Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury, irritations, or infections. When we see or feel the symptoms, redness, swelling, heat, pain, we want to get rid of the inflammation as soon as possible. However, this type of acute inflammation is required for recovery, wellness, and a healthy body. It is an essential part of our body’s natural healing process.
What needs to be understood is that there are two distinct types of inflammatory responses: acute and chronic. As I described above, acute inflammatory is good and required for survival. It protects us from injury and infection, removing damaged cells and promoting healing. That being said, what I explain to my patients is that too much inflammation for too long is harmful. When the body’s natural protective response is unable to be shut off, it is like an ongoing state of emergency: there is continued, persistent, or overexpression of the inflammatory responses which has adverse medical ramifications. Many of the medical conditions that plague us, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and Alzheimer’s, are examples. By working with a registered dietitian nutritionist, you can transition to an anti-inflammatory diet, a simple way to lessen chronic inflammation and support health.
One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store. “Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. Choose the right anti-inflammatory foods, and you may be able to reduce your risk of illness. Consistently pick the wrong ones, and you could accelerate the inflammatory disease process.
An anti-inflammatory diet should include these foods:
- vegetables (including green leafy) and fruits – go for variety and color
- whole grain and starchy vegetables
- nuts, olive oil
- fatty fish (such as tuna or salmon) and plant-based protein (such as beans, lentils, soy).
Foods that cause inflammation and need to be avoided or limited include:
- refined carbohydrates/processed foods, sugar-sweetened beverages
- saturated fat and trans fats
- fried foods, processed meat, red meat.
Managing inflammation through the use of nutrition is a non-invasive and powerful way to promote health and long-term wellness. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I explain to my patients that an anti-inflammatory diet is not a specific regimen but rather a style of eating. The Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet and the MIND diet are the best examples of anti-inflammatory plans.
When counseling, I remind my patients that:
- No single food will boost a person’s health. It is important to include a variety of healthful ingredients in the diet.
- Fresh, simple ingredients are best. Processing can change the nutritional content of foods.
- One of the best ways to reduce inflammation lies not in the medicine cabinet – but in the refrigerator. By following an anti-inflammatory plan, you can fight off inflammation for good.
Learn more here about inflammation: