Friend and Foe
Inflammation can be a real pain in the neck and a lot of other places too. Think of it as a wake-up call telling you that something is amiss. It can also make you ill, but you can use it as a tool to heal yourself. Let’s take a good look at some of the inflammation-fighting foods and see what you need to get fighting fit again without all the pain associated with this pesky unpleasantness.
We’ll also take a look at some of the foods that cause all this inflammation in the first place so we know what to avoid. Hard to believe, but inflammation is something we wouldn’t be able to survive without. A good example of this is when we get hurt, it’s inflammation that causes our body’s natural defence system to kick in and send white blood cells rushing to the scene of the accident to help.
However, on the downside, inflammation can also kill us. Prolonged or chronic inflammation has been found to contribute to conditions such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, depression, hay fever and heart disease. Research has shown that inflammation could be a breeding ground for cancer cells to thrive, thus aiding in the development of tumours, whether benign or malignant.
It’s also the root cause of all illness as chronic inflammation happens when the immune system continually releases harmful inflammatory chemicals even when there’s no injury to fight off. But the most frightening part is that it can develop over months or years making it difficult to always know it’s taking place. Now if that’s not a wake-up call, you’re probably dead already.
The Common Cause
I’m constantly telling friends and family that the common cause of all this suffering, is simply an unhealthy diet. That is, eating too much-processed food high in saturated fats, refined carbohydrates and sugar. The answer I keep hearing is – but this unhealthy food tastes so good. What they don’t realise is that their taste buds are all messed up and now they can’t taste real food anymore.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel for those of you looking forward to a healthier eating and drinking plan. And for this, you can control the amount of inflammation in your body. Nutrients in food with anti-inflammatory properties appear to dampen the production of the chemicals that trigger inflammatory processes.
Your body creates both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins. Eating the wrong food will lead to the creation of excessive amounts of inflammatory prostaglandins. On the other hand, nutrients in healthy foods allow your body to produce more anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, thus reducing inflammation.
There’s a good chance you may need to take a closer look at the food you’ve been accustomed to and make a few adjustments. In simple terms get to know which food is good to eat and which to limit or avoid altogether. The bottom line – It’s about eating more vegetables, fruit, nuts and whole grains. And if you’re a non-vegetarian, oily fish. So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of both anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory foods, so you know what is good and what to avoid.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods versus Pro-Inflammatory Foods
While anti-inflammatory foods are excellent for optimum health, pro-inflammatory foods are the exact opposite. Before I go into all the good stuff, below is a list of pro-inflammatory foods you should avoid, or at the very least, consume with caution. That means, not more than once a week.
- White Bread and Pasta.
- Red Meat.
- Processed meats such as bacon and sausage as they are high in saturated fats as well as being linked to certain cancers.
- Trans fats found in fried takeaways and commercially baked goods such as biscuits and cakes.
- Commercially produced fruit juices, soft drinks and ice teas as they all contain high levels of sugar.
- Tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant, also known as brinjals. Not only because they all belong to the nightshade family, but because they have been found to promote inflammation, especially if you have a history of inflammation related illnesses.
- Sunflower Oil.
- Sugary snacks such as sweets, desserts and processed chocolate as they all contain excessive amounts of sugar, which has been linked to increased risks of inflammation as well as obesity
- Excessive alcohol intake because the high consumption is linked to inflammation in numerous organs.
Oily fish such as Salmon is rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3. You can also try Trout, Herring, Mackerel, Sardines or Tuna. Just be aware that Tuna has a high mercury content and should only be eaten occasionally. If you don’t like fish or you’re a vegetarian like me, try to find a supplement at your local health and wellness centre.
Studies suggest that Cranberries inhibit the growth of certain cancerous tumours. The protective mechanism is the anti-inflammatory action of this sweet, red berry. Cranberries have also shown to reduce bad cholesterol levels. Just be cautious drinking the juice as it can be laden with sugar. Rather opt for eating the whole fruit, whether on its own or as a topping to your cereal or in a salad.
Studies have shown that eating Cherries greatly reduce inflammation. The fruit’s anti-inflammatory power can be attributed to antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins, which give it its colour.
The antioxidant Resveratrol found in the skin of Grapes helps fight inflammation. Grapes can also do wonders for people struggling with heart disease by lowering inflammation levels in the blood. Should you suffer from diabetes, you may want to consult with your GP to see if they are all right to eat. The reason for this is that grapes are high in sugar. After washing them, keep some in the fridge to enjoy as a quick pick-me-up snack.
Papaya, Pineapple and Apple
Eating Papaya, pineapples and Apples help in the fight against inflammation. Papaya contains the enzyme papain, which, along with other nutrients such as vitamin C and E, improves digestion and helps reduce inflammation. Pineapples contain bromelain, which is used in a number of natural anti-inflammatory supplements for arthritis. Apples have a high concentration of quercetin, a flavonoid also found in onions and tea.
Broccoli, Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts
They may not be your favourite veggies, but cruciferous vegetables such as Broccoli, Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts are highly nutritious and anti-inflammatory nutrients, which aid liver detoxification and so help your body get rid of potentially dangerous carcinogenic compounds.
Sweet Potatoes are not only anti-inflammatory, they are also lower in glycemic index (GI) than the more common potato. Sweet potatoes are rich in fibre and health boosting beta-carotene, manganese as well as vitamin B6 and vitamin C.
Ginger can help reduce the pain should you suffer from osteoarthritis, and its anti-inflammatory properties for those of you who take ginger extract twice daily, will have less pain and need fewer painkillers than if you receive a placebo. You can also add thin ginger slices to a cup of hot water or add it to your green tea. Just don’t take more than four grammes a day. Pregnant women should not take more than one gramme daily.
Turmeric contains a natural anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin as well as antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. This spice has a bitter and peppery flavour with a fragrance of orange and ginger.
Garlic contains a compound called Allicin, a powerful property that has been found to help reduce inflammation as well as regulate glucose and help your body fight infection.
Walnuts contain the plant-based omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid, an anti-inflammatory property that helps improve blood inflammation levels. Walnuts also have cancer-fighting properties and powerful antioxidants. They are also good for weight control, heart and brain health as well as diabetes.
Dark Chocolate is high in antioxidants that help reduce inflammation. Best to choose dark chocolate with at least 70 percent pure cocoa. The beneficial ingredients here are the compounds called flavanols, which help reduce inflammation and blood clotting.
Brown Rice contains protein and is digested slowly, reducing drastic blood sugar spikes that promote inflammation.
Sea vegetables contain fucoidan, a type of complex carbohydrate that has anti-inflammatory properties. Sea vegetables are low in calories and great as a detoxifying food. Its high fibre content also helps keep you satisfied, thereby promoting weight loss.
Sea Vegetable Salad
Green Tea has a long list of health benefits and is packed with anti-inflammatory flavonoids. The antioxidant power of green tea also contains a high amount of nutrients that destroy free radicals which lead to inflammation.
Fresh Green Tea Leaves
Avocado and Avocado Oil
Healthy fats found in Avocado and Avocado Oil are good for the heart and help fight inflammation. Both contain high levels of vitamin B6 as well as omega 3 and 6.