What is anti-inflammatory diet and is it good for you?
Heard about an anti-inflammatory diet? But what is it and is it good for you? In this article, we will help you to find out. First of all, let’s start by defining inflammation.
1. What is inflammation?
Inflammation can cause a tremendous amount of pain – see arthritis – but it’s a natural process that your body uses to defend itself and heal itself. So how come it causes so much pain? Unfortunately, inflammation occasionally gets out of control, runs riot, and becomes chronic. Not cool. When this happens, pain erupts. The thing is that chronic inflammation is really hard to get rid of once it’s set in. It can take weeks, months, years to go away. Over that time, inflammation can cause all kinds of health issues.
Let’s go a little deeper into the science behind inflammation, including how it works and why it sometimes spirals out of control, causing us nothing but misery. Your body ramps up its production of immune cells, white blood cells and cytokines when it needs to protect itself from infection. During this time, you might notice swelling, pain and redness on your body. For example, how about the time a sore, ugly pimple presented itself on the end of your nose? It was red, swollen and very painful! This is a sign of inflammation. However, as painful as this type of inflammation can be, it’s just short-term pain that will soon settle down and disappear. After two or three days of awkwardness, the redness around the pimple pales, and the swelling begins to go down. Yay. Long term inflammation is different. It’s much more stealth-like, operating silently and unnoticeably. Indeed, it often grows and grows without any symptoms whatsoever. Eventually, the pain comes – and, boy, can you feel it!
2. But what causes inflammation?
Inflammation is usually triggered by a poor lifestyle. If you eat too much sugar, it can cause insulin resistance, which can lead to obesity and diabetes. These are forms of chronic inflammation. Refined carbs can also cause inflammation, such as white bread, as can packaged and processed foods that are rich in bad fats. Vegetable oils are other culprits, as is too much processed meat and too much alcohol. A sedentary lifestyle is another huge factor. If you sit around a lot and consume a poor diet, you’re putting yourself at major risk of developing chronic inflammation. We’re not saying that you must avoid all these foods altogether. But everything must be taken in moderation. If your diet is poor and you accept that it’s poor, it can cause huge health problems that could easily have been reverted. How? By switching to an anti-inflammatory diet.
3. An anti-inflammatory diet
As its name suggests, an anti-inflammatory diet has the exact opposite effect on your system as the villains of the piece, such as sugar, alcohol and refined carbs. It consists of nutrient-dense, whole foods that are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are important because they eliminate free radicals from your system. If left unchecked, these rogue molecules can cause inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet consists of the following foods (and more):
– Fresh fruit
– Healthy fats
– Fatty fish
– Green tea
– Dark chocolate
An anti-inflammatory diet doesn’t consist of the following foods:
– Refined carbs
– Sugary beverages
– Fatty desserts
– Processed snack foods
– Processed meat
– Trans fats
– Certain oils
The aim, then, of an anti-inflammatory diet is to provide you with a good balance of macro nutrients – protein, fat and carbs. It also provides you with lots of micronutrients too, as well water, fibre, minerals and vitamins. Sounds good? Here are a few more things you should know about an anti-inflammatory diet:
4. Consume lots of fibre
You won’t find any fibre in processed meat products. In fact, you won’t find fibre in meat whatsoever. Fibre comes only from plants, and as such is one of the healthiest nutrients you can get. Fibre is important for lots of reasons, not least of which is keeping indigestion at bay. You should aim to add at least 25 grams of it per day. You can get fibre from the likes of oatmeal, barley, onions, eggplant, bananas and apples.
5. Eat nine servings of fruit & veg each day
You’ve heard of the five a day rule. This is the minimum amount of fruit and veg you should be eating each day. However, if you want to stick to an effective anti-inflammatory diet, you should aim to eat at least nine servings of fruit and veg per day. A serving equates to half a cup of a piece of fruit or veg.
6. Eat less saturated fat
You don’t have to give up saturated fat altogether, but you should look to cut back on how much you consume. The recommended amount for an anti-inflammatory diet is 10% per day – any more than that and you run the risk of inflammation and consequently heart disease.
7. Eat plenty of fish
Provided you’re not a vegetarian or vegan, fish should be on the menu three times per week from now on. Fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential in the fight against inflammation. Over the long term, they reduce your risk of developing arthritis, cancer and heart disease. If you don’t eat meat, you can get your omega-3 fatty acids fix from supplements or from nuts.
8. Snack smartly
You can still snack, but from now on you should start snacking smarter. This is easy to do. Instead of taking sugary candy bar to work with you, or raiding the vending machine for a chocolate bar, snack on berries, dried fruit and nuts instead. Berries are easily as tasty – if not more so – than a candy bar, and help to reduce inflammation. The same is true of nuts which, in their wonderful variety, provide lots of other benefits, too.
What do you think about anti-inflammatory diet?