Inflammation is one way that the body defends itself against illness-causing microbes (viruses, bacteria, and fungi), as well as assisting in the repair of damage to muscles and other tissues.
However, for many people, the inflammatory process becomes chronic, at which point it can trigger a broad array of health problems including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, arthritis, and diabetes.
There are a number of risk factors for chronic inflammation, including smoking, lack of exercise, exposure to toxins, stress, and a diet high in fast foods or processed snack foods. Many of these risk factors have become more common in recent years as people have increasingly shifted from physical labor to office work, from home-cooked meals to grab-and-go packaged and fast foods, and from active leisure pursuits to relaxing in front of the television or a computer.
Making dietary changes can help to prevent or fight chronic inflammation because there are a number of foods that have natural anti-inflammatory effects. Some top choices include:
- Fish such as tuna, wild salmon, sardines, and herring (which contain anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids)
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
Drinking lots of water can also be beneficial because dehydration can trigger inflammation.
Some foods actually trigger or worsen inflammatory processes. Inflammatory foods include:
- Dairy products that contain a lot of saturated fat (cheese, ice cream, etc.)
- Red meat and pork (especially processed items such as hot dogs and hamburgers)
- Hydrogenated or trans fats (found in many processed foods and margarine products)
- Refined ingredients such as white sugar and white flour
- Deep-fried foods
- Alcoholic beverages
As a general rule, fresh foods (especially fruits and vegetables) tend to reduce inflammation, whereas processed foods are inclined to trigger it.
The ideal anti-inflammatory diet is rich in colorful fruit and vegetables, lean protein sources, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes; low in saturated fat; and free of highly processed and refined ingredients.
Doheny, K. (Reviewed by Chang, L., MD), “Anti-inflammatory Diet: Road to Good Health?” WebMD,
Shulman, J., Dr., “The Anti-Inflammatory Diet,” Canadian Living, n.d.
Weil, A., MD., “Anti-Inflammatory Diet & Pyramid,” n.d.
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