Inflammation is a natural part of your body’s healing process. A balanced inflammatory response is crucial to overall health. Too much inflammation has been associated with cancer, autoimmune illnesses, and cardiovascular problems. Excess inflammation can also make it difficult to heal from an injury or cause more pain during the healing process.
Nearly everyone can benefit from eating foods that fight inflammation, especially individuals with inflammation-driven illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis. You may also want to consider adding more anti-inflammatory foods to your diet if you are healing from an injury or surgery.
Here are three types of food that fight inflammation:
1. Leafy Greens
Dark green vegetables like kale, bok choy, and spinach contain loads of nutrients and fiber. Fiber itself may help reduce inflammation by aiding bowel health. Your digestive system is responsible for much of your immunity and helps regulate inflammation throughout the body. A healthy digestive tract leads to a healthier immune system and a balanced inflammatory response. The vitamins and minerals found in leafy greens, including Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and folate, boost your immune system and reduce inflammation. The antioxidants responsible for giving these veggies their dark green color have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Vegetables in the Brassica family also contain chemicals with cancer-protective properties. Brussel sprouts, kale, and broccoli all belong to this family of veggies.
Consuming plenty of leafy green vegetables has other benefits outside of inflammation reduction. They’ve also been shown to improve blood lipid levels, and benefit thyroid health. Their high folate content makes them a great choice for pregnant women. A diet high in folate prevents neural tube defects in pregnancy. The calcium and vitamin K in leafy greens like spinach work together to promote healthy bones.
How to Eat More: Growing micro-greens is one of the easiest ways to consume more green veggies. “Micro-greens” is a fancy term for the baby version of these vegetables that are consumed while they are still very small. Micro-greens contain up to 40 times more nutrients than mature greens. They are easy to grow in your kitchen, and seeds are inexpensive. You can harvest them after about ten days. For a continuous supply, start a new tray every week.
2. Good Fats
Decades ago, fat was demonized as the cause of obesity and disease. While it is true that all fats are high in calories and should be consumed in moderation, some fats are essential to good health. The body needs small amounts of saturated fats and larger amounts of unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats include Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. The problem with many modern diets is that they contain too many saturated fats and not enough unsaturated fats. Many western diets also contain way more Omega-6 than Omega-3 fatty acids. While both these fats are considered healthy, they need to be eaten in a proper ratio to promote optimal health. Eating significantly more Omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids can promote inflammation.
A healthy ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is believed to be somewhere between 4:1 and 1:4. The typical American diet looks more like 14:1. Many processed foods like chips contain safflower, sunflower, or soy oils– all of which are high in omega-6 fatty acids. These oils aren’t bad for us per se, but when we don’t eat enough omega-3 rich foods to balance our omega-6 intake, it can lead to more inflammation and poor health. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include grass-fed beef, fatty fish like sardines and tuna, walnuts, and canola oil. Some foods like walnuts and soy contain both omega-6 and omega-3 fats.
How to Eat More: Cutting back on processed foods and increasing your intake of whole, natural foods like nuts, good quality meats, and seafood can balance your fat intake and encourage a healthier inflammatory response. Check labels for saturated fat content. Saturated fat shouldn’t make up more than 10% of your total calories per day. A nutritionist can help you determine how many calories you should eat and what percentage should come from different kinds of fats.
3. Red and Purple Fruits and Veggies
The chemicals that turn veggies and fruits red or purple have potent antioxidant properties that fight inflammation and reduce cancer risk. Foods like beets, cherries, red and black grapes, and black olives reduce inflammation, improve cardiovascular health and contain tons of nutrients and fiber. Berries are one of the best foods in this group to consume. They are typically high in nutrients and fiber and low in sugar.
Tomatoes are also nutritional powerhouses, but you should avoid them if you are sensitive to nightshade vegetables (this group includes eggplant, peppers, and potatoes). Beets and grapes are high in sugar and should be eaten in moderation.
How to Eat More: Try keeping frozen berries on hand to mix into smoothies. Purple versions of your favorite veggies like purple potatoes, purple asparagus, purple cauliflower, and purple cabbage can be substituted in recipes that call for the non-purple variety. Substituting fruit for processed or sugary snacks is a great way to increase your nutrients and antioxidants and cut back on calories.
What to Avoid
Along with choosing foods that fight inflammation, it’s also important to limit foods that promote it. White flour, sugar, red meat, and processed foods all increase inflammation. These foods are often nutrient-poor and high in calories. Diets high in them can lead to weight gain and undernourishment. (A small amount of grass-fed red meat is healthy, but you shouldn’t exceed three 12-18 oz portions per week.)
Avoiding or limiting these foods and eating healthy, whole foods instead can lead to less inflammation, better overall health, and even longer life.
At All Star Chiropractic, we treat the whole patient and recommend healthy lifestyle choices to promote healing and overall health. Our chronic pain patients often benefit from a combination of chiropractic care and lifestyle modifications. We create personalized treatment plans and recommendations for our clients to help them optimize their wellness and reduce pain. Click or call today to find out how we can help you reach your wellness goals.