Even with modern advancements in medicine, there seems to be a rise in the number of people affected by arthritis, heart disease, asthma, cancer, amongst others. Many scientists acknowledge that these diseases affect the general population to a higher degree than it did decades ago. According to WHO (World Health Organization), noncommunicable diseases is the leading cause of death for people around the world.
WHO has named poor diet, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption as some of the main factors that have led to the higher incidences of these diseases. While you are advised to quit smoking and drinking, there hasn’t been a lot of focus placed on providing information on the kind of foods that they should be taking. In particular, the power of anti-inflammatory foods in transforming one’s health has grossly been underrated.
What Is The Role Of Inflammation In The Body?
Even though there are many diseases caused by inflammation, inflammation is actually an important bodily function. It is an important part of the body’s immune response. It helps the body get rid of damaged cells, harmful stimuli, irritants, and pathogens.
When these harmful elements and irritants are detected, white cells and other important substances are deployed to that part of the body. Blood flow may increase in the area to ensure hormones, white blood cells, and nutrients are delivered to the affected area. As a result, you may notice redness and swelling. Without inflammation, wounds would become septic and infections would be difficult to contain.
However, inflammation is not always beneficial to the body. Science tells us that it is the root cause of many common diseases. Inflammation can generally be categorized into two; Acute and chronic.
- Acute: Inflammation progresses rapidly and may quickly become severe. It may clear within a few days or may extend to a few weeks.
- Chronic: Chronic inflammation is long-term and can last for months and even years. It often happens when the immune system cannot get rid of the irritant, when the irritant persists at low levels in the body, or when the immune system begins to attack tissues in the body.
Acute inflammation may cause flu, sore throat, tonsillitis and bronchitis. Chronic inflammation may be responsible for even more serious conditions such as arthritis, cancer, Crohn’s disease, and chronic active hepatitis amongst other diseases. An autoimmune disorder happens when the body decides to reject its own cells and tissues. Some of the more common immune disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, vitiligo, and systemic lupus erythematosus. For diseases that are not autoimmune, the body responds to pathogens and irritants, but in a way that is not properly controlled and regulated. Some of the diseases that are not autoimmune may include tonsillitis and asthma.
Scientists and medical practitioners acknowledge that nutrition can help manage and even cure most of these diseases. However, some studies show that dietary recommendations by medical practitioners are still underdeveloped. This happens even after the patients request dietary recommendations from their doctors.
What Can An Anti-Inflammatory Food Diet Do?
One of the best ways to combat inflammation and the diseases that come with it is through diet. It has been noted that some of the foods that cause inflammation also cause heart disease and diabetes. Some of these foods include refined carbohydrates, carbonated drinks, and a number of processed foods. These foods facilitate the underlying mechanisms that trigger and sustain inflammation in the body. They also limit the body’s ability to control infections, contain allergies and reduce the risk of cancer.
To adopt and anti-inflammatory diet, you need to avoid processed foods and start taking a well-balanced diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables. You will also need to avoid or reduce the consumption of red meats, processed carbohydrates, and foods with a lot of additives.
For the best results you need to consider foods with the following:
- Antioxidants: Are known to protect cells from free radicals and reduce inflammation by reducing oxidation in the body.
- Minerals: An important element in the regulation of inflammation.
- Essential Fatty Acids: Fatty acids are an important part of the functional response of cells to inflammation.
Top 16 Anti-Inflammatory Foods
There are some important changes you can make to your diet to reduce your risk of succumbing to one of the diseases caused by inflammation. Taking small consistent steps is generally more realistic and easier to implement.
You can start by replacing some of the foods in your diet that will secure your body from diseases at a cellular level. Here are some of the best non-inflammatory foods you can incorporate into your diet.
- Bok Choy
Bok Choy which is sometimes referred to as Chinese cabbage is one of the most nutrient-rich vegetables you can find. It has important phytonutrients that can fight inflammation in the body. It has omega 3 fatty acids which fight inflammation at the cellular level and other important substances such as alpha-linolenic acid which also helps to contain inflammation. Bok Choy has minerals that can help regulate blood pressure and has sulfur-containing compounds that can keep cancer at bay.
- Green Leafy Vegetables
Everyone knows that you need green leafy vegetables in your diet to stay healthy. What most people take for granted is that these vegetables contain important anti-inflammatory flavonoids and antioxidants that keep many diseases at bay. These vegetables can also help you stay healthy and help with weight loss. The U.S Department of Agriculture recommends three cups of green leafy vegetables each week.
