Controlling inflammation is a hot topic today in disease control. Acute inflammation is actually a good thing (think bee sting, poison ivy) that comes on fast and happily leaves the body fast as well. Chronic inflammation is the one we need to worry about and can wreak havoc on the body with disease like atherosclerosis, cancer, depression, diabetes, alzheimer’s, autism, obesity, and arthritis to name a few. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any of these diseases! Below is my list of top foods to eat to combat inflammation, as well as my list of foods to avoid. Keep in mind the key take away is eating as many NATURAL foods as possible!
1. Omega 3 fats- This might sound like an easy one to get in your diet, but it can be difficult unless you get enough fish in your diet on a daily basis. It is also one of the most important on this list to consume as well as the only supplement I recommend for most people. Nonetheless, if you are looking for good food choices for this vital fat then your primary sources will be cold water fish like anchovies, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna, halibut, as well as egg yolk (yes the yolk is good for you!) and animal liver. Good secondary choices are chia seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts.
2. Raspberries- It is hard to talk about healthy food choices without mentioning raspberries. Just 1 cup of will add 150 mg of Omega 3 to your diet. Raspberries also provides strong antioxidants like Vitamin C, quercetin, and resveratrol. This tasty fruit can be eaten plain by itself, put into a smoothie, or maybe add to some greek yogurt.
3. Tumeric- This ancient herb has been used in India for over 4000 years and for good reason. It has been shown to help with arthritis, cystic fibrosis, cancer, atherosclerosis, and alzheimer’s. There are 3 ways to take turmeric – capsule form, turmeric powder (spice section at grocery store,) or you can buy raw turmeric. You can add to a smoothie, spice up your entree in the kitchen, or if you want a real kick you put in a juicer and take tumeric shots with ginger! You will want to add caution and don’t consume too much. I use about 1/2 teaspoon per serving, but would take more if I was taking for an ailment like the ones mentioned above.
4. Garlic- Garlic is another popular food for fighting inflammation. I think all of us have eaten something with it, or maybe consume it on a regular basis. If you don’t, then you might want to consider making it an addition to your healthy food choices. Some of the sulfur containing compounds of garlic are known to decrease LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, lower risk of cancer, as well as lower blood pressure. Garlic does have 1 significant side-effect and that is bad breath! Watch out if you have just eaten a clove. I recommend about half a clove a day and can be a great addition to any dish.
5. Leafy greens- One of the favorite food choices in our house are leafy greens. Collards, Swiss chard, spinach, romaine are your more popular choices. Heart disease, dementia, and depression are just a few of the diseases these leafy greens can protect you from. Just 1 cup several times a day is what I recommend to get the benefits. There are countless recipes with these bright colored veggies ranging from a simple salad to smoothies to a good side item to any lean protein choice.
6. Shiitake mushrooms- Mushrooms are another fantastic food to include in your arsenal of healthy recipes. Antiviral, anticancer, immune support, and atherosclerosis are a few of the diseases this fungus can help with. Shiitake mushrooms also provide a hefty amount of Vitamin D, which most of the general population has lower than recommend amounts.
7. Cruciferous vegetables- Broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy are a few of the cruciferous vegetables out there. Much like leafy greens, you don’t need to eat copious amounts to get the benefits. This type of vegetable has been shown to help prevent breast, colon, lung, cervix, and prostate cancer. This class of vegetables can be eaten raw, or cooked various ways depending on your taste buds.
8. Green Tea- Green tea is another popular item consumed today for those looking to ward off inflammation. Some of the diseases that green tea can help with are cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and heart disease. Green tea does have caffeine, so use caution if you are sensitive to its effects. Green tea can be found anywhere today and I recommend you brew on your own at home to enjoy its benefits.
Now they I have laid out the top foods for beating inflammation, its time to add the top foods that CAUSE inflammation…
- Refined carbohydrates- These foods are very common in most households. Foods like table sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fruit juice concentrates, flours, refined grains, candy, cakes, muffins, pancakes. I could list several hundred more to this list, but you get the idea. All of this foods have been “altered” somehow from their natural state, so the key here is to stick with foods that are in their original form!
- Trans fats- Once again another industrial food that humans have created. A trans fat basically adds hydrogen to vegetable oils to make them more solid. The finishing product is a “partially hydrogenated oil.” This type of fat has proven to raise LDL cholesterol, lower HDL cholesterol, increase your risk of stroke, as well as developing Type II diabetes. Cookies, crusts, margarine, baked goods, and snack foods are a few of the foods that contain this fat.
- Food additives- To increase shelf life and make foods more appealing food additives have been added to several products through the years. Artificial sweeteners like Equal, Aspartame, MSG, food dyes, sodium nitrate/nitrite are a few. Sugar-free soft drinks, cereal, salad dressings, lunch meats, fruit juices, jello, and potato chips are some of the more common consumed foods from this list. Several studies have shown the above list to increase your chances of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Type II diabetes, MS, cancer, and asthma among well-known diseases.
- Alcohol- Sorry folks that love to throw back a few beers daily, but too much alcohol is not helping your body in the inflammation department. Too much alcohol can lead to gout, inflamed nerves in your extremities, dementia, inflammation of your esophagus, cancer, and increased gum infection.If you do drink, aim for less than 7 per week.
- Grain fed meat- For the carnivorous crowd, it is best to eat wild or grass fed meat. Grain fed animals have been fed a diet consisting of soy and/or corn which is extremely high in Omega 6 and low in Omega 3. Grass fed meats are a bit higher in price and can be harder to find, but it is well worth the health benefits, not to mention the taste is considerably better!
- Diet high in salt and carbohydrates- A common trend in todays diet is too much salt and carbohydrate intake. Too much salt in your diet can lead to hypertension, kidney, and liver disease. The average person consumes over 3000 mg a day, and that number needs to be as low as 2000 mg a day. As far as carbohydrates go, the average person today is consuming almost 400 grams a day! My opinion this number should be as low as 200, depending on how active that person is and their fasting blood sugar level. Too many carbohydrates can cause an increase in Type II diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer, alzheimer’s, increase triglyceride levels, increase CRP levels, and heart disease.