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This Month In Diet
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Health and Fitness News

Enemy: Inflammation

What to eat and not to eat in your fight against unwanted inflammation.

A healthy immune system uses inflammation to protect the body from infection and disease. Sometimes, however, the immune system mistakenly sends the body into inflammation mode when there’s no illness to fight off. This unwanted inflammation can cause damage to healthy tissue and may play a role in many leading diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, obesity, asthma, and some types of arthritis.

Chronic inflammation may be treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen, corticosteroids, and certain foods. But you don’t have to depend on medication alone to fight inflammation. The foods you eat can be used to keep inflammation at bay.

If you wonder what an anti-inflammatory diet looks like, it is in essence a healthy diet that avoids junk food. Here’s what to eat and not to eat in your fight against inflammation.

Fruits and Veggies

You can never go wrong with fruits and vegetables. Full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, fruits and vegetables should be eaten every day. Powerful vegetables in the fight against inflammation include leafy greens such as kale, collard greens, and spinach, as well as cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower. Powerhouse fruits include cherries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and oranges.

Beans

Whether black, pinto, or garbanzo, beans are another food to eat on a regular basis. Whether in salads, soups, or burritos, beans are full of fiber, protein, and antioxidants that fight inflammation. Plan to eat a cup of beans at least two times a week. Whether as a side dish or the entree, beans satisfy your hunger and do a world of good against inflammation.

Whole Grains

Fiber plays a big part in preventing inflammation. One way to get your recommended daily amount of fiber is by eating whole grains. Brown rice, oatmeal, popcorn, whole-wheat bread, and whole-wheat pasta are common types of whole grains to include in your diet.

Fish & Nuts

Fish, particularly fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies are all high in omega-3 fatty acids, a fat that’s known to help lower chronic inflammation. If you really want to put inflammation in its place, eat fish at least twice a week.

Nuts also contain a type of omega-3 fatty acid that works to stop inflammation.
If you don’t care for fish or nuts, talk to your doctor about taking an omega-3 supplement. An omega-3 fatty acid has been shown to increase the effectiveness of drugs used to lower inflammation.

Spices

If you think healthy eating is dull eating, think again. You can actually add flavor to your food while reducing inflammation. That’s because spices such as curcumin, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and cayenne may help reduce symptoms of chronic inflammation.

Foods to Avoid

An anti-inflammatory diet (and a healthy diet) will limit or avoid sugar, saturated fat, and refined carbs. With that in mind, you’ll do well to eat as little sugar as possible. Cookies, cakes, candy, and soda are all high in sugar, which triggers the production of cytokines, messengers that increase inflammation. Sugar also contributes to weight gain, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar. Liquid sugar found in sodas, sports drinks, sweet tea, fruit punch, and lemonade is especially harmful, so go with water or tea as often as possible.

Saturated fat is another cause of inflammation, so limit the amount you consume. Fried foods, red meat, processed meats, and full-fat dairy products are all high in saturated fat. Replace these foods in your diet with healthier options.

Refined carbohydrates are also associated with chronic inflammation. Breads, pastas, rice, snack foods, and cereals made with refined, white flour are high in carbs and low in fiber and nutrients, so eat them sparingly.