Inflammation is the process by which the body’s white blood cells and the chemicals they manufacture protect us from trauma, injury and infections due to bacteria or viruses. As the inflammation proceeds, these chemicals begin releasing other substances which halt the process, so the swelling doesn’t spiral out of control.
When inflammation does what it’s supposed to do, it’s beneficial to us and a normal part of the body’s natural healing process. But when inflammation goes haywire, it can cause severe tissue damage and contribute to the development of some very nasty conditions and Illnesses such as cancer, arthritis, hardening of the arteries, vascular disease, heart attack, diabetes and stroke.
But injury and infection are not the only things that contribute to acute inflammation of our bodies’ tissues. Other contributing factors read like a typical list of lifestyle don’ts: a diet high in red meat, saturated fats and sugar, exposure to environmental toxins and free-radicals, excessive stress and infections.
While some of these triggers are unavoidable, there is at least one we have some basic control over: our diets. Tweaking our eating practices to include some or all of these very powerful anti-inflammatory foods, goes a long way in helping our body’s ability to protect itself from chronic inflammation.
The Top Inflammation-Fighting Food Superstars
Berries, Raisins and Cherries, Oh, My!
These delicious fruits are full of free radical-fighting antioxidants and keep inflammation in check by reducing a marker of inflammation known as TNF-alpha. Tart cherries are even better. They are also full of anthocyanins, another powerful anti-inflammatory, so you get more bang for your cherry buck!
Succulent, Sizzling, Sensational Salmon
Salmon is an especially good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation. And a little goes a long way. According to experts, all you need is a fifth of a teaspoon of fish oil to a teaspoon of omega-3 fatty acids a day to bring your fat consumption into balance.
Ginger the Giant
Several studies have conclusively shown that gingerol, the main component in ginger, lowers inflammation due to over-exercising. It has also been proven to decrease joint pain caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, two severe chronic inflammatory conditions
Make a Sweet Potato your Sweetie
Foods high in vitamins C and E and alpha- and beta-carotene, such as the delicious sweet potato, are packed with anti-inflammatory properties. Pumpkins, cantaloupe, apricots, and carrots are also orange-colored anti-inflammatory superstars.
Beans, Beans…They Really are Good for your Heart!
Beans in general, and soy, in particular, are amazing sources of phytonutrients, anti-inflammatory botanical compounds that fight inflammation and help to reduce the inflammation marker C-reactive protein, which has been linked to coronary artery disease.
Nuts for Walnuts
Pretty much all nuts have benefits, but walnuts are, without a doubt, the heavy-weight anti-inflammatory champions. These savory nuggets have more than 10 antioxidant phytonutrients and polyphenols AND the highest concentration of omega-3s of any other plant product.
Bring on the Basil
While many herbs and spices are rich in antioxidant phytonutrients, some, like rosemary, thyme, turmeric, oregano, and cinnamon can also contribute to inflammation, so they should be used sparingly. Fresh basil, however, has very strong anti-inflammatory properties and should be a regular on your nutrition roster.
Anytime is Tea Time
How about sipping your anti-oxidants to reduce chronic inflammation? Drinking tea, whether green, white, or black, pumps you full of free radical-fighting catechins, a polyphenolic compound found in the leaves of the Camellia Synesis plant, that has superior inflammation-fighting properties.
Changing your habits is not easy. Try taking baby steps to introduce small portions of one or more of these incredible foods into your diet, even if you don’t change anything else. You can substitute some of the high-fat, high-sugar foods you currently eat without even noticing much of a difference. There are plenty of recipes in books or the internet to help you on your way as you bid a not-so-fond goodbye to chronic inflammation.