I bet you thought I was going to dive right into the nuances of the Swedish death metal band In Flames this week, right?
Wrong. Today is all about when inflammation gets out of hand and becomes chronic, resulting in many debilitating illnesses.
Inflammation is part of our bodies natural response to injury and is designed to protect us, rushing white blood cells to the site, causing swelling or bruising in reaction. While inflammation is a great response to infection, it can be another thing altogether when it becomes chronic.
Scientists are measuring levels of chronic inflammation in our bodies and finding that it can be pretty bad for our health, causing metabolic syndrome and premature aging. It has been linked to lifetstyle diseases such as obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer's, and diabetes. This type of chronic inflammation, that lasts longer than six weeks, and is linked to autoimmune diseases, in which the body's immune system attacks healthy cells. Examples of this are rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
I was going to share all about what it is, where it comes from and how it affects you (snooze). Then I thought, rather than focus on that, wouldn't it be more helpful to share with you foods that are packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants and are proven to help reduce it? I thought so, especially since we are still in Healthy Aging Month.
Drum roll, please...here are my top anti-inflammatory food recommendations:
Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries
Why save the best for last? Perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods are a sweet favorite of yours? Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fiber, and antioxidant vitamins like vitamin C and minerals such as manganese, which also helps with osteoarthritis, when used in combination with glucosamine and chondroitin.
And many other antioxidants such as "anthocyanins" and "resveratrol” are found in these small and delicious fruits. In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.
Anti-inflammatory Food #2: Broccoli and Peppers
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant "sulforaphane." This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.
Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and quercetin.
Just make sure to choose red peppers over the other colors. Did you know that green or orange peppers are not fully ripe and won't have the same anti-inflammatory effect? I didn't myself until recently. So that is why red peppers are more expensive!
Anti-inflammatory Food #3: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, fatty fish)
Trans or saturated fats can be terribly inflammatory while omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory. This is why choosing the right fats is so important for your health. The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, including omega-3s. These are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. and are found in avocados, extra virgin olive oil, small fish (e.g. sardines and mackerel), and wild fish (e.g. salmon). And don't forget the omega-3 seeds like chia, hemp, and flax.
Anti-inflammatory Food #4: Green Tea
Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG. EGCG is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer's. Drinking steeped green tea is great, but have you tried matcha green tea? It's a powdered green tea and ten times the level of antioxidants than regular green tea, in a single cup.
Anti-inflammatory Food #5 - Turmeric
Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing spice turmeric?
Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin and this compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, as well as have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties.
Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Dark Chocolate
Yay for the inclusion of a slightly more decadent option! Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa, is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants (namely "flavonols"). These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy. They've even been shown to prevent "neuro-inflammation" (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory, and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke.
I don't think I have to say it, regular readers, but make sure you avoid the sugary “candy bars.” You already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!
There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious anti-inflammatory foods you can choose. They range from colorful berries, vegetables, and spices, to healthy fats, and even cocoa. Start today to get your daily dose of "anti-inflammation." You won't regret it.
Recipe Anti-inflammatory Quinoa with Bell Peppers
¾ cup dry quinoa (pre-rinsed)
2 tbsp coconut oil1 medium onion, diced1 bell pepper, chopped1 dash salt½ tbsp turmeric1 dash black pepper
2 cups broccoli, chopped
In a saucepan place 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the quinoa and simmer until the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).
Melt coconut oil in a skillet. Add diced onions, turmeric, pepper and salt, and lightly sauté for a few minutes.
Add broccoli and lightly sauté for 5-6 minutes, until it becomes softened.
Add the cooked quinoa and stir everything together.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Add some cayenne pepper or curry spice for an extra spicy kick.