Anti-infammatory Diet

Anti-infammatory Diet

August 27, 2015

Inflammation is our body's defense. The body's inflammatory response comes to the rescue when it is injured or exposed to bacteria, toxins or allergens. Swelling isolates the injury or infection while white blood cells come to fight the cause of inflammation.

Too much inflammation, however, is not a good thing.

Researchers have linked chronic inflammation to heart disease, chronic respiratory disease, strokes, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and cancer. Inflamed tissues cannot absorb nutrients.

At Salem Hospital, inflammation is a big concern in our intensive care unit. Reducing inflammation in our patients helps them recover more quickly.

The good news is that we can reduce chronic inflammation by making better choices about foods. Rather than focusing on what you should avoid, try to eat more of these foods:

Vegetables, especially organic vegetables, of all colors. Carotenoids and flavonoids, which give fruits and vegetables their bright colors, are antioxidants. Dark green leafy vegetables provide lots of vitamins, minerals and inflammation-fighting vitamin E.

Fruits, like vegetables, are packed with antioxidants. Watch your intake: Too much fruit may cause your blood sugar to spike. High blood sugar is associated with inflammation.

Beans and legumes. Packed with health-supporting minerals and loads of fiber, well-cooked chickpeas (garbanzos), black beans and lentils provide great fuel for your body without increasing your blood sugar.

Properly prepared pasta. Do not overcook your pasta.

Whole grains.Your body digests whole grains, — basmati rice, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa and steel cut oats — slowly, reducing the risk of spikes in your blood glucose.

Healthy fats. Healthy fats offer powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Seeds and nuts, avocados and salmon are excellent sources of omega-3 fats. Extra-virgin olive oil contains polyphenols, important for their antioxidant properties.

Fish and seafood.The fatty acids in cold-water fish, such as salmon, are great for reducing inflammation. If you choose not to eat fish, take a fish-oil supplement containing EHA and DHA. In addition to their anti-inflammatory properties, they have promise in helping patients control weight and improve cognitive function.

Grass-fed, pastured meat. If you choose to eat beef, pork or chicken, limit your intake to one or two servings a week. Meat from animals fed in feedlots contains more omega-6 fatty acids than the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. For some people, beef, pork and chicken actually trigger inflammation. The same rules apply to dairy products and eggs.

Herbs and spices.Spices do not just add flavor and color to food; they have healthy benefits as well. Spices with anti-inflammatory benefits include turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, garlic, cayenne, black pepper and cloves. Herbs common in the Mediterranean diet — oregano, thyme, rosemary and basil — also can help reduce inflammation.

Tea. White, green and oolong teas contain inflammation-suppressing catechins.

Chocolate and wine. In small amounts, dark chocolate and red wines are a part of a healthy anti-inflammatory diet.

What about gluten?For some people, eliminating gluten can improve chronic conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. Gluten can be hard to avoid. Read labels carefully, and consider preparing most meals from scratch.

Jessica Short is a registered dietitian for Salem Health. Email

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Diet and Nutrients , Diet and Disease