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 all together when it becomes chronic.
The medical community is evaluating levels of chronic inflammation in our bodies and determining that it can be pretty bad for our health, causing metabolic syndrome and premature aging. It has been linked to lifestyle diseases such as obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer's, and diabetes (in other words, metabolic syndrome).
Diet plays a role in the amount of inflammation that is in our bodies. When we habitually consume high amounts of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) it can manifest as diabetes, obesity and at the very least, insulin resistance.
When we eat overly processed foods and the trans fats that are often contained in these foods it promotes inflammation and damages your artery linings.
Additionally, eating processed meat (lunch meat, bacon, sausage, hotdogs, for example) and drinking excessively amounts of alcohol all contribute to inflammation throughout your body.
Scary stuff, right? Am I getting through?
Then I thought, rather than focus on the fear factor, wouldn't it be more helpful to share with you foods that are packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants and are proven to help inflammation? You know, put a more positive spin on it? I thought so, so here goes.
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 "flavanols"). 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 oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 cups broccoli, chopped
½ tbsp turmeric
dash black pepper
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).
Time-saving tip: Use your rice cooker to prepare ahead of time, same quinoa - water ratio.
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.