Chronic disease is on the rise in America and has been for many years. A diet full of processed foods, red meat, chemicals and more are drastically changing the American gut microbiome and immune system.
Long-term cultural and lifestyle changes are needed to combat this deadly rise in chronic disease. And at the very root of the problem is one symptom: inflammation.
What exactly is inflammation? Inflammation is one of the body’s natural defense mechanisms. When we are injured or sick, our immune system sends a plethora of white blood cells to combat the injury and protect the body from more harm. Symptoms such as swelling and warmth around an injury are signs that our body is doing its job. However, sometimes our immune systems overreact, due to an imbalance in our diet or lymphatic systems and instead of protecting us, our body begins to attack its own cells. It is only when inflammation becomes chronic that painful conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, chronic joint pain and dementia begin to arise.
How can we heal it?
While there are many different medications and methods for controlling inflammation, the one most overlooked and even disregarded is simple: diet. Food has always had the ability to heal us naturally. Certain foods contain natural anti-inflammatory compounds that can stop chronic inflammation and even heal the damage that has been done. It comes as no surprise that an anti-inflammatory diet contains many of the things any health expert would recommend – lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish, and fresh herbs and spices. And while traditional medication and treatment has its place, becoming more mindful of what we eat and drink can reap untold benefits for our overall health.
Below is a list of the top 8 anti-inflammatory foods you can incorporate into your diet to begin healing today.
Top 8 Anti-Inflammatory Foods
1. Turmeric – You may use turmeric already as a spice in your food or perhaps you have only seen it in the aisles of your grocery store. Used for centuries as a medicine to treat various maladies in India, Turmeric has recently come to light as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Specifically curcumin, a compound found only in the spice, may act to reduce inflammation in the body. So add it to your dinner, or make some golden tea – this spice is a friendly agent against chronic inflammation.
2. Fatty Fish – Fatty fish is your friend and the average American does not get enough of it. Fish oils contain Omega-3 fatty acids which are notorious for their inflammation fighting properties. They also lubricate joints and pad the brain for optimum wellness. So add a serving of salmon, sardines, ormackerel at least twice a week.
3. Berries – Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries – Berries contain an antioxidant called anthocyanin. These have anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce inflammation, boost immunity and reduce your risk of disease.
4. Cruciferous greens – Eating lots of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a decreased risk for heart disease and cancer. Greens like broccoli, kale and spinach are inflammation’s worst enemy. So sauté them, juice them or eat them raw – These greens are powerful!
5. Avocados – Avocados are a true superfood that pack a serious punch of nutrients while lowering inflammation response in the body. They are packed with potassium, magnesium and heart healthy fats. Avocado toast, anyone?
6. Green Tea – Green tea has been a staple in many countries of Asia for centuries and has recently become more popular in the West for its powerful health benefits. It reduces inflammation and inhibits damage to the fatty acids in your cells. One cup of green tea a day is a great addition to any anti-inflammation diet.
7. Dark Chocolate – Dark chocolate contains a powerful antioxidant known as flavonoids. These reduce inflammation, particularly in the arteries which can lead to chronic heart disease. Plus, it’s delicious. However, make sure you are consuming chocolate with at least 70% cocoa for maximum benefit.
8. Olive Oil – Extra virgin olive oil is one of the most heart-healthy fats you can eat. A staple of the Mediterranean diet, studies have linked olive oil to a reduced risk of heart disease, brain cancer and other chronic health conditions. So, swap out your generic vegetable oil for healthy olive oil.
Foods To Avoid
While adding the foods listed above can help fight chronic inflammation, it is only when inflammation-causing foods are eliminated that the true healing can begin. Some of the top offenders are:
- refined carbohydrates
- sugar and high fructose corn syrup
- processed meats
- fried food
These highly processed foods spike blood sugar levels, line the arteries and create an acidic environment that our immune system fights to control. Try diminishing or eliminating these foods from your diet to see the maximum benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet. A healthy balanced diet is the single best first defense against chronic inflammation. Incorporating foods high in healthy oils and antioxidants is a surefire way to calm your overactive immune system and begin to repair the damage done by years of unhealthy habits.
Become mindful of what you eat and your body will thank you for it.