Food to help reduce and prevent chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is one of the body’s natural immune responses to injury, irritation and infection and without it we can’t heal. Acute inflammation occurs immediately after an injury to protect the body and control infection. Later stages of inflammation work to re-grow damaged tissue and start the healing process. Chronic inflammation is an over-response which can last from months to years and when it’s out of control it can lead to further damage to the body, cause you pain, stiffness and swelling from lingering injuries and conditions.
Chronic inflammation can have a knock on effect on your daily activities and seriously hamper your normal training and fitness regimes.
It is worth bearing in mind that in certain cases chronic inflammation in the body can be linked to heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes. Keeping the inflammatory levels low in your body can help lower your risk of developing these illnesses.
Coupled with other treatments and therapies there are powerful natural steps that you can take to help fight chronic inflammation. By making changes to your regular diet you can help to control the inflammatory levels in your body. There are plenty of foods that help fight inflammation but first we must look at the foods we need to cut back on.
Foods that can promote chronic inflammation
There are specific food groups that can increase inflammation levels in your body so be sure to check the packaging on all processed foods and aim to cut down on the following:
These are mainly found in and from animal products, palm oil and coconut oil. Swap for small amounts of unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). Saturated fats can promote inflammation and cause over activity of the immune system. This can lead to joint pain, fatigue and damage blood vessels.
Trans fats and partially hydrogenated fats or oils are found in various types of processed foods, fried foods, some baked foods and margarine. Many food manufacturers have removed trans fats from their products, but be sure to check.
Omega-6 fats – Although we need this for normal growth and development. The body needs a healthy balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Over consumption of omega-6 fatty acids promotes inflammation. These can be found in corn, soybean oil, safflower, sunflower oils, mayonnaise and many salad dressings.
Simple and refined carbohydrates
Foods that are high in sugar (simple carbohydrates) can trigger the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Look out for the sweeteners especially those ending in “ose” e.g. fructose or sucrose. Avoid sugary drinks as these can spike up your blood sugar levels. Foods high in refined carbohydrates are found in sugary foods such as fruit juices, sodas, cakes, biscuits, most cereals, crackers, bread, white rice, jams and many more (read the ingredients).
Foods that are high in natural ant-inflammatory properties
The following foods are believed to help fight inflammation:
Apart from green tea being a great antioxidant, its high content of catechins help to ward off inflammation. It also contains other properties that are believed to help lower cholesterol and lower your risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases. Some people find green tea a little bitter and add lemon juice to zap it up.
For protein try switching your red meat for fatty oily fish. Salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and anchovy contain high contents of omega -3 essential fatty acids and vitamin D which helps to reduce inflammation. Omega-3 is also good for helping to lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Brightly Coloured Fruit and Vegetables
Fresh fruit and vegetables are best for their nutritional value. Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables are loaded with natural plant chemicals called phytochemicals that can prevent and even reverse the inflammatory process. Generally fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants such as flavonoids, carotenoids and vitamins A, C and E. Foods high in these antioxidants and enzymes help to reduce inflammation. Frozen vegetables are ok but avoid the tinned products.
Hot picks for fruit are pineapple which is packed with an enzyme called Bromelain which breaks down bad proteins which cause inflammation. Apricots, papaya, pomegranates, red grapes, berries are all rich in enzymes and flavonoids which also help fight inflammation.
The tart Cherry (believed to be a wonder fruit) delivers a unique powerful dose of anti-inflammatory compounds. They contain high levels of anthocyanins which can help to reduce pain from arthritis and post-exercise soreness. Try tart dried cherries and tart cherry juice.
Hot picks for vegetables are leafy greens such as and kale and spinach which have high concentrations of vitamins, calcium and iron which can all help fight inflammation. Red onions and garlic contain the phytonutrient quercetin and the compound allicin. Other vegetables recommended are broccoli, green beans, asparagus, tomatoes, beetroot, red cabbage, peppers, sprouts and sweet potato.
A healthy alternative to vegetable oil which is great for cooking with and dressing salads. Olive oil is rich in beneficial monounsaturated fat which is good for your heart. It is filled with potent anti-inflammatory chemicals from the olive. The omega-9 fatty acid and olive polyphenols reduce inflammation in cells and joints by lowering blood levels of the C-reactive protein (marker for determining inflammation in the body).
Fresh or Dry Ginger and Turmeric
These are very powerful spices that are widely used for both culinary and medicinal purposes.
Ginger is often used for its potent power to upgrade and boost the quality of your food. It is a good antioxidant and contains a powerful anti- inflammatory chemical.
Turmeric is an old Indian spice with a powerful medicinal compound called Curcumin. It has anti-tumour, anti-arthritis as well as anti-inflammatory properties. It protects the liver from toxins and kills numerous bacteria and yeasts. Add to curries, rice, beans and sauces.
Other tips to reduce chronic inflammation
- If you can’t resist a chocolate treat then go for dark chocolate as it contains flavonoids which can help reduce inflammation or bakers chocolate because it contains less sugar.
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and flush inflammation causing toxins out of your body.
- Avoid excess alcohol and smoking.
- Take regular exercise.
- Manage and reduce stress levels.
Please note that this information is for general guidance only and It is advised that you speak to your doctor if you are concerned about chronic inflammation and have any food allergies or intolerances.