We hear a lot about “inflammation” and the importance of consuming “anti-inflammatory” foods, but we wanted to highlight and define what they actually mean.
One popular misconception is that all inflammation is bad, but this isn’t always the case. After a bee sting, for instance, acute inflammation occurs by the sting becoming red and swollen to help the body heal. Eventually, the sting stops being red and swollen as a result of this inflammation, which is completely normal and welcome.
It’s chronic inflammation that we don’t want, and is the type that healthcare professionals warn about. Instead of the immune response decreasing as the healing progresses, the immune system stays on, which can cause a variety of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and depression.
Diet plays a major role in chronic inflammation, with the following being some of the more influential triggers:
- Sugar – candy, desserts, baked goods, and syrups
- Trans fats – foods doused in hydrogenated oils, fried foods, and processed baked goods
- Refined carbohydrates – white bread, white rice, and any processed carbohydrates
- Saturated fats – fatty beef, lamb, pork, and unskinned poultry
While we don’t advocate for cutting all of those foods entirely out of your diet, we wanted to note that the typical Western diet is full of those foods and is therefore a likely culprit for inflammation and the high chronic disease prevalence in America. Simply put, unhealthy foods worsen intestinal permeability, negatively impact hormonal balance, and contribute to severe nutritional deficiencies. Inflammation can also be caused by unknowingly consuming foods you’re allergic to, such as people who consume bread with gluten allergies and who drink milk with dairy allergies, explaining how dairy, grains and food additives are proven causes of chronic inflammation.
Simply put, you are what you eat. If you want to reduce your risk of inflammation, one sure-fire way to do so is to make your diet anti-inflammatory. Generally, good anti-inflammatory foods include those rich with Omega-3 fats, fiber, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and beta-carotene. Here are some of the foods we recommend:
- Fruits and vegetables, especially those that are full of carotenoids (carrots and cantaloupes) and Vitamin C (citrus fruits and strawberries)
- Salmon, sardines, walnuts, and flax seeds to boost your Omega-3 levels
- Avocados, sunflower seeds, and almonds to boost levels of Vitamin E and healthy fats
- Extra virgin olive oil instead of trans and saturated fats
- Garlic, ginger, turmeric, and rosemary as anti-inflammatory supplements
Essentially, if possible try to eat a diet full of whole and plant-based foods, such as pasture-raised meat and poultry, sweet potatoes, and seafood while of course making sure to exercise and keep your stress in check.
If you’re looking for additional support in creating a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet, reach out to our providers at GritWell. Your health is our top priority so don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected] to speak with the GritWell care team and one of our health practitioners.
About the Author
Katie Sullivan Morford is a food writer and a registered dietician with a master’s degree in clinical nutrition. In addition to the work on her blog, Mom’s Kitchen Handbook, she is regularly involved in making recipes, teaching cooking and nutrition classes, consulting, and writing for magazines and newspapers. She is also the author of three cookbooks, PREP: The Essential College Cookbook (Roost Books, 2019), Rise and Shine: Better Breakfasts for Busy Mornings (Roost Books, 2016) and Best Lunch Box Ever (Chronicle Books), which was an IACP awards finalist. For more information about her work and to visit the original blog post, see this page.