Chronic inflammation in the body has many risks. It can damage to our arteries and depress our immune system. There can be an increased the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and auto-immune disease. Short-lived inflammation is the body’s way of clearing up infections and healing damaged tissues. When it is chronic, it becomes a threat to our health. Chronic inflammation can result from an immune system in overdrive. As a result, it begins to attack our tissues and leads to disease. Chronic inflammation also can be caused by a diet high in pro-inflammatory foods. Allergies, exposure to environmental chemicals, and emotional stress are some other factors. Let’s take a look at what foods to eat and avoid on an anti-inflammatory diet.
Organic fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains all contain anti-oxidants that fight inflammation. Seven and nine half-cup servings of fruits and non-starchy vegetables a day should be adequate. Go easier on the fruits due to high sugar content. Consume at least five servings of nuts and seeds a week. Whole grains should be consumed in moderation.
Consuming an overly acidic diet can increase inflammation. Sugar, refined foods, coffee, and alcohol are all acid-forming. Most fruits and vegetables are alkalizing to the body. Meat is acid-forming and high in arachadonic acid, which increases inflammation.
Cold-water fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies, herring) is high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Try to eat fish twice a week. If you crave meat, try a lean cut and preferably grass-fed. Nuts, legumes, and seeds are good sources of plant protein. Avoid excess protein, which is acid-forming and pro-inflammatory. Dairy also is high in arachadonic acid and should be reduced or eliminated on an anti-inflammatory diet. Avoid frying or grilling foods to reduce inflammation.
Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil are anti-inflammatory. Two to three teaspoons a day are recommended. Avoid oils high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory (corn, safflower, peanut, and sunflower oils). Consider adding some anti-inflammatory spices to cooked foods. Tumeric, ginger, cayenne pepper, oregano, rosemary, cloves, and cumin all fight inflammation.
Many processed foods contain trans-fats known to cause inflammation. Fried foods, baked goods, and margarine are especially high in trans-fats. Foods high in glycemic load increase the risk of inflammation as well (e.g. carrots, beets, white rice, bagels, and waffles).
In fighting inflammation, you also want to remove toxins from your body. Consider adding high fiber foods and drinking mineral-rich teas daily. Milk thistle and dandelion tea (2-4 cups daily) help in detoxification. Of course, drink lots of water to help flush toxins out of the body.