Diet and inflammation

Keeping inflammation at bay through diet.

Inflammation is a necessary phase that occurs throughout the body during the healing process. When our bodies are trying to heal as a result of an injury or exposure to a potentially harmful substance, inflammation must occur in order to repair tissues. For example, inflammation is needed for healing to take place if there is a break in the skin. Redness and swelling are present at the sight of inflammation. This would be considered acute inflammation since the area is only inflamed until healing occurs.

Chronic inflammation happens when the immune system attacks healthy tissues for an extended period of time. Chronic inflammation can be triggered by an infection, allergies, an autoimmune reaction or continuous activation of inflammatory factors in the body. Chronic inflammation is an abnormal process and is not beneficial to our bodies. Inflammation is involved in numerous diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, asthma, tendonitis, bursitis, laryngitis, gingivitis, gastritis, diverticulitis and psoriasis. Chronic inflammation also plays a part in almost all chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, reducing inflammation will not only protect you from chronic disease, but will also increase your energy, improve the look of your hair and skin, improve your mood and improve your exercise capacity. By making some diet and lifestyle changes, you have the power to decrease inflammation in your body.

Some foods turn inflammation on while others turn it off. The amount of anti-inflammatory foods needed to produce the benefits is yet to be established; therefore it is important to eat a variety of anti-inflammatory foods throughout the week. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics research suggests that anti-inflammatory compounds are present in foods such as fatty fish, berries and tart cherry juice, to name a few.

As listed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, anti-inflammatory nutrients include:

  • Fiber found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole-grains.
  • Biflavonoids found in oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes.
  • Quercetin found in berries, apples, pears, bell peppers and ginger.
  • Flavonoids found in turmeric, ginger, tea, beets, legumes, berries and cherries.
  • Gamma tocopherol found in raw almonds.
  • Vitamin D found in oily fish and mushrooms.

Michigan State University Extension recommends the following anti-inflammatory diet tips:

  1. Eat a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables.
  2. Avoid processed foods as much as possible.
  3. Swap out animal protein once a week for plant protein sources such as tofu, beans, nuts and seeds.
  4. Eat four to five small meals instead of one or two large meals.
  5. Cook with a variety of herbs and spices including garlic, ginger, turmeric and rosemary.
  6. Eat eggs fortified with Omega-3s.
  7. Cook with olive oil, canola oil or coconut oil instead of margarines and vegetable oils.
  8. Drink unsweetened tea.
  9. Eat allium vegetables (onions, garlic, shallots).
  10. Eat at least one cruciferous vegetable daily (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale).
  11. Eat foods that contain anti-inflammatory Omega-3s such as salmon, sardines and anchovies twice a week.

MSU Extension reminds you that diet is only one piece of the puzzle to reducing inflammation in the human body. Other factors that can help reduce inflammation:

  • Minimize stress.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

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