Some of the top green leafy vegetables you should add to your diet include:
- Kale: Rich in vitamin A, C, and K and important phytonutrients.
- Spinach: Rich in flavonoid compounds which work together to fight cancer in the body it is also rich in vitamin A, C, and B9.
- Swiss Chard: Rich in antioxidants and contains important nutrients that can keep coronary artery disease at bay. It is also rich in calcium and can reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Beet is one food that can help fight inflammation at the cellular level. It is known to have the capacity to protect cells, enzymes from external stress. It contains important antioxidants that can keep diseases at bay. One of the most important antioxidant in beet, betalain gives it its signature color. It is also rich in magnesium and potassium which also help to fight inflammation in the body.
Lab studies have shown that beet is effective in lessening cell tumor growth. It does this by inhibiting enzymes that facilitate inflammation in the colon, lung, breast, and testicular tissue.
Avocado is rich in vitamins and minerals and is one of the most effective foods in containing inflammation and protecting you from a wide range of diseases. It contains monosaturated fat and helps to maintain a high ratio of good (HDL) cholesterol to bad cholesterol. The potassium in avocados helps to uphold normal blood pressure in the body, and lutein is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. It is also known to increase the bioavailability of carotenoids which also reduces the risk of getting inflammatory diseases.
This is one of the most nutritious vegetables that you can add to your diet. Broccoli has a great reputation as an agent that can keep diseases at bay because its anti-inflammatory properties are known to be particularly potent. It contains important phytonutrients such as sulforaphane which is an anti-cancer agent that facilitates the removal of harmful carcinogens from the body. Despite its high nutrient content and its numerous health benefits, some people choose to stay away from Broccoli because it has a bland taste. However, you should try different methods of preparation to find what works best for you.
Celery is one of the vegetables that is often overlooked thanks to the fact that it contains 95% water. However, not only is celery a good low-calorie vegetable you can add to your diet, but it contains important antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that can help keep diseases at bay. It helps to lower inflammation, fight bacterial infections, regulate blood pressure and check your cholesterol level.
It contains vitamin c and flavonoids in addition to other important antioxidants. Some of its additional antioxidants like psoralen are useful in protecting organs, cells, and tissues from oxidative damage.
Pineapple is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory fruits. It contains an enzyme bromelain which controls inflammation and has been known to help treat bruises, wounds, and cuts. The anti-inflammatory potency of bromelain is considered to be more potent than what is found in most prescription medications. The enzymes in pineapple help to facilitate the breakdown of protein.
Pineapples are nutrient rich fruits, containing Vitamin B1, Vitamin C, potassium, and manganese. Some of the phytonutrients found in pineapple can work with important elements found in medication to reduce symptoms of common diseases.
- Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin c and also contain other important minerals such as potassium and calcium. They are also known to contain properties that help to reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer and other inflammatory diseases.
Sweet potatoes are also known to be very rich in beta carotene. One cup of sweet potatoes contains about three times the recommended daily intake. Beta-carotene protects the cells from damage and also plays a role in slowing down the aging process. It also contains Cyanidin which protects the gut from dangerous toxins. Thanks to these helpful substances sweet potatoes can help reduce the risk of diabetes, asthma, and arthritis.
Blueberries are a low-calorie food with many benefits and can protect from diseases like dementia and cancer. It is rich in phytonutrients that provide strong anti-inflammatory benefits. One important flavonoid antioxidant is quercetin.
Quercetin is one of the most abundant antioxidants in the human diet. It helps to fight the effects of aging and inflammation and to protect the cell from free radical damage. Blueberries are also rich in fiber which helps to promote gut health, reduce constipation, and control blood sugar levels by controlling the absorption of glucose in the body.
Walnuts are not only nutrient rich they also contain nutrients that are difficult to find in other foods. The vitamin E in walnuts is in an unusual form. Vitamin E in the form that is present in walnuts is known to prevent the risk of heart disease. It also contains unsaturated fats which can help keep the levels of bad cholesterol down. It is also rich in fiber, and omega 3 fatty acids both of which play a role in reducing inflammatory effects in the body.
Salmon is a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids which help to fight inflammation at the cellular level. Eating salmons twice or thrice a week can provide the required quantities of omega 3 fatty acids. Salmon also contains bioactive peptides which control inflammation in the digestive tract and improves insulin effectiveness. Thanks to its omega 3 fatty acids and other important bioactive compounds, it can reduce the risk of cancer. Arthritis, heart diseases and also improves the brain’s memory and cognitive performance.
