The inflammatory process is naturally designed to protect the body however sometimes the immune system triggers inflammation when there is no infection. Chronic low grade inflammation can be a major cause of free radical damage to our cells and can perpetuate and aggravate a number of health conditions such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, acne, cardiovascular disease, endometriosis, premature ageing, sinusitis and even some cancers.
The inflammatory potential of food is affected by a number of different factors such as the amount and proportion of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, the amount of protective antioxidants and the effects on insulin and blood sugar levels. The higher the amount of pro inflammatory fats, the less antioxidants and the higher the sugar the more inflammatory the food.
Knowing which foods may trigger inflammation and eliminating these foods from your diet can assist with the prevention of many inflammatory conditions.
The following foods can be pro inflammatory in the body -
Refined Sugar - Too much sugar can triggers inflammation, weight gain, ageing, and possible diabetes. It is important to avoid any refined sugars like white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrups, jams, chocolate, lollies, confectionary, etc. Avoid artificial sugar sweeteners which can be full of chemicals.
Options for natural sweeteners include honey, stevia and fresh fruits.
Avoid refined white flour, cakes, pastries, cookies, wheat, refined breakfast cereal s (e.g. shredded wheat, coco pops), pasta, cous cous, unrefined and unpolished grains.
Oils like sunflower, corn, soy, safflower and peanut contain high linoleic acid, which can have an inflammatory influence on the body. Also, many vegetable oils contain a high amount of omega-6 fatty acids, and very less of omega-3. Too much of omega-6 and less of omega-3 in body promotes inflammation and increases the risk of chronic diseases.
Artificial Trans Fats increase the level of bad cholesterol, promote inflammation, and obesity. Most processed foods contain some amount of trans fat e.g. burgers, pizzas, hot dogs, hot chips etc. Avoid any food products which contain trans fat, vegetable shortening, margarine or hydrogenated oil in them.
Avoid deep fried, fatty foods, fast foods, junk foods
Processed meat and meat products.
Try to avoid eating too much fatty red meat, as it causes inflammation. Eating red meat once to twice a week is ample. A lot of commercially produced poultry and meat eat corn and soy in their diet. This means a lot of omega-6 which can be pro inflammatory. This meat can also be high in fat and contain antibiotic residues so where possible choose grass fed meat which is higher in anti-inflammatory omega 3’s and free range or organic poultry.
Alcohol, fizzy drinks
Processed and packaged foods can be high in sodium and sugar, low in nutrients and high in food additives such as artificial chemicals, flavours and preservatives. These can all trigger inflammation within the body.
Substitute inflammatory foods for fresh, nutrient dense wholefoods preferably organic
Anti-inflammatory vegetables such broccoli, cabbage, garlic, spinach, leeks, green beans, brussels sprouts, bok choy, spring onions, etc.
Choose antioxidant rich foods such as blue berries, blackberries, raspberries, brightly coloured fruits and vegetables.
Include freshly squeezed vegetable and fruit juices such as beetroot, carrot, celery and ginger.
Choose extra virgin olive oil as your main oil of choice. EVOO is rich in protectant antioxidants and anti-inflammatory plant compounds.
Include fresh anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric, garlic and ginger.
Choose grass fed lean meats and organic chicken. Grass fed meat also contains anti-inflammatory omega 3.
Fresh fish, particularly oily fish such as sardines, salmon, mackerel, are actually a great anti-inflammatory food high in omega 3.
Eat raw nuts and seeds for essential oils and nutrients such as flaxseeds and walnuts. Avoid roasted and salted nuts which are inflammatory and damaging to our bodies.
Eat whole grains and high fibre foods such as legumes, leafy vegetables, fruits and oats which are rich in vitamins and minerals. Choose 'gluten-free, unpolished and unrefined grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice.
Substitute tea and coffee for herbal teas. Green tea, White tea are Roibus tea are high in cell protecting antioxidants whilst Camomile is soothing and calming.
Get a good night’s sleep. Avoid bright lights, stimulants and loud TV and music right before bedtime.
Manage stress. Try hatha yoga, gentle walking or deep breathing meditation.