Inflammation – the big, bad wolf. Or is it? To put it not so simply, inflammation is good and bad. Confused? Let me explain. Acute inflammation is that swollen bump on your head when you walked into the sliding door, or that unexpected bruise on your leg from an overly competitive game of Twister. Acute inflammation is your body’s natural, and very much necessary, response to protect you from harm and promote healing. Inflammation becomes the unwanted houseguest when it goes from acute to chronic. Chronic inflammation occurs when the body interprets substances, such as toxins, chemicals, or even excess body fat, as foreign and therefore harmful. When the immune system stays in a heightened state instead of returning to its balanced state (known as homeostasis), this can contribute to conditions and diseases such as Arthritis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Heart Disease, and many more.
So what can we do about it? Diet can play a significant role in inflammation – while some foods can fuel and worsen the inflammatory response in the body, others can soothe it. Check out my five favorite anti-inflammatory foods that can be added effortlessly to your everyday diet to fight back against inflammation.
Dark Leafy Greens – There are very few occasions in which you’ll hear me advise anyone to avoid dark leafy greens. Kale, spinach, arugula, and collard greens are powerhouses when it comes to inflammation. Consuming at least one serving of dark leafy greens per day can ensure that you are getting a great source of antioxidants like Vitamin A, C, and K – all of which protect the body from cellular damage. Whether you’re throwing spinach or kale into a smoothie, mixing some greens into your scrambled eggs, or enjoying a healthy salad as a starter before dinner, finding a place for your leafy greens can get you one step closer to fighting inflammation.
Walnuts & Flaxseeds – Nuts and seeds are a quick and easy way to increase your intake of anti-inflammatory foods without breaking a sweat. They are good sources of Vitamin E, yet another antioxidant. Walnuts and flaxseeds are the leaders of the pack however, due to the fact that they are also sources of anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to protect brain cells against inflammation and promote cognitive function. Just a handful a day goes a long way!
Broccoli – Part of the cruciferous vegetable family, broccoli is packed with Vitamin C, folate, and Vitamin K. Broccoli is also a source of another antioxidant, quercetin, which is shown to aid with pain and inflammation. Whether you’re buying it frozen or fresh, eating it raw or cooked, broccoli is so versatile and easy to incorporate into your everyday diet. My favorite way to eat it? Throwing it into a tomato sauce with garlic (another anti-inflammatory food) and onions, over some zucchini noodles!
Spices – Your spice rack is your very own medicine cabinet, so why not use it? Spices like turmeric, garlic, and ginger have such strong anti-inflammatory properties, and can add a pop of color and jazz to everyday simple meals. Turmeric’s active compound curcumin is such a powerful anti-inflammatory, and has been for thousands of years, that it is isolated and taken as a supplement today. Ginger can boost the immune system and aids with digestion for those who suffer from digestive diseases like IBD or have an irritable bowel. Garlic is probably the most versatile of the three and can be added to virtually any dish to add a burst of flavor – not to mention, it has antibacterial and antifungal properties as well!
Blueberries – I couldn’t complete a post about inflammation without including what is arguably the most well-known inflammation superhero. Blueberries have so many anti-inflammatory benefits, including being low in sugar, high in fiber, and rich in the antioxidants Vitamins A, C, E and anthocyanin. They can be purchased both fresh or frozen, added to oatmeal, smoothies, salads, or even frozen and eaten like dessert! Need I say more?
Swapping out fast food, refined sugars, and processed foods for these nutritious super foods can add so much value to your diet and overall health. Taking care of your body and nurturing it with foods that provide protection against harm is one way to take control of your health and put yourself first. So, why not start now?