We’ve all heard it before, you are what you eat. There are so many truths to that statement, a few of which we’ve already covered such as gut health. But how else can your diet affect your body, other than your digestive system? The answer may take you by surprise. Inflammation.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is what happens when your body sends white blood cells out to protect you from outside invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. For example, when you get bit by a mosquito, white blood cells rush to the site of the bit to protect the body from any further damage or infection. As a result, around, red, itchy bump forms around the bit. That bump is inflammation. Sometimes the body sends white blood cells to defend tissues in distress against invaders that aren’t there. Obviously, that can become problematic fast. The result is pain, redness, swelling, and general discomfort in a given area of the body. That inflammation can be caused by an injury, tissue irritation, or even disease.
You’re probably familiar with muscle stiffness, swelling, and joint pain. These are basic examples of acute inflammation. It’s short-term, meaning it eventually goes away. But then there are diseases like arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and asthma. The discomfort these afflictions cause are examples of chronic inflammation, aka long-term inflammation that doesn’t go away without some level of treatment.
You’re probably aware that the previously mentioned diseases are relatively easily treated. In fact, they’re very common and you may even live with one. What you may not know is that inflammation, acute or chronic, can be affected by your daily diet, for the better or the worst. In fact, what may blow your mind, even more, is that you probably have few items in your pantry that, if added to your diet, would help reduce any lingering inflammation in your body.
Turmeric is said to reduce inflammation related to diseases like arthritis and diabetes. It has a nutrient in it called curcumin. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory effects and is a powerful antioxidant. Turmeric itself is a common spice used in Indian dishes like curry. If you’re an adventurous cook, the benefits of turmeric should give you a good excuse to venture into Indian cuisine.
Olive oil is a pretty common cooking oil and chances are, you have a bottle of it sitting in your kitchen right now. This oil isn’t just a kitchen staple. It’s a key player in any anti-inflammatory diet. Olive oil is said to reduce inflammation due to it’s full of an antioxidant by the name of oleocanthal. Oleocanthal happens to work similarly to ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug we’re all familiar with. After hearing that you may have a better appreciation of olive oil. The benefits it brings to the table, along with the flavor, justifies incorporating it into your meals when possible.
Fish oil is a very common supplement you can find at just about every drug store. The taste it leaves in your mouth might be off-putting, but it’s worth it. Fish oil is full of Omega-3s, which are beneficial for many reasons, one of those reasons being inflammation reduction. Omega-3s can reduce the production of certain substances released during your body’s
inflammatory response. Supplements aside, those same omega-3s can be found in fatty fish like herring, lake trout, and salmon. That’s why fish is the ideal protein source in an anti-inflammatory diet. You can buy some at your local grocery store or better yet, a fresh fish market.
Now we go from fish to chocolate. What a transition! Everyone loves chocolate. Luckily, chocolate of the dark variety is full of fantastic benefits besides making your taste buds dance. Like olive oil, dark chocolate has antioxidants in it that reduce inflammation. It’s known for helping to reduce inflammation pertaining to the circulatory system, primarily arteries. So now you have an excuse to snack on a little chocolate every now and then. But a friendly reminder, dark chocolate isn’t dark chocolate unless it’s made from 70% cocoa or more. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on all those anti-inflammatory antioxidants.
Foods Known to Cause Inflammation
Some foods can help, others can make things worse if not cause inflammation outright. This food will definitely not surprise you as they’re already notorious for being generally unhealthy.
AVOID the following food types if you’re trying to establish an anti-inflammatory diet:
- fast food
- Refined carbohydrates
- Fried foods
- Sugar-sweetened beverages
- Processed meats
- Trans fats
There you have it. A few simple foods that can help you start your journey towards establishing an anti-inflammatory diet. Plus, you know a few to avoid as well. Whether you’re trying to mitigate the inflammation your body struggles with or not, it is important to consider the long-term benefits an anti-inflammatory heavy diet can have for you. After all, inflammation is a big indicator of disease and overall health.
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