Inflammation is by nature a healer that protects us when we're injured or infected but it can also become chronic. Chronic inflammation is a quiet disrupter in our bodies linked to heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, cancers, dementias and many other health concerns. In fact you may be surprised to know that chronic inflammation is a factor in 50% of deaths in the US and around the world. Fortunately your diet can help. We know a wide range of foods that combat inflammation and, on the flip side, have identified foods commonly eaten that cause inflammation. You can fight inflammation before it triggers disease. Set your winter tables with anti inflammatory foods and enjoy healthier living and delicious feasts!
Chronic inflammation may not be noticeable. You may be unaware that inflammation is triggering major disease until that disease is evident. That's why an anti inflammation diet is important. In the video below Dr Jane Varner explains how chronic inflammation develops and what it does with our immune system.
If you eat nuts, fish, green leafy vegetables, berries, and whole foods with minimal bread and sweets you're already enjoying basic anti inflammatory foods! Maybe you know that the Mediterranean diet is basically an anti-inflammatory diet. Yet eating to prevent inflammation doesn't have to tie you down to a limited menu or a single diet there are hundreds of variations that will keep your table fresh and interesting as you protect your body from disease.
Start by replacing inflammation causing foods such as prepared sweets and pastries with berries, cranberries, baked apples, pumpkin soup, carrots, bananas in yogurt, or lemon cake. Find a few things you like and these substitutions will be easier and easier eventually becoming changes you enjoy. Look beyond the semolina pastas, white breads and high carb high glycemic foods and bring on whole grains like brown rice, quinoa or millet. Try vegetable pastas--- a light and flavorful treat. Pull in beans and legumes with recipes like feel good red lentil soup or chickpea curry. Switch out that steak for a hearty salmon stew or pan seared sea bass. Explore the anti-inflammatory foods of famous cooks or follow the recipes of a dietician. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet opens up a new cooking palate and can regenerate the spirit while protecting the body.
Maybe it's easier to begin a new way of eating with an inventory of the worst offenders in your current diet. Coffee is anti-inflammatory, yes, but not coffee drinks so put down those Frappuccinos, Grandes with extra whip, or coffees with syrups or creamers. Whole grains are part of anti-inflammatory diets yet white rice isn't. Does your busy life find you eating fast foods during the week? French fries, hamburgers, pizzas and deli meats or meats that have been fermented, cured or smoked are delicious but all have the potential to cause inflammation. "What we’re most concerned about are fast foods, pre-packaged prepared foods, high sugar content and fried foods,” dietician Barbara George explains, “Instead we want people to be eating more vegetables and fruits every day, with emphasis on more vegetables than fruit." Do you love cookies and candy? Me too. Unfortunately those prepared foods also cause inflammation. You can make anti inflammatory cookies with almond flour or black beans. Find sweets galore by exploring honey roasted nuts, carrots, fruit dishes, and dried fruits but work those cookies and candies out of your daily diet. Do you wind down the day with a couple drinks? Keep in mind that reducing the amount you drink in a week and leaning to wine rather than hard alcohol will help inflammation. Setting the drinks aside altogether will eliminate that risk. Likewise turning to a cigarette or cigar will not help your fight against inflammation. Study your current diet and hold it up against the foods in an anti inflammatory diet and decide what changes you can make over time to get closer to a diet supportive of your long term health.
When you're making any major change to your diet be sure to treat yourself. Consider making your plate contents colorful. Add a special aspect to your plate such as a garnish. Pour a special drink. The extra effort helps and you may be surprised how supportive it feels. If you already know you have one of the conditions caused by or linked to inflammation such as: cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative or auto immune disease, diabetes, kidney disease or cancer and you haven't yet begun an anti-inflammatory diet---why not? It may ease your symptoms and perhaps help you side step flare ups particularly if your condition is auto immune. Be good to your body by giving the anti inflammatory diet your time and energy.
Chronic Inflammation is influenced by the foods we eat. Protect yourself from the diseases of aging by incorporating the delicious foods that fight inflammation!
update 1/4/21 In this blog from Harvard Health authors that people "consuming the most pro-inflammatory diets had a 38% higher risk of developing Cardio Vascular Disease compared to those consuming the most anti-inflammatory diets."