A natural response to injury, pain, stress, or illness—inflammation isn’t all bad. Acute (or short-term) inflammation is a sign the body is taking care of itself after an affront. An acute response may occur during recovery from a hard workout, while fighting off an infection, or through healing from a burn or an allergic reaction.
Inflammation becomes problematic when it is chronic (or long-term), potentially leading to cell damage and chronic disease. In fact, it may be a root cause of metabolic syndrome, atherosclerosis, and Type 2 Diabetes, among others. Individuals who are overtraining or have various types of arthritis may also be inflamed.
The following foods can help combat inflammatory processes:
Cherries Collegiate athletes across the country enjoy tart cherry limeades after tough practices. Though research suggests a person likely needs 1.5 cups of tart cherries or 1 cup of tart cherry juice per day to see benefits, they’re worth including because they contain anthocyanins and catechins, powerful antioxidants that help fight inflammation.
Avocado This rich, creamy fruit enhances toast, salads, and sandwiches and is an excellent source of inflammation-reducing monounsaturated fat and antioxidants.
Turmeric Curcumin, a potent compound found in turmeric, is touted for its antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory effects. Possibilities for cooking with turmeric are endless, and the bright yellow spice is often used in Indian and Asian recipes. It can also elevate egg dishes, roasted vegetables, or sautéed shrimp.
Fatty Fish Plan salmon, tuna, mackerel, or sardines into a couple meals per week for a satisfying dose of omega-3 fats, which are essential for a healthy inflammatory response.
Tomatoes Before shying away from all nightshades (which have been widely blamed for arthritis inflammation), it’s important to note the research is inconclusive around this family of vegetables, which includes tomatoes. The evidence is solid that lycopene-packed tomatoes help reduce inflammation, in turn lowering cancer and cardiovascular risks.
Berries Though berries like blueberries and goji berries have become more famous than others for anti-inflammatory properties, there are no bad berries. A great source of antioxidants, their flavor isn’t the only sweet thing about them! Pick up bags of frozen berries at the grocery store to enjoy during fall and winter months when berries are not in season.
Cruciferous Vegetables Incorporate veggies from this powerhouse category to ensure a diet rich in inflammation-fighting phytochemicals. Roast broccoli, Brussel sprouts, or cauliflower or try sautéing or adding kale and cabbage to salads several times per week.
Legumes The equivalent of 1½ cups lentils, chickpeas, beans, peas, and edamame per day delivers a healthy dose of magnesium that has been shown to aid in reducing chronic inflammation.
Yogurt Contrary to popular belief, dairy can play a role in reducing (versus promoting) inflammation. Specifically, live active culture yogurt packs a probiotic punch that tends to reduce inflammation and maintain gut health.
Nuts & Seeds Add walnuts, ground flaxseed, pumpkin and sesame seeds to salads and stir-fries or enjoy as a quick, convenient snack for an added boost of omega-3s. Some nuts and seeds have been shown to lower C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation linked to increased chronic disease risk and arthritis).
A balanced, varied diet that includes mostly whole, minimally processed foods is key for long-term health. There are plenty of other foods that could be added to this list, but regularly planning in these therapeutic foods fuels the body to prevent and manage chronic inflammation.
Blair Mize, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN is co-owner of Memphis Nutrition Group, a nutrition & lifestyle counseling practice operated by registered & licensed dietitians/nutritionists. Memphis Nutrition Group believes in a non-diet approach that promotes overall health and optimal performance without compromising the enjoyment of food. For more information call Memphis Nutrition Group at 901.343.6146 or visit http://www.MemphisNutritionGroup.com.