You've heard of anti-inflammatory medications and anti-inflammatory diets, but do you really know what inflammation is? Nutritionist, Lucy Stewart, takes a look at some of the foods that can help you to reduce inflammation in your body.
Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response. It’s one of our defence mechanisms that helps to fight off foreign invaders, heal injuries and mop up debris. While acute inflammation is a necessary response for the body to start the healing process, chronic inflammation can be problematic and has been linked to a long list of health concerns and inflammatory diseases.
Poor sleep, excessive exercise, stress, smoking, alcohol and poor diet all contribute to inflammation. One way we can help combat inflammation is through what we eat. Choosing a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help to regulate the immune system and reduce our long-term health risks.
Here are five of the best foods to help reduce inflammation:
Turmeric is a plant belonging to the ginger family that has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for over 4,000 years to treat a variety of conditions. The dried root is ground into a powder that has a warm, pepper-like flavour and aromatic earthy aroma.
Turmeric contains curcumin – an active compound that gives it its beautiful bright yellow-orange colour – that has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Curcumin works at a molecular level by lowering the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation. In several studies using supplemental curcumin extract, its potency has compared favourably to anti-inflammatory medications. Fresh or powdered, there are lots of ways to incorporate turmeric into your diet: add it to scrambled eggs, soups, curries, teas and smoothies or toss it with roasted vegetables. Taking turmeric with black pepper may help boost its bioavailability.
Pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain, which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Pineapple is also a fantastic source of vitamin C, which is necessary for a healthy functioning immune system. Bromelain is destroyed when heated, so it's best to eat pineapple raw and nutrient levels are at their peak when fruit is ripe. While all parts of the pineapple contain anti-inflammatory enzymes, most of the bromelain is in the core, so try blending or juicing the core with the sweeter flesh. Bromelain also enhances the absorption and anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin, so think about combining them.
Wild-caught oily fish
Salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines are full of healthy omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that are well-studied for their anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for health and as our bodies cannot produce them, we must get them from the diet. Oily fish contains two very important types of Omega-3s - try to include two servings of wild-caught oily fish per week.
The cruciferous vegetable family - which includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, watercress, bok choy, brussels sprouts, cabbage and more - have anti-inflammatory benefits attributed to their glucosinolate content. These compounds help prevent unwanted inflammation when they’re converted to indol-3-carbinol, a compound that research has found to decrease the production of pro-inflammatory mediators. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that a higher intake of cruciferous vegetables was associated with a reduction in pro-inflammatory markers in women of up to 25%. Cruciferous vegetables are also high in antioxidants and vitamin K, which can help regulate inflammatory responses in the body.
Berries contain a type of antioxidant called flavonoids, but it’s the antioxidant anthocyanins that gives blueberries their purple colour and contributes their anti-inflammatory effects by turning off inflammatory and immune genes. And when it comes to anthocyanins content, blueberries are often considered king. On top of that, blueberries are rich in vitamin C and another polyphenol called resveratrol, which have both been found to promote anti-inflammatory responses through decreasing inflammatory free radicals. A small study in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism showed that athletes who ate 250g of blueberries daily could reduce the oxidative stress and inflammation caused by strenuous exercise. And frozen blueberries are also just as good as fresh.
This article was brought to you by Oriental Botanicals