Inflammation is part of the body’s defense system so it is essential to the healing process. Without it, injuries and simple infections could be deadly. But too much of a good thing can be dangerous. Chronic low grade inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, cancer and dementia.
So what’s the challenge? The average American diet contains too many foods that are rich in omega- 6 fatty acids which are found in processed and fast foods as well as corn fed beef and chicken. At the same time we are severely deficient in omega-3 fats which are found primarily in fatty fish, flax seed, chia seeds and walnuts. When these two fatty acids are out of balance, inflammation is the result.
Also, the right balance of phytochemicals or plant based natural chemicals, are believed to help reduce inflammation.
8 Top Tips for an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- Eat as close to nature as you can which means avoiding processed food and prepackaged food. It’s best to frequent farmer’s markets and farm stands whenever we can rather than the inner aisles of the grocery store. Be wary of prepackaged food and make sure you read labels.
- Eat more fish, especially fatty fish. Salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel are great sources of omega 3 fats. Eating wild fish 3 or 4 times a week is a good goal.
- Eat meat sparingly. When you do consume it, look for lean meat from free-range or grass-fed animals because the muscles of corn fed animals contain substantial amounts of pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid, which is the precursor of omega-6’s pro inflammatory activity.
- Eat plenty of high fiber fruits and vegetables, and eat organic as much as you can afford to. Check out EWG.org for some good guidelines on buying organic. Fruits and veggies are amazingly nutrient dense and a great source of antioxidants and polyphenol flavonoids which will help to dampen an overactive immune system.
- Use more herbs and spices to flavor food. When you use more flavoring in preparing food you can reduce the use of salt which in high amounts can alter your acid-alkaline balance which may influence the development of chronic inflammation. Many herbs including turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, garlic, cayenne and black pepper have anti-inflammatory qualities.
- Choose the right oils. Common cooking oils like safflower, soy, sunflower, corn, and cottonseed are controversial. Some scientists say these oils which are primarily omega-6 fats promote inflammation while others don’t agree. One thing they do agree about is the need to stay away from partially hydrogenated fats. Cold-pressed organic canola, coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil are your best bets because they are low in omega-6 fats.
- Snack on seeds and nuts because they are a great source of omega-3’s, fiber, vitamin E and plant sterols. Recently the New England Journal of Medicine published a research study that demonstrated a very clear relationship between regularly eating a handful of nuts and lower risk of death from heart disease.
- Strictly limit sugars and sugary foods because they are actually anti-nutrients. They use up vitamins that are needed to metabolize them, in particular vitamin B1. In addition, a spike in blood sugar after consumption of sugary foods increases levels of inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Refined grains, like white bread, rice and processed cereals cause the same blood sugar surge because consuming them is just like eating right out of the sugar bowl.
The Anti-inflammatory approach to eating is not a diet to lose weight but a very health approach which can lead to weight loss. It is ideal for overall good health and a great eating plan for life.