Inflammation. Chronic inflammation. Pain, stiffness, fatigue, depression, gastric distress and more…. Lots of people suffer from low-grade inflammation and they don’t even know it. Countless books, articles and the latest research now recognize inflammation as the “underlying cause of a significant number of diseases.” (Dr. Tanya Edwards, director of the Center for Integrative Medicine).
There are two kinds of inflammation.
First, there’s acute inflammation. This is a short-term response such as a high fever or the swelling of a twisted ankle. This type of inflammation is a normal immune response that’s naturally released when the body is subjected to an injury of some kind, or exposed to toxins, bacteria, viruses or parasites. Once the initial injury recedes, the body can begin the healing process and inflammation is no longer necessary.
On the other hand, chronic inflammation is an ongoing, harmful process which acts like a slow-burning fire, continuously stimulating pro-inflammatory immune cells to attack healthy areas of your body.
Chronic inflammation can occur everywhere in the body and can last for months or even years if we don’t eliminate its root cause and make changes in our lifestyle.
Chronic inflammation has been linked to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, asthma, diabetes and cancer just to name a few.
Research shows that a significant contributor to chronic inflammation comes from what we eat!
Pro – inflammatory foods
- Sugar: baked sweets, candy, soda, snack bars, sweetened coffee drinks (sorry, Starbucks).
- Vegetable oils: soy, corn, sunflower, safflower, canola, palm oil and everything that’s been frying or injected with these, such as potato chips, crackers, salad dressings, sauces, mayo etc.
- Trans fats: fried foods, fast foods, margarine, doughnuts, muffins
- Refined flour and products: pizza, pasta, pretzels, bagels, breakfast cereals etc.
- Artificial sweeteners and additives: “diet” drinks containing aspartame (Equal), sucralose (Splenda), saccharin (Sweet’n Low), or juices/snacks containing high fructose corn syrup, sucrose etc.
- Conventional meat and dairy: more on this in another article, but aim for grass-fed, organic cuts of meat and consume only organic dairy like kefir and goat/sheep yogurt (if tolerated).
Ok, so you’re probably thinking: what is there left to eat? Let’s look at some of the foods that are packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants and that are proven to reduce it.
Anti-inflammatory Foods #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries
Why save the best for last? Perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods are a sweet favourite of yours?
Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fiber, and antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese).
Oh, and did I forget to mention their phytochemicals (phyto=plant)? Yes, many antioxidants such as “anthocyanins” and “resveratrol” are found in these small and delicious fruits.
In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.
Anti-inflammatory Foods #2: Broccoli and Peppers
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant “sulforaphane.” This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.
Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and quercetin.
Just make sure to choose red peppers over the other colours. Peppers that are any other colour are not fully ripe and won’t have the same anti-inflammatory effect.
I pack these two super-healthy vegetables together in this week’s recipe (see below).
Anti-inflammatory Foods #3: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, fatty fish, chia, flax)
Fat can be terribly inflammatory (hello: “trans” fats), neutral (hello: saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory (hello: “omega-3s), this is why choosing the right fats is so important for your health.
The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, including omega-3s. These are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
Opt for fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, small fish (e.g. sardines and mackerel), and wild fish (e.g. salmon). Oh and don’t forget the omega-3 seeds like chia, hemp, and flax.
Anti-inflammatory Food #4: Green Tea
Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG.
EGCG is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer’s.
Drinking steeped green tea is great, but have you tried matcha green tea? It’s thought to contain even higher levels of antioxidants than regular green tea.
Anti-inflammatory Food #5 – Turmeric
Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing spice turmeric?
Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin.
This compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, as well as have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties.
I’ve added it to the broccoli and pepper recipe below for a 1-2-3 punch, to kick that inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants (namely “flavonols”). These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy. They’ve even been shown to prevent “neuro-inflammation” (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory, and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke.
Make sure you avoid the sugary “candy bars.” You already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!
There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious anti-inflammatory foods you can choose. They range from colourful berries, vegetables, and spices, to healthy fats, and even cocoa.
You have so many reasons to add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet to get your daily dose of “anti-inflammation.”
Recipe: Anti-inflammatory Turmeric Quinoa Casserole
¾ cup dry quinoa (pre-rinsed)
2 tbsp coconut oil,
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 dash salt
½ tbsp turmeric
1 dash black pepper
2 cups broccoli, chopped
In a saucepan place 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the quinoa and simmer until the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).
Melt coconut oil in a skillet. Add diced onions, turmeric, pepper and salt, and lightly sauté for a few minutes.
Add broccoli and lightly sauté for 5-6 minutes, until it becomes softened.
Add the cooked quinoa and stir everything together.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Add some cayenne pepper or curry spice for an extra spicy kick.