Inflammation is your body’s way of healing itself in response to an injury, infection or exposure to a harmful substance. Symptoms include redness, swelling, pain and heat. Inflammation is classically viewed as an acute, short-term response such as skin healing from a cut; however, it is not always beneficial.
Chronic or ongoing inflammation occurs when your immune system attacks your body’s healthy cells leading to rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease or skin conditions like psoriasis. It may also play a role in heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Foods high in sugar and saturated fat can spur inflammation while foods high in omega-3 fatty acids can curb it.
Eat to reduce inflammation
Research shows a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may decrease inflammation to the same extent that aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) do. Increasing omega-3 fatty acid through foods is preferable but supplements can also help reduce inflammation. Talk to your doctor about taking supplements.
Overall, good nutrition can enhance the body’s immune system and provide antioxidants to reduce inflammatory stress.
Follow these tips to reduce inflammation:
- Opt for fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, albacore tuna, sardines and anchovies. To get the full benefits, eat baked or broiled fish at least twice weekly.
- Ensure half your plate is fruits and vegetables, including berries and cherries, as well as dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach, broccoli and brussels sprouts.
- Choose plant-based protein including beans, nuts and seeds.
- Select whole grains like brown, black or wild rice, whole oats or barley and whole-wheat bread. Look for foods with a whole grain as the first ingredient and no added sugars.
- Pick heart-healthy fats including olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds.
- Enjoy high antioxidant foods like dark chocolate, fresh herbs and tea.
Limit these foods
- Refined grains, including white bread and desserts made with white flour.
- Minimize sugar and salt intake.
- Avoid saturated and trans fats.
In addition to a healthy diet, follow these healthy habits to thwart inflammation:
- Get eight hours of good quality sleep each night.
- Exercise routinely.
- Stop smoking.
- Reduce stress with meditation or yoga.
Need More Nutrition help?
Learn more about omega-3 fatty acids and healthier fat choices.