Inflammation is a major health problem, particularly as we get older. The term “inflammation” refers to a pretty broad spectrum of health issues, including symptoms such as pain, swelling, and redness of an affected organ or tissue.
So, where does diet come into play? Well, a poor diet can cause chronic inflammation, which could lead to arthritis and various auto-immune diseases. Proponents also point to the growing evidence that long-term inflammation can lead to some cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure and even Alzheimer’s disease.
The key may be in a hormone called prostaglandins. These hormones are produced to regulate our body’s inflammatory response and come from the fats we eat. There is evidence that shows that the types of prostaglandins produced in our body can depend on the types of fat eat. So, in order to adhere to an anti-inflammatory diet, you need to stick with eating “good” fats and avoid “bad” ones.
The thing about the anti-inflammatory diet is, well, it’s not really a diet, per se. Also, it’s not so much about weight loss, even though you are likely to drop a few pounds anyway. The anti-inflammatory dietary approach is mainly about your overall health and preventing inflammatory-based health problems down the line.
The Inflammatory Foods
Let’s start with the foods that are prone to causing inflammation in our bodies. You want to avoid polyunsaturated and partly hydrogenated fats and oils. These lead to the synthesis of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins. There’s no bones about it: you have to try pretty hard to avoid these foods, since most processed foods have the so-called “bad fats.” Basically, just try to avoid packaged foods as much as you can.
The Anti-Inflammatory Foods
The “good fats” have been well documented. They can be found in cold-water fish like mackerel, salmon, sardines, anchovies, and herring. Keep in mind that fish caught from the wild have a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids than farm-raised fish.
Omega-3s can also be found in nuts and seeds, including flaxseed, walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Grains such as lentils, chick peas, brown rice, wheat germ, and oatmeal (not instant) work as well.
Other Anti-Inflammatory Foods
When it comes right down to it, you can fight inflammation with many foods that we already know are healthy for us. For instance, many fruits and vegetables have anti-inflammatory characteristics. Your best choices are: blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, cantaloupe, apples, kiwi fruit, mango, carrots, squash, sweet potato, spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
The beauty of following an anti-inflammatory diet is that it’s not just about preventing pain and suffering, you can relieve existing problems as well. For instance, you can see a reduction in arthritis pain, improved digestion, and lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. There’s even a chance you can relieve symptoms from depression.
February 11th, 2011