By Joann Godwin, RD, LDN
What if the power to fight the diseases that plague us could be found in our homegrown gardens and grocery stores instead of the pharmacy?
Many diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s have been linked to chronic inflammation. Clinical studies have shown that the anti-inflammatory effects of some foods (specifically those high in antioxidants, phytochemicals, and polyphenols found in a plant-based diet) can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, improve our mood, and help aid us in an overall better quality of life as we age.
The opposite can be said for the foods we love to eat that are heavily processed and have a low nutrient content. When you consistently choose these kinds of foods you could be fanning the flames to increase the inflammatory disease process. This isn’t to suggest that you only eat fruits and vegetables and never indulge in a slice of birthday cake or have a burger and fries at your local ballpark. But it does make sense to add in some colorful fruits and vegetables at each meal if you want to live healthier and happier.
Add these foods with high anti-inflammatory properties to your daily routine:
- Dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, and collards)
- Fruits (red berries, blueberries, cherries, colorful grapes)
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts, and pistachios)
- Fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna)
- Swap extra virgin olive oil for processed fats
Lessen your intake of processed and deep-fried foods (pastries, French fries, soda, hot dogs, sausage) and refined starches (pre-packaged baked goods). Start to work on some new healthier habits each week until they slowly replace the old ones.
Top 10 simple ways to fight inflammation and use everyday foods as your medicine:
- Spice up your roasted veggies with Turmeric for an extra boost of flavor and anti-inflammatory goodness!
- Add more leafy green veggies in a salad and to sandwiches for an easy way to sneak in your dark greens.
- Get your daily dose of antioxidants by combining red, blue, and purple hues like blackberries, blueberries, and red berries in a cup for a snack or healthy side at lunch.
- Lower your inflammatory biomarkers by adding unsalted nuts that are high in omega fatty acids with a combo of fiber and antioxidants with 1 oz. serving of cashews, almonds, pistachios, or walnuts. Sprinkle them on a bed of greens or use the 100 calories individual packs to eat with a purple plum as a healthy snack.
- Getting better quality sleep helps keep the stress down which in turn lowers your risk of inflammation too. The best evening snack to help keep blood sugars stable and promote a better night’s sleep combines a lean serving of protein, fat, and carbs. Eat a tablespoon of almond butter with slices of apple for a night-time knockout!
- Drinking natural green tea instead of sugary beverages can greatly decrease your oxidative stress levels due to its high level of natural antioxidants also.
- Choose 14 sweet or tart cherries as dessert instead of other processed sweets to add more foods that heal. Even the Arthritis Foundation suggests eating cherries to ease joint issues related to arthritis and gout.
- Apples help strengthen your gut microbiome and help create a stronger intestinal lining that fewer inflammatory compounds can cross to get into the body. Choose the size of a tennis ball to keep proper portion sizes in mind.
- Celebrate an upcoming event by dipping some powerhouse broccoli, cauliflower, or carrots in homemade guacamole made with a few slivers of avocado with your favorite seasonings. This creamy fruit is full of monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, fiber, and carotenoids which collectively work together to soothe inflammation in the body.
- Get moving! Of course, you know I was going to add in the movement for healthier living! An expanding waistline and obesity are major causes of inflammation. Get moving and inflammation will take a hike too! Get off the couch and make your everyday life activities work for your health. Walking is great for your mind and body.
- Before making any significant changes to your diet, please check with your provider.
Joann Godwin is HealthTeam Advantage’s health coach. She’s a registered and licensed dietitian/nutritionist with a specialty in gerontology.