Redness, hotness, swelling, and pain are the key signs of inflammation. Inflammation is not entirely a bad thing as it alerts us to the presence of an injury or infection. However, inflammation becomes harmful when it is chronic. Chronic inflammation may last for weeks, months, or even years. Recent evidence suggests that the underlying cause of many chronic diseases is linked to chronic inflammation. An approach that focuses on preventing chronic inflammation may be the best remedy for dealing with the associated chronic diseases. This article sheds light on how diet can be used to prevent chronic inflammation.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a defense mechanism that the body employs in order to protect itself from infection, illness, or injury. When inflammation occurs, the body increases the production of white blood cells, immune cells, and substances called cytokines that help fight infection. Acute infection is usually accompanied by pain at the site, redness, hotness, and swelling. Chronic inflammation may not have these accompanying signs. Apart from injury and infection, chronic inflammation may also be caused by diet, high-stress levels, and lifestyle diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Some foods have been linked to inflammation. When you consume these foods regularly you are likely to develop inflammation-related diseases.
Refined carbohydrates are those foods that have been manufactured from carbohydrates that have been processed. For example, white rice is a refined food while brown rice is not. Other refined foods include white bread, pasta, cakes, and other pastries made from refined flour. Some studies have linked refined carbs with inflammation, insulin resistance, and obesity. Processed and packaged foods are also likely to contain trans fats that have been linked to inflammation and destruction of endothelial cells that line the arteries in the heart. Trans fats are partially hydrogenated fats that are used in the preparation of most processed foods such as pizzas, cookies, and cakes. Processed meat such as bacon and sausages also contain unhealthy fats that may trigger chronic inflammation.
Numerous studies have linked chronic inflammation to an unhealthy diet. If you want to reduce inflammation, eat fewer inflammatory foods and more anti-inflammatory foods. This means adopting a fiber-rich and nutrient-dense diet with minimal amounts of processed foods. Diets that contain antioxidants can minimize your chances of developing chronic inflammation. Antioxidants fight off free radicals that are created as a natural part of your metabolism but can lead to inflammation when they’re not held in check.
The ideal anti-inflammatory diet should provide enough protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fat in the required proportions. Also, make sure that these nutrients are derived from natural wholesome foods that are not processed. The Mediterranean diet is one kind of diet that has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet originates from the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Its mainstay is on healthy fats, and it is centered on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and olive oil. Mediterranean diets limit dairy products as well as the intake of red meat. It also omits refined and processed foods in favor of whole grains. When it comes to alcohol, the Mediterranean diet allows the intake of red wine in moderation. A low carbohydrate diet also reduces inflammation, particularly for people who are obese or have metabolic syndrome.
People adopt a vegetarian diet for varied reasons such as ethical, animal rights, environmental, health or personal reasons. Research has shown that vegetarian diets are linked to reduced inflammation and reduced cardiovascular risk. Vegetarian diets are basically diets that exclude meat, poultry, and fish.
The health risks of inflammatory foods
Most foods that have been linked to type 2 diabetes are also associated with inflammation. These foods are also likely to cause weight gain and obesity. It appears that ingredients in these foods have an independent role to play in the development of inflammation.
It is no surprise that most chronic diseases are now being linked to inflammation.
On the contrary, foods and beverages that reduce inflammation have been linked to reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Foods such as blueberries, apples, and leafy greens are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols. These compounds have cardioprotective effects as well as anti-cancer effects. Whole nuts have also been linked to reduced markers of inflammation as well as a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
By altering what you eat you could reduce your chances of chronic inflammation. To wrap this up, here are foods to eat and foods to avoid.
Foods to Avoid
You should avoid or minimize foods linked to inflammation. They include:
- Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice,
- Sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas
- Sweetened baked treats such as cakes, cookies
- Processed snacks such as chips and pretzels
- Processed meat such as bacon and sausages
- Excessive alcohol intake
Foods to Eat
Create a diet plan that has more of these foods:
- Whole grains
- Natural juices
- healthy fats that are unsaturated
- Red wine
- Dark chocolate
- Fatty fish that is rich in omega oils such as salmon, herring, and anchovies
1. NCBI (2012): Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and maybe the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22826636
2. NCBI (2014): The effects of the Mediterranean diet on biomarkers of vascular wall inflammation and plaque vulnerability in subjects with high risk for cardiovascular disease. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24925270
3. NCBI (2013): Very low carbohydrate diet significantly alters the serum metabolic profiles in obese subjects. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24224694
4. NCBI (2004): Effects of a long-term vegetarian diet on biomarkers of antioxidant status and cardiovascular disease risk. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15474873