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Anti-inflammatory ways of eating

Inflammation Diet Overview

 Inflammation is the body’s response to irritation, infection or injury and is typically characterized by redness, heat, swelling, pain and sometimes loss of function. It is the painful component of arthritis; a driving force behind premature aging; and a precursor to chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.


While anti-inflammatory medications are commonly used as the initial form of therapy, researchers now believe your diet may be enough to prevent and even reverse inflammation. Some foods can cause inflammation, inhibiting the body’s ability to make and use its own anti-inflammatory compounds. For example, dairy products, fast food, food additives, red meat, and refined white flour and sugar cause inflammation and may, subsequently, increase your pain from inflammation and your risk for chronic disease. Avoiding these foods is half the battle.


Better still, some foods actually reduce inflammation:


Brightly colored fruits and vegetables: The bioflavonoids, or plant pigments, that give some fruits and vegetables their bright colors have been shown to inhibit the release of inflammatory chemicals in the body. Quercetin, a natural bioflavonoid found in the skins of apples and red onions, for example, has strong anti-inflammatory properties. The same anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties also are found in blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, red grapes, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots and spinach.


Whole grains: A high-fiber diet also will reduce inflammation. Along with fresh whole fruits, green leafy vegetables and brightly colored vegetables, whole grain carbohydrates are an important source of fiber. Choose bread, cereal and pasta that are 100 percent whole grain.


Fats and Oils: The Omega-3 essential fatty acids found in canola oil, coldwater oily fish (especially wild salmon, mackerel and tuna), flax seeds, olive oil, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts also are powerful anti-inflammatory agents.


Protein: In addition to helping your body build healthy tissues, protein can help reduce pain and inflammation. Good protein sources include fish and seafood, lean poultry, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Fatty red meats can trigger inflammation, so choose the leanest cuts of beef (preferably grass-fed), chicken, turkey, duck and other game meats. For vegetarians, soybeans, tofu and soymilk are excellent sources of protein.


Spices: Curcumin, which is one of nature’s most powerful anti-inflammatory compounds, can be found in the turmeric on your spice rack. Ginger and rosemary also have notable anti-inflammatory properties.


Researchers are continuing to investigate these and other foods for their anti-inflammatory properties. In the meantime, eating enough fruits and vegetables – along with healthy fats, proteins and whole grains – remains among the best advice mom ever gave you.

Date Published: 07/31/2007
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