The Anti-Inflammatory Diet You Need for Heart and Cognitive Health
6 minute read
Chronic inflammation is linked to some of the most serious diseases we face. Diabetes, asthma, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer all have been shown to have links with widespread inflammation. The inflammatory response is a beneficial component of your immune system, but when out of control, it can wreak havoc on your health.
The good news is that an anti-inflammatory diet can help keep it under control by adding certain foods and avoiding others. Of the diets that help reduce inflammation, the Mediterranean diet is probably the most beneficial and effective.
Why You Need an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Diet, lifestyle choices, aging, and health can all impact inflammation levels in your body. Stress is one of the most significant contributing factors to chronic inflammation.
Your immune response is set into motion, but there are no invading pathogens, so your healthy cells come under fire. Once this happens your risk for serious disease increases.
Fortunately, many of the factors that contribute to widespread inflammation can be controlled. You can get more exercise, learn to manage and cope with stress more effectively, and change your diet.
Studies have found that the Mediterranean diet has been linked to lower cholesterol levels, lower rates of obesity, lower risk for diabetes, and lower inflammation. The high protein content combined with healthy fats reduces the presence of certain inflammatory markers that contribute to disease.
An anti-inflammatory diet is designed to provide optimal nutrition while eliminating foods that are known to trigger inflammation. It also includes foods that have been found to reduce or prevent inflammation.
Small and simple changes to your diet can have long-lasting benefits to your health. Reducing inflammation prevents the development of disease and protects your health in the long run.
Eating the Anti-Inflammatory Way
The first step to following an anti-inflammatory diet is to clear out your refrigerator. There are knowns triggers lurking in there, so you need to throw them out. Remove all unhealthy fats, processed foods and high-sugar foods, foods with additives or artificial sweeteners, and concentrated juices. Essentially anything that has been processed is bad and will contain inflammatory ingredients.
In addition to processed foods, those high in omega-6 fatty acids need to be restricted as well. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential to your health so long as a balance is maintained. When the balance tips in favor of omega-6 fatty acids, your body produces more inflammatory markers.
This does not mean you need to avoid omega-6s because they are necessary for brain function, but you need to keep an eye on your intake. Most western diets have way more than their fair share of omega-6s in them.
To keep an eye on your omega-6 levels, make sure you do not overdo it on the following foods:
♦ Red and fatty cuts of meat
♦ Vegetable oils
♦ Dairy products
♦ Overly spicy foods
After figuring out which foods to avoid, you need to make a shopping list of all the anti-inflammatory foods you will buy as a replacement. Keeping your food choices as fresh and organic as possible is the safest bet, but there are a few essential foods you don’t want to miss out on.
♦ Dark, leafy greens: Spinach or kale, for example
♦ Berries: Especially blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.
♦ Black beans
♦ Lean proteins: Poultry, eggs, and fish are better than red meat because they contain less fat. Fish also contain omega-3s, although these can be found in krill oil supplements as well.
♦ Whole grains: If you have gluten intolerance (Celiac), then use brown rice and quinoa.
♦ Tea, specifically green tea
♦ Spice, not salt: Excess sodium not only raises blood pressure, but it also triggers inflammation.
♦ Dark chocolate: The higher the cocoa content, the more antioxidants you get.
Adding Spice to the Fight
As you stock up on anti-inflammatory foods, it is important to remember a certain spice—turmeric. This spice is commonly used in curry dishes but has been used for centuries to treat inflammatory conditions.
The main compound in turmeric extract is curcumin, and this compound possesses powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. To get the full benefits of curcumin supplements, which can even include memory improvements, it is advised to try a supplement because so much of the actual spice would be needed to reach the full effects it has to offer.
| Related: Turmeric: The Natural Anti-Inflammatory |
Curcumin acts on inflammation specifically by blocking NF-kB molecules. These molecules travel to the nuclei within your cells and activate genes that trigger the inflammatory response.
By disrupting inflammation at the molecular level, curcumin has the ability to prevent inflammation as well as, if not better, than most leading anti-inflammatory medications.
The Bottom Line
Inflammation is the root of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and so many more health problems. Sadly, we let inflammation take over our health because many do not realize how easy it can be controlled.
With an anti-inflammatory diet, regular exercise, and a few choice supplements, inflammation can be significantly reduced, and your health can be improved considerably.