Fight inflammation with food – Say no to rheumatoid arthritis, gout, heart disease, diabetes and more!

Before we start lets first try to understand inflammation. Inflammation occurs when the body’s immune system responds to an irritant. The irritant could be a germ (bacteria, virus, fungi); a foreign object, such as a thorn in your finger; plant pollen; or chemical or radiation. This inflammation occurs to protects your health.

However, when the cells of the immune system fight against the body’s own cells by mistake, it results in harmful inflammation which persists. This inflammation can cause chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease. It could also impact your joints and cause rheumatoid arthritis and gout; or impact the brain by causing cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s.

The right diet can help you fight inflammation and reduce the risk or intensity of inflammation-linked diseases. Over the years, researchers have identified many foods that reduce inflammation. They have determined that different food components, like fibre, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats all work together to fight inflammation in the body. More recently, anti-inflammatory impact of ginger, turmeric and green tea have also been highlighted. In addition, researchers have also determined that saturated or trans-fat, excess sugar, excess red meat and processed meat increase inflammation.

Based on current research, following is information on foods that can reduce inflammation; and some dietary tips to help you fight inflammation:

Anti-inflammatory Food 1: Whole grains – Say no to white rice, white noodles or pasta and white bread! … they are the ‘BAD CARBS’. Aim to consume at least 3 servings of whole grains daily for an antioxidant and fibre boost to beat inflammation. A serving is equal to a slice of bread or half a bowl of cooked rice or noodles. Go brown for whole grain goodness with whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole wheat noodles or pasta; and include other whole grains like ragi, jowar, bajra, oats, barley and quinoa.

Anti-inflammatory Food 2: Vegetables and fruit – Aim to eat at least 2 cups or 2 fruit servings; and 2 cups or 2 vegetable servings daily. Also, eat a variety of fruit and vegetables, as each fruit or vegetable offers a different antioxidant cocktail which works with fibre to reduce inflammation. Tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, strawberries, blue berries, cherries, beetroot, avocado, apples and oranges are especially beneficial, as they are an excellent source of phytochemical antioxidants.

Anti-inflammatory Food 3: Oily fish – Fish like sardines, tuna, mackerel and salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids. 3 to 4 ounces of these fish, at least two times a week, is recommended for inflammation reduction. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish is the beneficial component which reduces inflammation. If you are a vegetarian, you may consider adding a teaspoon of roasted and ground flax seeds into your food daily. Alternatively, eat a handful of walnuts for an omega-3 boost.

Anti-inflammatory Food 4: Beans – The US Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming at least 2 cups of beans every week. Beans are a great source of protein, so you could actually replace an ounce of meat with half a cup of beans. The antioxidant and fibre combination in beans, peas and lentils have a positive impact on inflammation.

Photo by Sumeet B on Unsplash

Anti-inflammatory Food 5: Nuts and seeds – Nuts are also a great source of protein; and the antioxidants, fibre and mono unsaturated fats in nuts work together to reduce inflammation. Eat a handful of walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios or almonds daily.

Anti-inflammatory Food 6: Olive oil – 2 Tbsps. of extra virgin olive oil daily, is recommended. It contains monounsaturated fat and antioxidants that can help fight inflammation and pain associated with it.

Anti-inflammatory Food 7: Onions – Antioxidants in onions can help reduce inflammation. So, slice in the onions into salads, cook them with vegetables, or use in a pasta sauce as often as possible!

Anti-inflammatory Food 8: Spices – Emerging research is highlighting the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger and turmeric. So, go ahead and add in lots of ginger and turmeric into your food; or prepare a hot cuppa ginger and turmeric tea.

Anti-inflammatory Food 9: Green tea – Green tea also offers up anti-inflammatory antioxidants, so when you think of a hot cuppa, think ‘green tea’.  

And there are some dietary ‘don’ts’ too:

  1. Eat less red meat: Red meat is known to be pro-inflammatory.
  2. Avoid fat and sugar laden food: Excess fat, especially saturated fat (e.g., fat found in palm and coconut oil, meat and chicken fat), and sugar-laden food can increase inflammation. Limit intake of cookies, cakes, kuehs, and cream-laden dessert. Also, avoid food with shortenings especially food made with puff pastry e.g., a curry puff. Say no to processed meats too, as a lot of fat, especially saturated fat, hides in sausages, bacon, ham and salami. Limit intake of sugar-laden beverages, desserts and snacks too!
  3. Lose weight: Weight gain is also a risk factor for inflammation – so lose weight, if you are overweight.

Inflammation does have an adverse impact on your overall health. It increases risk of rheumatoid arthritis, gout, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases. The diet you need to fight inflammation is not very different from the recommendations of a healthy diet. Anti-inflammatory foods are basically your everyday foods. You need to eat adequate whole grains, plenty of fruit and vegetables, fatty fish and beans for protein, a handful of nuts or seeds, and some monounsaturated fat with olive oil. In addition, you also need to spice up your food with ginger and turmeric, and top up your meals with green tea daily. And as with all dietary recommendations, limiting intake of fat especially saturated fat and trans-fat and sugar is important to fight inflammation.

References:

Arthritis Foundation . (2019, December 03). Living with Arthritis . Retrieved from Arthritis Foundation : https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/anti-inflammatory/anti-inflammatory-diet.php

Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School. (2014, November 7). Foods that fight inflammation. Retrieved from Harward Women’s Health Watch: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation

Mayo Clinic . (2019, December 03). Healthy Lifestyle . Retrieved from Mayo Clinic : https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/how-to-use-food-to-help-your-body-fight-inflammation/art-20457586

NCBI InformedHealth.org . (2018, Feb 2022). InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Retrieved from NCBI InformedHealth.org : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279298/

VeVeva Nutrition Pte Ltd established in 2019, is a nutrition consultancy for the food and beverage industry, individuals and groups. With a personal passion to create a healthier world, we assess your current diet and lifestyle, and recommend dietary changes for optimal health and/or weight management. As worksite wellness for a healthier more productive workforce is of essence, we will work with you to design customised corporate nutrition programmes to help your employees eat their way towards a healthier lifestyle. For more information, email: yashna.harjani@vevevanutrition.com.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *