We often hear about anti-inflammatory foods, and we’ve seen the phrase enough times to know that they’re good for us, but why?
Why do we experience inflammation, and how do certain foods negate the effects of this problem?
To help us answer this question, we got in touch with registered dietitian, Suzie Cromwell from the Elaho Medical Clinic in Squamish. Here’s her scoop on the causes of inflammation, and the importance of anti-inflammatory foods for a healthy diet!
What is inflammation?
There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation is short-term, and a healthy response when fending off bacteria, viruses, parasites, or injury. Some typical symptoms are localized heat, redness, swelling, pain and loss of function. This is the body’s immune system reacting to fight off foreign bacteria. This typically lasts a few days to weeks.
Chronic inflammation is a constant low-grade level of inflammation. It’s a result of exposure to environmental chemicals/toxins, high stress, a sedentary lifestyle, sleep deprivation, genetic factors, or a diet high in processed foods. Instead of a short-term, localized, site-specific area that the body fights as in acute inflammation, chronic inflammation is a long, mild, whole-body grind. Evidence suggests that over time chronic inflammation may contribute to chronic diseases including cardiovascular, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, psychological disorders, and many forms of cancer.
Why are anti-inflammatory foods important?
Making adjustments to some basic lifestyle behaviours, such as sleep, hygiene, stress management, reducing environmental contaminants, and consuming an anti-inflammatory diet, help to reduce inflammation in the body. Studies have shown that following an anti-inflammatory diet that is high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, healthy oils, and fish, appears to reduce inflammation and the risk of inflammation-related diseases. It also supports an ideal weight and promotes healthy intestinal flora.
These types of foods are high in fibre, provide a variety of antioxidants and phytochemicals from plant-based sources, are low in trans and saturated fats, and are limited in added sugar, processed and manufactured foods. Managing and optimizing modifiable risk factors can reduce inflammation and cellular damage.
Here’s a list of some our favourite anti-inflammatory foods:
Oily fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines, can help reduce the effects of inflammation if these fish are cooked in healthy ways, and eaten a few times per week. If you can’t stand the taste of fish, consider fish-oil supplements, which pack in a healthy dose of the good stuff without you having to endure that fishy taste.
Try the Honey Mustard Basil Salmon
Dark, leafy greens
Many dark leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and collards, are high in vitamin E, an antioxidant with superior anti-inflammatory properties. These tasty veggies can be used in everything from your morning smoothie, to your evening stir-fry or salad.
Try the Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad with Tahini Dressing
Raw unsalted nuts, such as almonds or walnuts, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and improve brain health. Choose an ounce of nuts as your afternoon snack, or sprinkle a small helping over your salad to add a crunchy anti-inflammatory boost.
Try the Orange Walnut Chard Salad
We’ve been throwing turmeric into anything and everything we can–golden milk, anyone? But turmeric isn’t just some trendy spice with a pretty hue; it’s a potent anti-inflammatory fighter. It gets its boost from a nutrient called carcumin, which can be more easily absorbed by your system when paired with black pepper.
Try the Vegan Coconut Curry over Quinoa
Many beans have been highly regarded as healthy attributes to an anti-inflammatory diet; however, soy is a particularly potent tool through its ability to reduce C-reactive protein, which has been linked to coronary artery disease. Another way that soy reduces inflammation is by simply providing a meat-free alternative to many meat-heavy inflammatory meals.
Try Spiced Edamame
Sweet Potatoes are terrifically helpful in supporting your body with healthy skin, immune health, heart health, as well as reducing inflammation. These spuds are packed with vitamins, including vitamins C and E, and carotenoids, like alpha and beta-carotene, both of which are helpful in fighting inflammation.
Try the Sweet Potato and Chickpea Buddha Bowl
You probably already know that ginger had some major health capabilities, but did you know that anti-inflammation was one of them? Even when used in relatively small quantities, this potent anti-inflammatory has been linked to lowering post-exercise inflammation, and to a reduction of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Try the Immune Boost Juicing Recipe
Don’t you feel better now that you actually know what we’re talking about when you read about the anti-inflammatory benefits of what you’re eating? Thought so. If you’ve got a question you’d like to ask our registered dietitian Suzie, let us know in the comments or send me an email. Have a healthy January, everyone!