Can what you eat help your body fight inflammation? Experts offer a huge body of research that says yes. This is really good news for lots of reasons. First, it means we can avoid relying on the pharmacy for every little ache and pain. But it also means that there really are ways to stop of one the most common of human ailments: inflammation.
Figure 1: Blueberries help fight inflammation, taste good, and are packed with nutrients
I wanted to find out if there was a “master list” somewhere that described all the major IF (inflammation-fighting) foods, exactly what they do, and how much of them a person needs to consume to get the benefit. As far as quantity goes, most of the IF edibles do their job as long as you eat a moderate quantity of them on a regular basis. That means you won’t need to be packing away pounds of blueberries or oodles of soybeans to ward off inflammation.
The even better news is that most IF foods are inexpensive and easy to find at the local grocery store. Things like the aforementioned blueberries, soybeans, nuts and broccoli are pretty common. For a few, you might have to visit a health food store, but for the most part, IF foods are all around us, and you probably already have several in your kitchen.
So, what are the most potent warriors in the battle against inflammation, and how exactly do they get the job done? Here are the most common inflammation fighters you’ll want to know about:
The Short List
Straight from the experts at Harvard Medical School, the foods that are most apt to fight inflammation in the human body include fatty fish selections like tuna, sardines, mackerel, and salmon. Also on the “good” list are nuts (walnuts and almonds, for example), green/leafy vegetables like collards, kale, and spinach. Common choices like olive oil, tomatoes, and most fruits, though oranges, cherries, blueberries and strawberries are the best.
Keep in mind that just as there are anti-inflammation (AI) foods, there are culprits known as inflammation-causing foods, which unfortunately include much of what the typical American eats every day, like refined carbs (pastries and white breads are the bad guys in this grouping), processed and red meats like steaks, sausage, hot dogs, and burgers, French fries, all fried foods, sugar-containing sodas, most sweetened beverages, lard, margarine, shortening, and just about anything categorized as “junk” or fast food.
The Long List
The experts at Eat This, Not That, have a list of AI foods that is even more comprehensive than Harvard’s, and includes lots of delicious choices like raw oats, ginger, green tea, dark chocolate, red peppers, turmeric, beets, broccoli, black beans, chia seeds, pineapple, spinach, whole grains, eggs, garlic, oysters, yogurt, apples, rosemary, bone broth, coconut oil, raw honey and everyone’s Japanese favorite, miso soup.
The staff at WebMD suggests that for people who have conditions that include inflammation, a simple change in diet can be the best medicine of all. Of course, you should always speak to your own doctor about any illness or dietary change, but for general purposes, AI foods are a good way to begin a healthier lifestyle that eliminates most types of junk food in the American/Western diet.
Why is inflammation inherently bad, and what is the usual cause of it? When the body responds to an attack, the instinctive process causes inflammation as a means of defense, but only for a short time. Due to unnatural foods and substances in the body, inflammation lasts for dangerously long times, and can cause permanent damage to tissues and cells. That’s why doctors sometimes prescribe anti-inflammation drugs.
The down side of drug therapy is that it is a quick, short-term fix that can damage the body’s natural immune system. Eating AI foods and eliminating inflammation-causing foods from the diet can go a long way toward restoring the natural human response to an infection, namely a temporary inflammation of tissue, not a permanent one.
Most experts in the field of immunology say that incorporating several AI foods into your daily meals can help, but you also need to begin eliminating the foods that directly cause inflammation, like fast food and junk food. There’s no substitute for healthy eating when it comes to the body’s immune system, say specialists.
Apparently, our systems are so out of whack due to chemical additives, refined sugar and other unnatural substances that it takes a while to get things back on track. That’s where AI foods come in. By slowing increasing the “good stuff” and decreasing the bad, we modern humans can regain the healthy, robust bodies we were meant to have.
Figure 2: Five of the many inflammation-fighting foods
Food for Thought
What better way to incorporate healthy foods into your daily routine than with a set of easy-to-create meals and recipes from the experts. There are so many good recipe books out there, that finding just the right one might take a bit of trial and error, but here are three you can’t go wrong with.
With an eye on disease prevention, as opposed to maintenance of general health, Jessica Black makes the connection between all sorts of chronic maladies like heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. There’s an interesting discussion about food allergies and how they wreak havoc with the human immune system. The book is really helpful when it comes to understanding the difference between smart and not-so-smart dietary choices, and informs readers about how to change their way of thinking about food and long-term health. If you want to prevent disease and avoid inflammation, this book can show you how to cook and eat your way to optimum health.
For AI recipes, here’s the book that started it all. Julie Daniluk’s collection of mouth-watering anti-inflammatory meals is more than just a specialized cook book. She delves deeply into the six primary causes of inflammation, looks at the physiology of infection, how to recover from injuries and ties everything together with an examination of the digestive system and how AI foods create a healthier body. There are soups, salads, dressings, dips, sauces, and of course main meals, all included in a comprehensive listing of more than 120 recipes.
Daniluk views AI foods through the prism of healing, but also discusses related topics like weight loss and mental health. Of all the anti-inflammatory food books on the market, this one has the most complete, and diverse, set of recipes.
Everything you need to know about AI foods is in this book, along with a generous supply of recipes to satisfy a wide range of personal tastes. This serious, informative book begins with a clear, eye-opening explanation about how the Western diet is rife with inflammation-inducing foods, like sugar, fast-food, red meat, dairy, white flour, and chemical additives. But wait, there is a solution!
AI foods can easily be incorporated into the diet with a bit of finesse and imagination. There are delicious recipes that will help with this happy task, like Pea Soup “French-Canadian style,” saffron cod, sunflower seeds-and-grapes salad, glazed chicken with ginger and lime, and ginger-maple butternut squash. The list goes on, with each selection sounding more mouth-watering than the last.
So, what are the culprits, according to the book? Primarily the Western diet components mentioned above. The AI foods that are the remedy include grass-fed meat, vegetables, fruits, oils, seeds, nuts and fish, among other things. But the point is to begin, gradually, substituting some of the AI foods for the Western foods that directly cause inflammation. The book offers a detailed regimen for doing so, and lists every conceivable pitfall and mistake that beginners are likely to make. There’s a wealth of information in “Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Health,” which means that if you acquire just one book on the subject, this one would be a worthy candidate for the reference shelf.
Food is Strong Medicine
In so many ways, incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your daily routine is simply about making new, more conscious choices. The good news is that the list of foods that fight inflammation is very long and contains plenty of things you’re already eating. The goal, according to nutritionists who counsel people who need to reduce inflammation, is to know which foods work for you and which ones work against you.
A collection of appetizing recipes that are neither repetitive nor expensive is a smart way to begin. And you don’t need to buy books unless you want to add to the “food library.” Literally thousands of anti-inflammation recipes can be found online, along with video how-to explanations for people who are new to meal preparation.
So, why not give nature’s power a try and see how some of the foods listed above can get the job done. There’s nothing better than delicious, nutritious choices for optimum health. Then, let us know about your experiences in the comments section or on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear what worked for you and whether you came up with some new and interesting recipes.