When your body is faced with an infection, injury, sickness or toxin, it will activate the immune system to defend itself. This process is called inflammation.
Acute (or short-term) inflammation generally happens when we injure ourselves. The signs of acute inflammation include: pain, redness, swelling, heat and immobility. However, chronic inflammation can occur when the body is in a state of consistent defence and is more challenging to identify. Chronic inflammation, which can be caused by an unhealthy lifestyle may lead to cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Nowadays, more and more research is coming out about the impact that our diet can have on chronic inflammation in the body. Here are some tips for fighting inflammation with food:
1. Cut back on processed carbohydrates
Processed carbohydrates, including refined “white” carbohydrates (like white bread or pasta) are thought to be pro-inflammatory foods. This also applies to processed sugars, like those found in candy, baked goods and soda.
As much as possible, swap processed carbohydrates with high-fibre, whole food carbohydrates (like whole grains, quinoa and wild rice) and reduce your intake of processed sugars. If you find that you have a mid-afternoon or evening sweet-tooth, try having a piece of fruit instead and see if that satisfies your cravings. Also, check your protein intake. Sometimes, inadequate protein during the day can lead to sugar cravings in the evenings.
2. Include foods with healthy fats
Healthy fats, like monounsaturated fats (from foods like olive oil or nuts/seeds) and omega-3 fats (from foods like salmon and walnuts) may help with inflammation. To incorporate healthy fats into your routine, grab a handful of nuts for a healthy snack, sprinkle your yogurt with chia seeds or swap a creamy salad dressing for an olive-oil-based dressing. If you don’t eat fish, speak with your doctor about taking an omega-3 supplement.
3. Load up on polyphenols
Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant found in plants. Some research suggests that polyphenols have anti-inflammatory properties. Foods that are rich in polyphenols include cocoa powder, berries, beans, vegetables and some herbs. As a rule of thumb, make sure you’re getting a large variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet to get plenty of polyphenols.
4. Substitute red meat with plant-based options
Studies have shown that red meat consumption is associated with higher levels of inflammation in the body. If you eat red meat frequently, try swapping for lean meat sources (ex. Chicken, turkey, fish) or vegetarian protein sources (ex. Beans, chickpeas, tofu).
- Hannoodee, S., & Nasuruddin, D. (2020). Acute Inflammatory Response. Retrieved September 11, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556083/
- Health, H. (2020b, June 18). Understanding Acute And Chronic Inflammation - Harvard Health. Harvard Health. Retrieved September 11, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-acute-and-chronic-inflammation
- Hussain, T., Tan, B., Yin, Y., Blachier, F., Tossou, M. C. B., & Rahu, N. (2016). Oxidative Stress and Inflammation: What Polyphenols Can Do for Us? Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2016, 1–9. Retrieved September 11, 2020, from 10.1155/2016/7432797