Inflammation and how to fight it with your food

Inflammation. We all have it from time to time. It’s the body’s way of letting us know that all is not as well as we think, and that it’s doing what it needs to protect you. But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes you can have persistent inflammation, even when your body isn’t under attack from an external invader. This is when it becomes a problem, and a number of chronic diseases such as  asthma, arthritis and diabetes have been linked to this type of low level chronic inflammation. The good news, you can protect yourself or fight this type of inflammation with what you put on your plate, rather than at the pharmacy.

What is an anti-inflammatory diet?

An anti-inflammatory diet is one that focuses on fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains and healthy oils. Even better, the foods that help prevent inflammation also benefit you in other ways.

The rules of an anti-inflammatory diet are simple.

  1. Eat more plants. A rainbow of veggies, fruits, whole grains and pulses is ideal.
  2. Get your antioxidants. These are found in leafy vegetables, berries, beets, avocado, lentils, and fortunately for us Indians, ginger and turmeric.
  3. Don’t forget your Omega-3. For us vegans, ground flaxseed, soya, walnuts and pecan are great sources.
  4. Cut the processed stuff. It goes without saying that you want to scale back on foods that often trigger inflammation, such as refined carbs like white bread, prepackaged desserts and candy, deep or repeatedly fried foods, snack foods like potato chips and microwaved popcorn, and sugary beverages.

So what should you be eating then?

Here are 10 great anti-inflammatory foods to add to your diet.

  1. Avocados: Avocados are packed with monounsaturated fats and fibre, and are low on sodium.

(Guacamole, anyone?)

  1. Beets: Beets contain phytochemicals called betalains that fight inflammation. Add them to your salads and juices.
  1. Berries: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries are great sources of antioxidants. They’re also great in a fruit salad, with pancakes, in your morning oats and such.
  1. Broccoli: Broccoli is rich in phytochemicals (which are plant-based antioxidants), as well as a number of other vitamins and minerals. And it’s delicious cooked or raw, making it a versatile addition to your salads, stir fries and more.
  1. Cherries: Cherries are a rich source of antioxidants and vitamin C, which make them a great addition to your diet. Add them to your oatmeal, eat them fresh, make them into a sorbet – get creative.
  1. Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is believed to be loaded with antioxidants, which are great for your heart health and healthy ageing. It’s recommended that you try chocolate that’s 70% cocoa or more.
  1. Grapes: The benefits of grapes are quite a few, but suffice it to say that they contain two different types of antioxidants that help reduce inflammation. We like our grapes fresh, how about you?
  1. Peppers: Bell peppers (aka green, yellow and red capsicum) and chili peppers are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants. We like our bell peppers in salads, pastas, and curries.
  1. Tomatoes: The humble tomato is a literal nutritional powerhouse, loaded with all kinds of vitamins and minerals that are essential to good health. And you can add it to just about anything from soups and sandwiches, to chutneys and curries.
  1. Turmeric: A staple in any Indian kitchen, turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory compound. Good thing then, that we often use this spice in many of our curries and dishes!
  1. Bonus: extra virgin olive oil: While fats are made out to be the bad guys, you do need certain healthy fats to be healthy. And of these, extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest of them all.

A final word

Being mindful about what you put on your plate goes a long way. The choices that we make today impact our tomorrows. And yes, it’s difficult to keep track of everything and make good choices all the time. Here’s the trick: it’s ok to indulge, so long as you’re fairly consistent. You can also look to supplements, as Origin Nutrition’s protein powder, to help you get the nutrients that you need and bolster your  overall health, particularly if you don’t have the time to shop for specific ingredients to prepare your meals.