In our Inflammation 101 video, we broke down that age old question of “What is inflammation?” We looked at what inflammation really means, and how it can affect your health, both in the short-term and the long-term. In part two of our inflammation guide, we’ll explore how to prevent and reverse chronic inflammation through diet, looking at the most powerful anti-inflammatory foods.
How (And Why) to Choose Anti-Inflammatory Foods
The first rule when it comes to choosing anti-inflammatory foods is to go organic whenever possible — that means organic fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, nuts, spices, and certain wild fish. Why? Because when you eat conventionally grown foods, you’re also ingesting toxins (including pesticides) added to them in the production process, or from environmental pollution. Many of these toxins cause an invader-fighting response from your white blood cells, which contributes to inflammation.
Beyond choosing organic, there are specific anti-inflammatory foods you can add to your diet. These foods contain nutrients and compounds that fight inflammation in your body:
Dark Chocolate and Cocoa
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fatty fish like (wild!) salmon, mackerel, and sardines
What to Avoid: Foods that Cause Inflammation
Just as there are anti-inflammatory foods, there are also pro-inflammatory foods. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of them are things that we already know to be pretty unhealthy:
Refined carbs (think white flour, table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup)
Soda and other high-sugar beverages
What’s more, any food that contains excess sugar is a big culprit for triggering inflammation. This is because when blood sugar spikes, so do free radicals. Think of free radicals as a single drunk guy in a bar looking for a late-night hookup: they trigger your body’s defense system in the same way — which, you guessed it, triggers inflammation.
These foods may cause inflammation, so we’re eating them sparingly or not at all:
Foods packed in BPA-lined cans
Seed oils (i.e. canola, corn, sunflower)
But the fact is that in today’s world, we’re all going to eat those foods from time to time. Dairy and gluten are everywhere, artificial sweeteners and added sugars creep up in the strangest of places, and seed oils are cheap, so most restaurants will use them, which makes it hard to completely avoid them. Still, we’re doing our best to steer clear.
Other Ways to Prevent Inflammation
One way to keep inflammation in check is to keep your gut healthy. Eating foods that naturally contain good bacteria (aka probiotics) help prevent an overgrowth of bad bacteria. An overgrowth can cause damage to the gut lining, allowing undigested (read: rotting) food and dangerous bacteria to pass through that lining into the bloodstream. Cue a total freak-out from invader-fighting white blood cells throughout your whole body — in other words, inflammation every. where.
Worried you might have chronic inflammation? You can get a simple blood test, called the hs-CRP test. Ask your doctor for it (or find one who can give it to you), and