Chronic inflammation is something to take seriously. Here in this comprehensive anti-inflammatory 101 guide you can read about the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle for your long term health. Luckily we have great influence on inflammation through the foods we eat and the conscious choices we can make regarding the way we work and live.
Click here for my Anti-inflammatory Meal Plan Day 1
Normal inflammation is not something that needs to be labeled as “bad”. It is a natural response of our bodies. An immune response occurs when cells are damaged by something foreign. If a cut swells up and turns red it means your body is healing you. Internal inflammation is much harder to recognize, often seen as something “normal” everybody encounters now and then. Think of lack of energy, not being able to lose belly fat, acne, joint pains, dry, red patches on the skin.
Often inflammation inside the body can persist because it is fed by unhealthy outside factors like a poor diet, smoking and stress. When these inflammatory cells keep attacking the healthy ones it turns into chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is now perceived by many health practitioners to be the root cause of serious diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s.
Inflammation enhancing foods are sugar, refined and processed foods, wheat and gluten, trans fats and animal products.
What are the most important foods to add to an anti-inflammatory diet?
Green leafy and cruciferous vegetables are packed with anti-inflammatory properties and are rich in antioxidants. Also veggies like carrots, pumpkins and beets are a wonderful addition to an anti-inflammatory diet. Vegetables and greens should be added to every meal of the day, from breakfast to dinner. The more the better. Eat them raw, slow-cooked, steamed and lightly simmered for the greatest results.
Rich, dark colored foods, deep red and purple like blackberries, red grapes, red cabbage, blueberries,purple potatoes and plums are rich in anthocyanin. Make sure you get in your daily dose of anthocyanins to lower levels of C-reactive protein, a blood marker of inflammation. A half a cup of berries, 18 red grapes or a cup of shredded red cabbage will cover your daily needs and is easy to add.
Omega 3 is a huge one when keeping inflammation at bay. Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation, such as inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines. Studies have shown a connection between higher omega-3 intake and reduced inflammation. Plant based sources of omega 3’s are flax, hemp and chia seeds, walnuts, seaweed, algae, edamame and kidney beans with the seeds and walnuts being the most potent sources.
Also people eating at least 5 1-ounce servings of natural, unsalted nuts a week seem to have lower levels of inflammatory bio-markers.
Spices like turmeric, ginger, hot red peppers and garlic are also highly anti-inflammatory. Curcumin, the compound in turmeric reduces the production of the protein that makes your immune system work overtime. Try adding these spices to your food daily, enjoy some golden milk, a quick ginger shot or a spicy Asian stir fry.
Green tea is a great inflammation-fighter, it is rich in catechins and polyphenols, antioxidant compounds that reduce inflammation. Researchers found that green tea can inhibit oxidative stress and the potential inflammation that may result from it. It is best to get the highest quality and organic when possible, this goes for all of the above.
Yes, dark chocolate is also on this list! In order to reap the anti-inflammatory benefits your chocolate needs to be as high in percentage of cacao as you can get, at least 70%, the 90% range is the one I reach for. Dark chocolate is not something I eat in large amounts, a daily square with a cup of tea or after dinner is perfectly enough. Flavonoid, the extremely potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent in dark chocolate and cocoa can reduce inflammation.
Our lifestyle has a huge impact on inflammation in the body. Getting more exercise or just daily movement like walking, gardening and cleaning has an inflammation lowering effect on the body. Sitting all day is just not what our bodies were designed for and it has a very negative effect on our health.
Less stress, more yoga, meditation or relaxing activities, massages and better sleep are non negotiable for a calmer body and mind. During stressful times there are more measurable inflammation markers racing around in our blood. People who practice yoga at least twice a week for an hour or more have lower interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein, the two key inflammatory markers, compared to those who do not practice or have just started.
This I knew but I did not know that a 45 minute Swedish massage, a gentle, low pressure, tension relieving rub down, can measurably lower the inflammation promoting hormones … after just one massage. Do we need more reasons to get one?!
Diet is a huge part of a healthy lifestyle but you can’t juice away the effects of daily stress or being overworked. It is a whole package.
ps. save this vegan anti-inflammatory checklist to your Pinterest board!