Did you know that the most powerful tools to combat inflammation come from your fridge and not from the pharmacy? Choose the right foods, and you may be able to reduce your risk of illness. On the other hand, consistently pick the wrong ones, and you could accelerate the inflammatory disease process.
But first, what’s inflammation?
When your body recognizes anything that is foreign such as microbe, chemical, or plant pollen, your immune system becomes activated. This often triggers a process called inflammation. Many major diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s have been linked to chronic inflammation.
What to eat?
To move towards an anti-inflammatory diet, you need shift from a diet with abundance of overly processed and unbalanced food items rich in sugar, white flour, and trans-fats to a diet that comprises plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, little to no red meat, certainly no chemicals or meat additives, and plenty of omega-3 rich foods.
Let’s now dive into the top foods that fight inflammation and protect your heart.
Eating walnuts can lower cholesterol, relax blood vessels, and reduce blood pressure. Studies on the effects of walnuts have shown that its regular consumption can lower the C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammation marker linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and arthritis.Walnuts are high in calories though; so consume them moderately.
Protect your heart and reduce the inflammation by consuming 3-6 ounce of omega-3 rich sources two to four times a week. Omega-3s interfere with immune cells called leukocytes and enzymes known as cytokines, which are both key players in the body’s inflammatory response. The best sources of marine omega-3s include fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel. Choose smaller fish that have less mercury.
The sweet, nutritious, and wildly popular blueberries are believed to contain the highest antioxidant capacity of all commonly consumed fruits and vegetables. Blueberries are rich in vitamin C, anthocyanins, and resveratrol, which have been found to promote anti-inflammatory responses through decreasing inflammatory free radicals.
Avocados are a great source of healthy unsaturated fat and antioxidants. In fact, the anti-inflammatory properties of avocados are so strong that they may actually offset less healthy food choices. Add slices to sandwiches or add a few chunks to your next salad or smoothie for a healthy snack. Again, they are rich in calories, so consider moderate consumption.
The antioxidant betalain gives them their signature color and it is an excellent anti-inflammatory. When added to the diet, beet benefits include repairing cells and adding high levels of inflammation-fighting potassium and magnesium.
To sum up, if you wish to reduce levels of inflammation, aim for an overall healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils. This diet is beneficial not only for reducing the risk of chronic diseases, but also for improving mood and overall quality of life.
- Licensed Clinical Dietician, B.Sc., M.Sc. in Nutrition, AUB- Lebanon