The New Year is just beginning and many of you have resolved to make some healthy changes in your life. Some of you may want to lose a few pounds, or plan to get more exercise, which are both important changes to make. However, you may not be aware that one of the easiest, yet most important things, you can do to create a healthier you is to change your diet. That’s right. By simply adding more of the right foods to your diet, and decreasing the wrong ones, you can dial down your risk for getting serious disease and add years to your life.
The Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods
More and more research has shown that inflammation in your body is the root of disease. It’s now known that inflammation is one of the key factors in developing dangerous arterial plaques in cardiovascular disease. Here are some conditions that can indicate you may have too much inflammation in your body:
- High “bad” LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure
- Joint conditions like arthritis, bursitis
- Digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, ileitis
- Chronic respiratory conditions like asthma or bronchitis
- Autoimmune disorders like allergies, eczema, psoriasis
- Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes (insulin resistant metabolic syndrome)
- Chronic stress
Just by adding more of the right foods to your diet several times a week can really increase your efforts to get healthier by fighting inflammation in your body. To help you, I’ve arranged food into groups in order of what you should eat the most (higher numbers) and what you should eat the least (lower numbers) to get the best health value from your food.
1. VEGETABLES: Vegetables are full of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants. These natural compounds work to fight free radicals and oxidative stress, which create inflammation and damage DNA. Don’t just stick to the old standbys of broccoli and spinach; explore the world of vegetables at your grocers. Try something new like bok choy, kelp (seaweed), eggplant, shitake mushrooms, or arugula. 5-7 servings of green, leafy, as well as deeply colored purple, yellow, red, orange vegetables (like eggplant, tomatoes, red/orange/yellow peppers, etc) should be eaten daily.
2. FRUITS: Fruits are also full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants that help decrease inflammation. All kinds of berries, as well as plums, are especially potent antioxidants. They are also diabetic friendly as they are low in sugar as well. Tangerines and grapefruit contain good levels of vitamin C – a major antioxidant which fights free radicals and inflammation. These two fruits have also been found in research to help control blood sugar and aid in weight loss. Try some new fruits too like star fruit, kumquats or pomegranates that are high in Vitamin C, low in sugar and high in phytonutrients. 3-4 servings a day recommended.
3. GRAINS: There are many high fiber whole grains available that help decrease inflammation by stabilizing blood sugar levels and moving bad fats out of the colon. Other than whole wheat, try some different grains like quinoa, amaranth, or rolled oats. 2-3 servings a day recommended.
4. LEGUMES: Beans (all types) are very good for stabilizing blood sugar as they are low in sugar and high in fiber. They are also high in protein and are used as meat substitutes in many parts of the world, as well as in vegetarian diets. Pair some white cannellini beans, butter beans, black beans with your vegetables as your protein at 1-2 meals, 3-4 times a week.
5. SEAFOOD: Fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines all contain high levels of Omega-3 essential fatty acids and are high in protein. 3-4 servings a week recommended.
6. OMEGA-3 FATS: These essential fatty acids are nature’s anti-inflammatories. Oils like walnut and flaxseed oils are high in Omega-3’s and can be used in salads or cooking. Olive oil is also a good source of Omega-3. One tablespoon of oil has about 100 calories, so taking a good Omega-3 supplement daily, can help save calories. 2 servings a day recommended.
7. NUTS: Full of vitamin E and other antioxidants, fiber, and disease fighting phytonutrients, ¼ cup of mixed, unsalted nuts a day make a nutritious, high nutrient value snack. Include walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, chestnuts, pecans, and macadamias. 1 serving a day recommended.
8. HERBS, SPICES: Common kitchen spices have been used for centuries as medicine in ancient cultures. Spices like cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, garlic, rosemary, have all been research proven in the last few years to have very high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory values. Use as desired, but limit cassia-type cinnamon to 1,000 mg daily.
9. RED WINE: Research from the past few years has resveratrol, a compound found in grape skins, to be an excellent antioxidant as well as having life-extending value. Resveratrol is present in red wine in decent amounts – pinot noir has the most – but alcohol, even red wine, should be limited to 1-2 glasses a day. You will get more beneficial resveratrol from a good supplement without the health risk that too much alcohol brings.
10. CHOCOLATE: Research from over a decade ago has proven that dark chocolate – at least 70% cacao – is very high in flavonoids. These help keep blood vessels flexible which aids in lowering blood pressure. However, look for naturally sweetened, or stevia sweetened, to avoid health risks of refined sugar. Try a cup of hot cocoa every night made from a few tablespoons of unsweetened, powdered baking cocoa, like Hershey’s, which is high in cacao. “Dutch” cocoas contain very little flavonoids.
There you have the best anti-inflammatory food groups broken down to help you know which ones, in what amounts to help you achieve better health. Of course, you may not always be able to eat the recommended amounts from these food groups. That’s where taking a good multivitamin supplement comes in. Be sure yours contains the vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, flavonoids from these food groups to ensure that you’re getting the best nutrition.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News
Cocoa powder, http://www.hersheys.com/nutrition-professionals/cocoa-powder/composition/antioxidants.aspx
Top 10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods, http://theconsciouslife.com/top-10-anti-inflammatory-foods.htm
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