- Coconut oil
Coconut oil contains fatty acids that are potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agents in the body. Some of the fatty acids present include capric acid, caproic acid, caprylic acids and lauric acid. These compounds are called medium chain fatty acids and are unique in that they are metabolized in the liver instead of the bile like many other types of fatty acids.
Lauric acid is amongst the most potent of the acids. Combined with capric acid it forms an even more powerful compound that can control the levels of interleukins in the body which is a substance that promotes inflammation. Its powerful oxidative properties make it suitable for containing the negative effects of osteoporosis.
- Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are not only considered to be a super-food by present day scientists, but even Aztec warriors in ancient times considered it to be an important source of energy that they needed before going to battle. It is rich in protein, fatty acid, and dietary fiber.
It is a good source of omega 3 fatty acids and helps to regulate blood pressure, lower bad cholesterol, and prevent inflammation at the cellular level. Its combination of omega 3 fatty acids and fiber makes one of the most suitable foods in promoting heart health.
Chia seeds also contain important nutrients that can help contain inflammation such as vitamins A, E, D, and B as well as other minerals that promote overall health such as magnesium, manganese, niacin, iron, iodine, amongst others.
Rosemary is an herb that not only helps to reduce inflammation and to keep inflammatory diseases at bay but also has a wide range of important benefits. It contains two important anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds namely Carnosic and Carnosol acid which helps to reduce inflammation in the joints, blood vessels, and muscle. It helps to prevent diseases like arthritis, gout and also regulates blood pressure.
Rosemary also has anti-bacterial properties that help to reduce the risk of stomach ulcers. Its anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties make it potent in fighting pathogens that can pose a risk to your immune system. Studies have also shown that it can influence neuropathways positively to boost memory and cognitive performance.
Ginger has a complex phytochemistry which gives it powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Its anti-inflammatory compounds which are referred collectively as gingerols have been known to be effective in reducing pain and facilitating mobility for people with arthritis. In a study of more than 240 people, ginger was found to be effective in treating knee pain for people with osteoarthritis compared to the control group.
Ginger has the capacity to activate certain enzymes that reduce inflammation in the colon and in effect reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. The other benefits of ginger include, reduce heart disease risk factors, combat chronic indigestion, and it has a positive effect on the brain.
Turmeric is herb which is native to India. For thousands of years, traditional herbalists recognized its wide range of health benefits. Curcumin gives turmeric its yellow color and is also the main active ingredient that contains the important anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. Its powerful anti-inflammatory compounds are strong enough to match some prescription medications and it has the potential to fight diseases such as IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), arthritis, pancreatic and certain types of cancer.
The active compound curcumin is relatively low in pure turmeric. Some people opt to buy supplements with the extract. However, you can boost its bioavailability in the body by pairing it with black pepper. A study demonstrated that adding black pepper boosted its bioavailability by 2000%. It also helps to improve curcumin concentration and extend the absorption in both animal and human studies.
What to Avoid: Foods that Promote Inflammation
Scientists now acknowledge that inflammation causes a wide range of diseases. The risk of these diseases can be reduced by adopting the right diet. Even though there are a number of foods and herbs that can prevent inflammation, on the other hand, there are some foods which will promote chronic inflammation thus leaving you prone to a wide range of diseases. It is advisable to limit or eliminate altogether some of these foods from your diet.
This is perhaps one of the biggest contributors to inflammation in modern diets. When the body cannot breakdown excess sugar, it creates room for the proliferation of compounds called cytokines. High consumption of sugar weakens the immune system and leaves you prone to diseases. Try and avoid candy, snack bars, chocolate bars and soda, all of which can have very high amounts of sugar.
Studies show that saturated fats contribute to the inflammation of adipose tissue. It can increase the risk of heart disease and other inflammatory diseases. Some of the foods that contain include cheese, pizza, chicken dishes, and dairy desserts.
Omega 6 Fatty Acids
The body needs omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids in the right proportion. Too much of the omega 6 fatty acids can promote inflammation.
Refined carbohydrates are some of the biggest contributors to inflammation. They lead to a dramatic rise in blood sugar because they are easy to over consume and they get quickly into the bloodstream. Refined carbs directly contribute to obesity and increase the risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
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