Top Foods that Fight Inflammation
Combatting inflammation makes great sense for people dealing with a diagnosis of lymphedema. In recent decades many common diseases and conditions have been linked to ongoing, low-grade inflammation in the body. Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is the underlying cause of much heart disease, for instance. It is now known to result from long-term, unresolved inflammation in the body. Heart disease remains the number one killer of men and women in the United States, and throughout most of the industrialized world.
So, what, exactly does an anti-inflammatory diet look like? For that, we need only look to the Mediterranean diet. Studied for decades, this dietary pattern features plenty of whole foods, including vegetables, herbs, fruit, nuts, legumes, and whole grains. It also features fish. And very little red meat. The primary oil in the Mediterranean diet is olive oil, and some experts believe this may be one of the crucial keys to the healthful effects of the diet.
That’s because extra virgin olive oil possesses heart-healthy mono and poly-unsaturated fats. But it also contains powerful, unique antioxidant compounds that directly fight inflammation. In fact, antioxidants in the diet are a hallmark of a low-inflammation diet. Antioxidants combat chemicals called free radicals.
These compounds are generated through normal digestive processes, and may overwhelm the body following a meal, temporarily inducing a state of heightened inflammation. When the diet also includes natural dietary antioxidants—primarily from plant foods—it’s possible to avoid this state of diet-induced inflammation.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fish and Seafood (Omega-3 fatty acids)
Dietary Antioxidants Add Color to Your Life
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables and Cruciferous Vegetables
Extra virgin olive oil, and olives, are among nature’s superfoods. That’s because they not only supply healthful dietary fats, they also posses significant portions of antioxidant compounds that may help reduce inflammation. Choose California-grown organic olive oil for best results. The quality and provenance of olive oils imported from abroad are often questionable. Only reputable, first-cold-press extra virgin olive oil is guaranteed to contain powerful antioxidants that can do you a great deal of good.
The omega-3 fatty acids are a family of fats that are essential nutrients. By definition, we must have these nutrients in the diet; we cannot make them in the body. A companion family of fatty acids, known as the omega-6 fatty acids, are also essential (required). But they are extremely common in the U.S. food supply, occurring in everything from vegetable cooking oils to chips and many other foods. The issue is balance. We require a roughly balanced ratio of these two types of fats to remain healthy. Unfortunately, too many Americans consume too many omega-6s, and too few omega-3s. Omega-6 fatty acids are converted to pro-inflammatory compounds in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, are converted to anti-inflammatory molecules.
Omega-3s can be obtained from some limited plant sources (e.g. flaxseed, walnuts, etc.) but it’s far easier to obtain meaningful amounts of these nutrients from fish and seafood. Salmon, for instance, is an excellent source of omega-3s. So too is tuna. Consider eating more of these foods, and less of red meat, for better inflammation control. Or take fish oil supplements to boost your intake.
Generally speaking, natural pigment compounds, found in foods such as red peppers, tomatoes, blueberries, blackberries, salmon, carrots or other brightly colored foods are potent antioxidants. In the body, they help combat inflammation by reducing oxidative stress.
They do so by quenching potentially damaging free radicals that are generated through normal digestive processes after a meal. Thus, it’s always a good idea to let your eyes do the shopping. In the produce section of your grocer, choose brightly-colored fruits and vegetables, and rest assured that these foods benefit you on multiple levels. Berries, cherries, and virtually any other colorful fruit or vegetable all contain beneficial antioxidant—and thus anti-inflammatory—compounds. Choose more of these foods.
Vegetables in the cruciferous family (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, arugula, etc.) possess unique compounds that are highly beneficial. They are converted in the body into compounds that may combat disease on several levels, including inhibiting the development of certain types of cancer. Likewise, consumption of dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, is linked to reduced levels of certain types of disease, most likely due to unique compounds, such as lutein, vitamin K, vitamin C, etc.
Ginger is the queen of anti-inflammatory foods. Try to incorporate ginger into as many meals as possible. Choose fresh roots at the grocery that are firm. Scrape the thin skin away and grate or chop the inner rhizome to yield juice and pulp that’s loaded with flavor—and powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Ginger is especially good for quelling nausea and helping to control motion sickness.
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