammation persists even when you are not threatened by a foreign invader. That’s when inflammation can become your enemy.
Common diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s have been linked to chronic inflammation. Consuming anti-inflammatory foods can transform your health. Here are 10 excellent inflammation-fighting foods and some ways to incorporate them into your lifestyle:
1.Tumeric – The yellow or orange pigment found in tumeric is called curcumin. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects are comparable to the potent drugs and anti-inflammatory agents sold in pharmaceutical medications. Unlike the drugs, which are associated with significant toxic effects, curcumin produces no toxicity.
2. Dark leafy vegetables – Dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, collard greens and swiss chard contain high amounts of vitamin E which plays a key role in protecting the body from cells that promote inflammation. Opt for organic locally grown veggies that are in season, and consider eating a fair amount of them raw. Juicing is an excellent way to get more greens into your diet.
3. Garlic, onion and ginger – This popular trio add more than just flavouring to your favourite dishes, they are one of the best anti-inflammatory defence teams available. Garlic has long been a remedy for colds and illness, and its anti-inflammatory properties are amazing. Garlic contains sulphur compounds that stimulate your immune system to fight disease. Onions contain lots of quercetin, a potent antioxidant that can help your body fight inflammation and ginger works in a way similar to turmeric to lower inflammation and reduce pain associated with arthritis.
4. Fermented vegetables and traditionally cultured foods – The majority of inflammatory diseases start in your gut, as the result of an imbalanced environment in the stomach. Fermented foods such as kefir, kimchee, miso, tempeh, pickles, sauerkraut, olives, and other fermented vegetables, will help re-seed your gut with beneficial bacteria. Fermented foods can also help your body rid itself of harmful toxins such as heavy metals and pesticides that promote inflammation.
5. Oily fish – Wild-caught salmon, cod, mackerel, tuna, anchovies and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation. To get the benefits you need to eat fish several times a week, and it should be cooked without refined oils or batters. Try it grilled, poached, steamed, baked or smoked for maximum health benefits.
6. Bone broth – The proteins found in bone broth are strongly anti-inflammatory. This may be why drinking broth is helpful in treating osteoarthritis (an inflammatory autoimmune disease), leaky gut (which can lead to autoimmune diseases if not treated), and other chronic inflammatory conditions like joint pain or fatty liver disease. Another interesting anti-inflammatory benefit that is found in the proteins in bone broth is more rapid recovery from injury. During periods of increased physical demands or stress, the body needs more amino acids than it can produce, because bone broth contains an abundance of amino acids it can be a vital ingredient in speeding up the recovery process.
7. Tea – The plant pigments in green tea contain potent natural anti-inflammatory compounds that can also reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Matcha tea is the most nutrient-rich green tea and comes in the form of a stone-ground unfermented powder. Tulsi is another tea loaded with anti-inflammatory antioxidants and other micronutrients that support immune function and heart health.
8. Blueberries – Blueberries not only reduce inflammation, but they can also protect the brain from ageing and prevent diseases, such as cancer and dementia. Aim for organic berries, as pesticides are hard to wash away due to their size. Blueberries rate very high in antioxidant capacity compared to other fruits and vegetables. They are also lower in sugar than many other fruits.
9. Extra virgin olive oil – This oil provides a healthy dose of fats that fight inflammation, help lower risks of asthma and arthritis, as well as protect the heart and blood vessels. The main anti-inflammatory effects come from the antioxidants found in the oil. Key among them is oleocanthal, which has been shown to work similarly to ibuprofen – an anti-inflammatory drug sold in pharmacies. When consuming this oil for anti-inflammatory purposes the recommended dose is 3 and a half tablespoons per serve.
10. Nuts – A high amount of inflammation fighting properties are also found in the healthy fats in nuts. Nuts are packed with antioxidants, which can help your body both fight off and repair the damage caused by inflammation.
If you’re looking for an eating plan that has maximum anti-inflammatory benefits, consider the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils.
In addition to lowering inflammation, a more natural, less processed food diet can have noticeable effects on your physical and emotional health. A healthy diet is beneficial not only for reducing the risk of chronic disease and inflammation in the body but also for improving mood and overall quality of life. Next time your stocking up your fridge remember the groceries you choose to fill it with can be both your fuel and also your medicine – so make an effort to choose organic, clean whole foods where ever possible, to help your body become the best version it can be.
Written by Prue Rustean