What Is Inflammation?
It is the primal immune system signal that sounds the alarm bell to take action. The classic signs of an inflammatory reaction are heat, redness, swelling, and pain—all of which are your body’s best effort to resolve your injury or infection.
The problem starts when acute inflammation becomes chronic.
You continue to gain weight or can’t trim your belly fat, your digestive distress (i.e. gas, bloating, constipation, food allergies) never resolves, or you just can’t get seem to wean yourself off the pain medications.
Cytokines are the key players released by the body to fight inflammation.
After injury or infection, your inflammatory response is triggered and three main pro-inflammatory cytokines are produced: tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF), interleukin 1 (IL-1) and interleukin 6 (IL-6).
The food you eat, how much you move, and your ability to control stress can all combat these pro-inflammatory compounds.
Foods That Reduce Inflammation
Green Leafy Vegetables
The produce drawer is the first spot in your refrigerator or pantry to fill when fighting inflammation. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants that restore cellular health, as well as anti-inflammatory flavonoids.
If you struggle to consume added portions of green leafy vegetables, try this delicious anti-inflammatory juice that incorporates greens alongside some of the strongest anti-inflammatory foods in the list.
Swiss chard nutrition, for example, is extremely high in the antioxidants vitamin A and C, as well as vitamin K, which can protect your brain against oxidative stress caused by free radical damage.
Eating chard can also protect you against the common vitamin K deficiency.
Capsaicin’s are the active components of hot peppers that give them their spicy kick and they also help act as potent anti-inflammatory.
Capsaicin’s impact inflammation via your brain, interacting with a specific receptor to increase BDNF (brain-derived neuropeptide factor) that cools inflammation and combats low mood.
Try sprinkling cayenne on your food or in your smoothies and add hot peppers to your meals to take advantage of the anti-inflammatory benefits.
Just don’t go overboard, moderation is key here.
Dark chocolate—70% cocoa or more—may be the one truly guilt-free dessert.
Research has shown it improves blood flow, helps reduce blood pressure, and improves the body’s response to a carbohydrate-heavy meal by improving insulin sensitivity.
Thereby helping prevent the onset of diabetes if consumed regularly in small quantities, or about 1 oz per day.
Cold-Water Fatty Fish
The extra-long chain omega-3 fats EPA and DHA help cool inflammation by supporting the production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.
Powerful hormone-like substances that turn down the body’s internal fires.
Cold-water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring and black cod should be staples in your diet. A typical 3-4 oz. servings contains about 500-750mg of EPA and DHA.
Turmeric root is a staple of Indian cuisine and contains a specific compound called curcumin that acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory.
Curcumin inhibits the COX-2 enzyme, just like ibuprofen, to reduce inflammation and accelerate healing.
Although not as potent as an NSAID, the natural herb has the benefit that it does not cause ulcers, liver and kidney damage, and leaky gut like chronic use of NSAIDs.
Olive oil is a rich source of polyphenols, which provide both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Try to use extra-virgin olive oil for most of your cooking.
More than 70% of its fat content comes from a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid.
Which has been found to help lower blood pressure, reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, and increase HDL (good) cholesterol, among other heart-healthy properties.
Grass-Fed & Wild Game Meats
We’ve been told for decades to avoid red meat, however when you feed cows grass like nature intended.
It’s incredible how the distribution of healthy fats and the quality of the meat radically changes for the better.
Grass-fed beef and wild game meats have much greater levels of extra-long chain omega-3 fats EPA and DHA compared to standard agricultural practices.
Add these nutrient-dense foods to your nutritional arsenal to fight off chronic inflammation.
Herbs & Spices
Herbs and spices are packed with health-promoting phytonutrients, they add complexity to dishes, and they can take the place of excessive salt or sugar—both of which can promote inflammation.
Some stand-out picks: cinnamon, which has been shown to reduce bloating and stabilize blood sugar; turmeric.
Which packs proven anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties; oregano, which has antibiotic properties; and rosemary and lavender, which have been shown to calm anxiety and ease pain.
Foods that promote inflammation include
1. Sugar and refined carbohydrates
Cakes, cookies, bakery items, sugar, grains made with white flour including white bread, pasta, bagels, etc.
Too much sugar can alert the body to send out extra immunity messengers called cytokines, which create inflammation.
Think of refined carbohydrates as an indulgence and consume them in small amounts.
2. Fried foods
French fries, tempura, doughnuts, etc.
Aim to indulge only occasionally and share with friends.
3. Animal fats
Butter, full-fat dairy products, fatty cuts of beef, pork, etc.
A daily pat of butter or a serving of full-fat yogurt in a diet that contains primarily anti-inflammatory foods isn’t problematic; however, the typical American diet is already inflammatory.
So these habits contribute to even more inflammation.
4. Excessive drinking
Stick to one drink a day if you’re a woman, and one to two drinks a day if you‘re a man.
5. Trans fats
Crackers, baked goods, crusts, frozen pizzas, stick margarines, etc.
Read ingredient labels and steer clear of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils.
6. Omega-6 oils
Seeds and vegetable oils from corn, sunflower, safflower, soy and vegetables; mayonnaise; and many salad dressings.
While the body needs omega-6 fatty acids for health and development, it needs a healthy balance of omega-6s and omega-3s.
Too much omega-6s trigger the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals.
The current ratio in the U.S. diet is estimated to be 16:1 omega-6s to omega-3s, instead of the ideal 4-to-1 or lower ratio.