Anti-inflammatory diet helps overcome chronic inflammation
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Everyone seems to be talking about the anti-inflammatory diet these days.
Another weight loss gadget? No, this one has nothing to do with weight loss.
It’s about creating a safe indoor refuge where you are less likely to contract many common illnesses and chronic conditions. It is a diet for health and longevity.
Years ago, doctors were puzzled when patients with low cholesterol had heart attacks.
It turned out that there was another risk factor that no one was aware of at the time. Now we know the risk factor is inflammation.
Chronic inflammation increases the risk of heart attack and stroke because of its role in the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
Many other diseases such as cancer, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and arthritis have been linked to chronic inflammation.
Before we go any further, let’s define exactly what we’re talking about.
There is acute inflammation, then there is chronic inflammation.
Acute or short-term inflammation is actually a good thing. It is the body’s protective response to injury, infection, or a foreign substance.
Acute inflammation helps fight infections and increases blood flow to parts of the body that need healing.
Chronic infection, on the other hand, is not a good thing. It persists in the body at low levels and eventually begins to destroy healthy cells in organs, joints, and arteries.
So how do you fight chronic inflammation?
The best way is not with something you buy at the drugstore, but rather with what you buy at the grocery store.
Let’s take a look at the foods that can cause inflammation in the body.
• Refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice and white pasta.
• Sweets, cakes, cookies and sodas.
• All sugars, even natural sugars like honey and agave nectar.
• French fries and other fried foods (and for that matter, even if you fry these foods at home in vegetable oil, they still cause inflammation).
• Processed meats like hot dogs and luncheon meat.
• Anything that is high in saturated fat such as butter, whole milk and cheese.
If you eat these foods regularly, you accelerate the process of inflammatory disease.
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On the other hand, there are things you can eat that will prevent and treat chronic inflammation. These include:
• All vegetables, especially tomatoes and green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, lettuce and spinach.
• Extra virgin olive oil.
• Cold water fish such as salmon, albacore tuna, sardines and mackerel. Eat them at least twice a week. If you can’t eat fish, studies show that 1000 mg of fish oil supplements per day provide enough omega-3 to meet the body’s needs.
• Nuts, preferably raw and unsalted.
• Fruits, especially strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries and oranges.
• Whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat bread and quinoa.
• Legumes, including lentils, split peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans and pinto.
• Dark chocolate (only the one with 70% or more cocoa, and no more than 3 ounces per week).
• Coffee (contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds).
If these recommendations sound familiar to you, they should.
It is essentially a Mediterranean diet, which is one of the best-known examples of an anti-inflammatory diet.
People who follow a Mediterranean-style diet consistently have lower levels of inflammation than those who follow less healthy diets.
And finally… staying active, getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night, managing stress, and maintaining a healthy weight are all part of the anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
A blood test that measures the level of C reactive protein is a common indicator of inflammation. If you are concerned, ask your doctor to order the test for you.
Susie Bond is a Registered Dietitian / Nutritionist in Private Practice. Contact her at [email protected]