Inflammation is a reaction from the immune system to an irritant to the body. The most common causes of inflammation are pathogens (such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi), external injuries, or chemicals. There are five signs and symptoms that indicate inflammation which are redness, heat, swelling, pain, and loss of function/movement. Not all these symptoms will always be present or you could have inflammation internally that is not visible.
Chronic conditions that cause inflammation can have various uncomfortable and painful symptoms. Many common diseases such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s have been associated with chronic inflammation. The good news is that you may be able to reduce inflammation in your body with diet modifications.
According to Dr. Frank Hu from the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, “Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects”. He recommends following an overall healthy diet or a Mediterranean diet. Avoiding processed foods is key. The Mediterranean diet promotes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils. A healthy diet is important to overall well-being, can reduce your risk of diseases, and improve your quality of life.
An anti-inflammatory diet should include whole foods that come from the earth and are not processed such as:
- Fruits such as berries and oranges
- Vegetables such as spinach, kale, tomatoes, and collards
- Fatty fish containing omega-3 such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna
- Olive oil
These foods contain antioxidants and/or have anti-inflammatory properties. Antioxidants help prevent cancer and other diseases. The main objective of a healthy diet that will reduce inflammation is to consume natural whole foods and avoid processed foods.
Foods That Cause Inflammation
As previously stated, foods that are processed should be avoided. Dr. Hu says that “Foods that have been associated with an increased risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease are also associated with excess inflammation…It’s not surprising, since inflammation is an important underlying mechanism for the development of these diseases”. These same foods are also associated with weight gain and obesity which are risk factors for inflammation. Foods that cause inflammation and should be avoided include:
- Refined carbohydrates (white bread, pastries, french fries)
- Fried foods
- Soda and other beverages containing a lot of sugar
- Red meat and processed meats
- Margarine, shortening, and lard
Inflammation is associated with many medical conditions. You can help reduce inflammation in your body by consuming a healthy diet containing unprocessed whole foods. It is key that you avoid processed and packaged foods because they can cause inflammation in the body.
Foods that fight inflammation. Harvard Health. (2021, November 16). Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation