Pick Up Your Fork to Put Out the Inflammatory Fire
View All Section Pages
The idea of managing inflammation through the foods you choose to eat or not eat has merit. At the same time, inflammation management is complex and entails much more than eating spinach salads instead of cheeseburgers. Learn why inflammation is harmful to our bodies and what can be done to prevent or decrease it by what you put on your plate.
We all experience inflammation and it is part of the body’s normal and helpful response to infection. Inflammation is the chemical signal that tells your white blood cells it’s time to do their repair job. We might even experience inflammation after a strenuous exercise session in the form of muscle soreness. That’s normal and temporary. However, chronic inflammation over days, months and years can turn into conditions such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis and more. In fact, chronic inflammatory diseases contribute to more than half of deaths worldwide, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature Medicine.
Habits such as smoking and inactivity as well as conditions like diabetes and obesity can drive inflammation. Certain foods in our diet can be “pro-inflammatory” as well. Think about the highly processed, sugar-rich foods that make up approximately 60% of the diet in the United States. What you eat can affect your levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for inflammation found in your blood. This is another powerful reason to get your annual physical and stay up to date on your blood work.
Put inflammation management on your plate
Certain foods can help decrease inflammation and put out the inflammatory fire. These foods actually help your body fight oxidative stress, which can trigger inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet could include some of the following foods:
- Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna
- Green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, collard greens and kale
- Brightly colored fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, cherries and citrus
- Beans and legumes
- Nuts and seeds such as walnuts, almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds
- Healthy oils such as olive oil, grapeseed oil and avocado oil
In general, think about adding more “color” to your diet. The more color, the better and that is typically found in a more plant-based diet rich in fruits and vegetables, fiber and natural antioxidants and polyphenols. The Mediterranean-style eating pattern embraces the elements of an anti-inflammatory diet and is known to help reduce the risk of heart disease. This plant-based diet includes small amounts of lean red meat, poultry and seafood.
Keep in mind that no single food has the power to fight inflammation alone. The goal is to work towards a balanced diet overall—one that includes a lot of variety and tailored to your personal nutrition plan.
To schedule a one-on-one consultation or learn more about Cooper Clinic Nutrition, visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655.
Article provided by Meridan Zerner, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, CWC, and Cooper Clinic Nutrition.