Eating anti-inflammatory foods can boost your overall health and longevity, says YouFit contributor Ale Zozos MS, RDN. These foods can also help ward off common chronic diseases caused by inflammation. Before we talk about which anti-inflammatory foods you should add to your diet, let’s dive into what inflammation is and how it impacts your overall health.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is your white blood cell’s way of protecting your body against outside threats, like viruses and bacteria. Even though inflammation can be a problem (and we’ll talk about this below), the process itself is actually healthy and helpful. Inflammation is your body’s response to a cold, flu, cut, scrape and so on. The process looks something like this:
- Plasma proteins accumulate, leading to a buildup of fluid that causes inflammation.
- A specific type of white blood cells (leukocytes) rush toward the affected area to fight pathogens.
- Small blood vessels enlarge to get them there faster.
That’s inflammation. Your body is trying to protect and heal you.
Problems come up when inflammation is triggered by your immune system without an outside threat to fight. Autoimmune diseases like arthritis fall into this category, where your immune system mistakes healthy tissues for infection and swells up, as part of a misguided effort to protect you.
How does inflammation impact overall health?
There are two main categories of inflammation: temporary (acute) or long-lasting (chronic). Acute inflammation only lasts for a matter or hours or days. This is the inflammation described earlier in things like injuries, ingrown toenails and so on. Acute inflammation helps your body heal. Chronic inflammation is different and can last for months or years and is linked to many health conditions including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Heart disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Type 2 diabetes
Chronic inflammation also shows up in everyday issues like allergies, fatigue, joint pain and rashes.
Who is affected by chronic inflammation?
It turns out that you have more control over inflammation than you might think. Factors that lead to chronic inflammation can include:
- Obesity (high BMI)
- High sugar & fat diets
- Smoking & drinking
- Sleep problems
- Lack of exercise
Anti-inflammatory Foods and their Benefits
One of the best ways to protect your body against inflammation is by eating anti-inflammatory foods. Not only will your body avoid inflammation, but these foods actively help reduce inflammation. So what are the top anti-inflammatory foods to add to your diet? The answer – is foods that are high in ANTIOXIDANTS.
What are antioxidants?
“When you’re just starting out, focus on adding antioxidants, rather than restricting yourself,” says Ale Zozos MS, RDN. What are antioxidants? Substances that protect your cells from free radicals, which play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. There are numerous choices for antioxidant-rich foods. According to the USDA these are the top 20:
But what’s the easiest way to add these to your diet? EatLove Dietitian Ale Zozos shares her recommendations:
Think Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is an ideal place to look. The Mediterranean diet is based on the food cultures of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including Italy and Greece. Whole grains, fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, herbs and seafood make up the majority of these meals, with red meat and dairy taking a backseat. Here are the top anti-inflammatory foods found in the Mediterranean diet:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fatty fish (salmon)
- Green tea
- Dark chocolate
Cook With Color
If your plate is full of color, chances are it’s full of antioxidants. For example, turmeric egg tacos with tomatoes for breakfast. Lunch is sauteed mushrooms over polenta. Dinner can be something as simple as pesto chicken with a big side of roasted cauliflower (start with a bag of frozen!).
Breakfast can be whole-grain waffles (Or buy them frozen to pop in the toaster!) Add super simple frozen berry syrup on top plus walnuts. Lunch can be red pepper linguini (and get bonus anti-inflammatories from whole-grain pasta.) Salmon cakes for dinner make a great family-friendly option with a kale salad and balsamic vinaigrette.
And don’t forget snacks! “If you put grapes in the freezer, they taste like Jolly Ranchers,” says Zozos. So many anti-inflammatory snacks can be made in minutes, like these:
- apple-pistachio mousse
- avocado smoothie (plus more smoothies that kids love)
- green tea-blueberry smoothie
- crunchy veggies with traditional hummus (or, this super easy hummus for kids)
To find out more about the best anti-inflammatory foods to add to your diet, watch our FREE EatLove Nutrition Webinar with Ale Zozos herself:
What is EatLove and how can it help?
EatLove is YouFit’s cutting-edge nutrition planner available to all Premium+ members. You’ll have a system in place for eating well enough to feel great every day!
- Are you impacted by signs of inflammation or chronic disease?
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- Do your allergies make grocery shopping difficult?
- Are you unsure about what to eat to actually meet your goals?
We can help, because “What’s for dinner?” is a question that’s never going away. If you want to feed yourself, and your family to better health, load the app OR use the desktop login on your computer. You can see everything at once, planning a whole week with a few swipes. Mix and match suggestions based on your preferences and add the ingredients to your grocery cart! Save time with shopping (get things delivered!) so you can use it to prep or batch cook to set yourself up for an easy week ahead.
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