5 Foods To Eat On An Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Many of our most costly diseases — Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer — have a common underlying problem: inflammation (DiCorleto, 2014). Inflammation is a natural physiological process and is actually a sign that your immune system is working properly. When your cells detect a pathogen, they send out signals to the immune system. The immune system responds by sending a wave of pro-inflammatory cells that release compounds that trigger an inflammatory response (Henochowicz, 2014). This is why you experience swelling, tenderness, and redness at the site of an injury.

Under normal circumstances, inflammation helps prevent us from getting sick. The body’s immune response fights off foreign invaders and keeps us healthy. Unfortunately, chronic inflammation can seriously undermine your health. If inflammatory cells remain active for too long, they can affect the properties of your arteries (DiCorleto, 2014). Similarly, prolonged inflammation in the brain may increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease or other neurological problems (Akiyama et al., 2000).

So, how can you help regulate your body’s inflammatory response? Although more research is needed, there is some evidence that suggests the foods you eat contribute to the levels of chronic inflammation in the body (Doheny, 2008). Thus, by altering your diet to include plenty of anti-inflammatory foods, you may decrease your risk of chronic disease.

Foods to Limit on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Certain foods can increase the amount of chronic inflammation in the body. Unfortunately, the modern American diet is full of these potentially harmful foods. To follow an anti-inflammatory diet, limit your consumption of the following foods (Harvard Women’s Health Watch):

  • Refined carbohydrates. Eating refined carbohydrates quickly triggers an inflammatory response in the body (Oliveira et al., 2013). In particular, refined carbs can lead to increased release of a class of inflammatory markers called cytokines. Thus, it is important to avoid white bread, pasta, pastries, sugar, and foods made with all-purpose flour. Instead, try to incorporate whole grains into the diet. Whole-wheat pasta, buckwheat, bulgur, quinoa, and farro contain complex carbohydrates that limit inflammation.
  • Red meat or processed meats. Red meat contains compounds that trigger the body’s inflammatory response. In fact, the inflammatory properties of red meat are thought to be one of the mechanisms linking higher red meat consumption to a greater risk of colorectal cancers (Samraj et al., 2015). Reducing your consumption of burgers, steak, and ground beef can lower levels of inflammation. Avoiding processed meats such as sausage, hot dogs, bacon, or corned beef also helps.
  • Soda. Soda is full of sugar, which is considered a refined carbohydrate. Opting for a diet soda may be a healthier choice, as it includes artificial sweeteners that may not have as large of an impact on inflammation. Also beware of fruit juices, flavored water, and other beverages that are high in sugar.
  • Margarine, lard, and shortening. Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat that can significantly increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. It is possible that the mechanism linking trans fat intake to cardiovascular risk is inflammation. For example, a large study of healthy women found that those who ate larger amounts of trans fats had significantly higher concentrations of markers of systemic inflammation (Mozaffarian et al,. 2004). Trans fats are naturally found in some animal products, such as butter, full-fat dairy products, and lard. They are also found in high amounts in processed foods such as cookies, cakes, crackers, margarine, and shortening. Instead, use olive oil, safflower oil, or other vegetable oils to saute vegetables or flavor your meals.

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