Inflammation: If you follow health news, you likely hear about it a lot. When is inflammation helpful? How can it be harmful? What steps can you take to mitigate it?
What is inflammation and how does it affect your body?
If you are unfamiliar with the term, inflammation refers to an immune system response to infection or injury. In these cases, inflammation is a useful sign that your body is struggling to repair itself by sending in an army of healing white blood cells. As the injury heals or the disease is brought under control, the inflammation subsides. You’ve likely seen this with a mild ankle sprain: the initial swelling will go away within a few days as the injury heals.
However, inflammation also occurs without serving a healthy purpose, e.g. B. if you suffer from chronic stress, an autoimmune disease, or obesity. And instead of solving a problem and stepping back, such inflammation can persist for a period of time, harm the body, and potentially lead to health problems like arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, and cancer.
This is why inflammation has been the focus for the past few years and why strategies to reduce it are so popular. Many of these anti-inflammatory recommendations relate to your diet.
Can’t changes in your diet reduce helpful inflammation in your body?
The truth is that there are still many unknowns about diet and its relationship to inflammation and disease. What is clear is that eating a healthy diet can help improve overall health and longevity. There is also evidence to support the belief that eating a variety of nutritious foods can reduce inflammation. For example, people who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables tend to have less of a substance called C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the body.
Additionally, some research has found a link between diets high in inflammatory foods and a higher risk of certain health problems. For example a study in Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that people who consumed anti-inflammatory foods like red and processed meats, refined carbohydrates, and sugary drinks were more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than people who regularly looked for anti-inflammatory foods like leafy vegetables, beans, and tea.
It may be too early to draw a direct line between the food you eat and the level of inflammation in your body. Fortunately, the foods that seem to reduce inflammation are good for you for other reasons too. So focusing on eating these foods can likely benefit your body in more ways than one.
5 Food Changes to Combat Inflammation
A complete overhaul of your diet is a challenge. Therefore, experts recommend making minor changes over time. Trying a series of simple swaps can lead to better health in the long run.
Below are five substitutions that can help you reduce the number of inflammatory foods in your diet.
- Instead of a simple bagel with cream cheese, drizzle a slice or two of wholemeal toast with olive oil. Whole grains contain substances that encourage healthy bacteria to grow in your body. These bacteria can then produce compounds that help reduce inflammation. Regular consumption of olive oil also has benefits: in addition to anti-inflammatory effects, it can also help lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.
- Instead of carbonated soda, try a cup of green tea. Green tea contains substances called catechins, a flavanol that is said to fight inflammation. (Just be careful not to load your mug with sugar.)
- Instead of a corn muffin, substitute a handful of unsalted mixed nuts and an apple. Nuts bring a number of health benefits, including offering them a dose of healthy fats, proteins, and (depending on the variety of nuts you eat) phytochemicals. These phytochemicals contain antioxidants that help remove harmful substances called free radicals in the body. They are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties as well. Fruits like apples also contain fiber and phytochemicals.
- Instead of a steak and a baked potato, have a serving of salmon with a side dish of broccoli. The omega-3s in salmon and other types of fish like tuna, sardines, and mackerel may have been linked to better heart health due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Broccoli is also a great source of fiber and is high in vitamins C, E, K, and folic acid. It also contains carotenoids, a phytochemical one.
- Instead of a piece of cake, mix a fruit salad with different types of berries. Fruits like berries are rich in vitamins and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals.