Eating to Decrease Chronic InflammationAug 31, 2021 09:31AM ● By Tamara Luck
Chronic inflammation precedes many health conditions, ranging from heart disease to obesity to hormonal imbalances. However, all individuals have a great opportunity to quell chronic inflammation through diet by 1) decreasing intake of foods that can stimulate, or turn on, chronic inflammatory pathways and 2) increasing intake of foods containing inflammation-quenching nutrients. This two-fold approach allows for control over health conditions while also experiencing the freedom and nourishment from enjoying delicious and nutritious food.
Unfortunately, some of the most pro-inflammatory foods are also the most ubiquitous. Turn over almost any packaged food and one will likely see various forms of added sugar, hidden under names like fructose, maltose, cane sugar, etc. Sugar sneaks onto plates in the form of salad dressings, protein bars, breakfast sausages, yogurts and more. High intake of these refined sugars can raise blood sugar and contribute to weight gain, both of which can add to the overall body inflammation burden.
Additionally, high blood sugar can also create hormonal imbalances, promoting increased testosterone in women, increased estrogen in men and weight gain for both. Instead, focus on foods that contain naturally occurring sugars, like fruit, and when possible, opt to add your own sweetness to foods. For example, pair unsweetened yogurt with fresh fruit or a touch of honey for sweetness.
Next, some foods have known toxins in them that should be avoided. For example, many crops are heavily sprayed with chemical pesticides. Among the most heavily sprayed crops are wheat, oats, spinach and berries. Pesticides like glyphosate, have been linked to changes in the gut microbiome and immune system. When possible, opt for organic over conventional produce, prioritizing the foods most heavily sprayed. When shopping at local farmers’ markets, take a moment to ask farmers about their pesticide usage. Some small farms may not have the organic certification but may be free of chemical pesticides and even exceed certified organic standards.
Although there are some foods to eat in moderation when eating an anti-inflammatory diet, there are many more foods to incorporate in abundance. Many Individuals eat an anti-inflammatory diet rely on the same foods repeatedly, for example, blueberries, sweet potatoes and salmon are quite popular. While these foods are certainly nutritious, important nutrients from other foods are excluded. Each food is unique in its nutritional content and health benefits. Rotating through different fruits provides an array of antioxidants; different grains and legumes feed the gut microbiome with rich fibers; different protein sources help deliver our tissues a range of amino acids and vitamins and minerals. Not only will eating a large variety of diverse foods maximize our nutrient intake potential, but it will also keep healthy eating interesting.
Another factor to consider when eating an anti-inflammatory diet is to include anti-inflammatory fats. Healthy monounsaturated fats from salmon, nuts and seeds, egg yolk and olive oil should routinely be incorporated into the diet to calm inflammation. Higher quality meats, such as grass-fed beef will contain more “healthy” fats, such as omega-3’s, compared to conventionally raised, grain-fed beef, which contains more pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats. Fats to always avoid are highly processed oils like canola and soybean oil, as well as trans fat, commonly found in packaged baked goods.
Living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle can seem overwhelming and restrictive. However, not all changes need to be made at once. Start to be mindful about just one of the mentioned topics at a time. With time, each anti-inflammatory principle applied will lead to an overall decrease in inflammation and merit a more balanced and nourishing diet.
Tamara Luck, RDN, LDN, is an integrative and functional dietitian in Waltham, MA. She is currently accepting new patients at Johnson Compounding and Wellness for virtual nutrition appointments. Schedule a free, 15-minute introductory call at NaturalCompounder.com/Tamara.