Are anti-inflammatory foods the secret of healthy eating?
There are so many different diets available for healthy eating. It is hard to choose which one is best. Whether you are looking to improve your daytime energy, have less pain, or lose weight, it is difficult to know which foods will help you the most.
The word diet in and of itself is pretty off-putting, so focusing on healthy eating will give you the most sustainable results, which you can follow for the long term.
Inflammatory disease is one of the most significant contributors to our ill health in the current age, ranging from heart conditions, autoimmune disease and chronic symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and joint pain. So, why not take a proactive approach in managing your health, and eat a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods?
This article will explain which anti-inflammatory foods are essential for optimal health and support recovery from chronic illness and autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and migraines.
Is all inflammation harmful?
The short answer is no.
With the rise in chronic illness and inflammatory conditions, foods and activities have been categorised as either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory in recent years. The former is often the one told to avoid. However, inflammation is a vital component of our immune response to invading pathogens such as viruses and bacteria. So, in some instances, we need inflammation to protect and heal us.
Acute bouts of inflammation are helpful. It is only when inflammation persists that it begins to create havoc in the body. You see, inflammation can cause disruption, damage and degeneration when it stays in the body systemically for an extended period.
How can healthy eating help?
Lowering systemic inflammation in your body and supporting your immune system might be easier than you think. Many studies have shown that specific food components have anti-inflammatory effects that lessen the systemic inflammation and ensure that the first line of defence - your pro-inflammatory immune cells - stay in check and respond when appropriate. It's a win-win.
Certain foods are more likely to contribute to inflammation, such as foods that contain a high amount of refined sugar and carbohydrate, processed meats, trans fats found in pastries, margarine and pizza. These are best avoided, especially if you have symptoms of inflammation.
However, various foods have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, such as oily fish, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, beans, herbs, and spices. Below are some of the reasons why these foods are so beneficial for your health.
The omega-3s found in fish are anti-inflammatory and, as you cannot make omega-3 fatty acids in your body, you must consume these through the foods you consume.
Fruits and vegetables
Colour counts when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Each colour has its own spectacular anti-inflammatory powers. The blue and purple hues of berries contain anthocyanins which are antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. And the green colour of broccoli and Brussel sprouts sulforaphane help slow down the destruction of joints in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
Herbs and spices
Flavour your food with herbs and spices and reap their antioxidants. Antioxidants help to neutralise the effects of free radicals in the body, which cause a state of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress contributes to inflammation, so it is best to keep it at bay!
Anti-inflammatory eating and living
Eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods will certainly help, but adopting anti-inflammatory lifestyle practices will help to keep your body centred and calm. This is because stress and inflammation are intrinsically linked.
When you are stressed, you are more likely to stimulate the pro-inflammatory response of the immune system, which can lead to chronic inflammation.
There are many ways to reduce stress with breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, biofeedback and visualisations. Spending time with loved ones and sharing stories with friends and colleagues also helps to feel more at ease.
If you are looking for that first step to healthy eating, then perhaps focusing on anti-inflammatory foods is a great place to start.
From 8th November, there will be a group challenge in The Autoimmunity Community, focusing on anti-inflammatory eating. So, if you are keen to give it a go, why not join our community?