Your body has a natural mechanism to attack foreign bodies that can be harmful. Your immune system fights against pathogens, external injuries, or effects of chemicals. The first such protective response of the immune system is inflammation. Redness, pain, swelling, and sometimes loss of function are the signs of inflammation.1 They are indicators of acute inflammation.
Is Inflammation A Reaction To External Causes?
Inflammation can happen even when you are not threatened by any foreign agent.2 Known as chronic inflammation, it lasts longer. And it can be dangerous, leading to major diseases. Several factors may contribute to chronic inflammation. It occurs if your body fails to eliminate the cause of acute inflammation. Sometimes, it happens when the immune system attacks healthy tissues, mistaking them for pathogens. Chronic inflammation is linked to many major diseases like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis.3 The level of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is produced by the liver, rises when there is inflammation throughout the body. And by conducting CRP test, you can check for inflammation in the body.
What is the best way to protect your body from such inflammation? Making dietary change is a very important step towards it. Including anti-inflammatory foods in your menu helps you reduce the risk of inflammation.4 Here are a few anti-inflammatory foods that are beneficial to your health.
1. Green Leafy Vegetables
Make spinach, kale, and collards part of your diet. Their strength is the presence of flavonoids, which are biologically active polyphenol compounds. They may reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases.5 Moreover, these dark green vegetables contain vitamin K, which is capable of preventing inflammatory diseases.6 A research study has observed that high vitamin K can lower concentrations of inflammatory markers.7
2. Fatty Fish
Being a dietary source of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), fatty fish helps you fight inflammation.8 The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA found in fish have anti-inflammatory properties. They restrict inflammation as they give rise to anti-inflammatory mediators termed resolvins.9 This, in turn, reduces the incidence of many chronic diseases that involve any inflammatory process. Salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines are some of the fatty fish. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish, particularly fatty fish at least two times a week.10
An overload of free radicals may damage your cells and tissues, resulting in inflammation. Antioxidants can protect against oxidant-mediated inflammation by killing free radicals. This is the reason why you should eat blueberries. Blueberries contain anthocyanins, which are widely known as powerful antioxidants.11Apart from that, a study suggested that daily consumption of blueberry for six weeks increases natural killer cells, which are a type of white blood cell and a component of the immune system.12 This promotes healthy functioning of the immune system, preventing unnecessary inflammation.
The polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PFAS), polysterols, and flavonoids found in avocado are anti-inflammatory in nature. They help you stop the synthesis of prostaglandins, a significant contributor to inflammation.13 Thus, avocado inhibits inflammation, protecting you from major diseases.
The presence of sulforaphane, a chemical compound which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties equips broccoli to fight against inflammation.14 According to a research, in young male smokers, broccoli consumption may also reduce CRP levels, one of the best indicators of inflammation.15
This is the most popular and powerful spices of all. But, how does it help you with inflammation? Curcumin, a medical compound in turmeric is responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin is capable of interacting with numerous molecular targets linked to inflammation.16 This agent can also regulate various factors like cytokines, redox status, and enzymes that are associated with inflammation.17
Is this your favorite snack? Well, good choice. These nutritious nuts are rich in omega-3 alpha-linoleic acid. And it can lower the C-reactive protein, which increases inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.18 They can also reduce oxidative stress, which induces inflammation.19
Known as one of the healthiest spices, ginger is rich in bioactive compounds that are beneficial to your body and brain. Gingerol, shogaol, and other structurally related substances in ginger restrain synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines. They also inhibit prostaglandin and leukotriene biosynthesis – both play a key role in the generation of an inflammatory response.20 So, include ginger in your diet to make use of its anti-inflammatory benefits.
9. Green Tea
You may have heard a lot about the health benefits of green tea. The polyphenols, particularly EGCG in green tea have anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects.21 Green tea can also reduce the production of the pro-inflammatory cytokine.22 It is also beneficial to patients suffering from arthritis. A study has shown that older women drinking more than three cups of green tea a day had a significantly lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis compared to those who drank no tea.23
Edible mushrooms are well known for their nutritional qualities. They are rich in bioactive compounds. The polysaccharides, terpenoids, and phenolic compounds in mushrooms are anti-inflammatory in nature.24 A research has looked into the anti-inflammatory activities of oyster mushroom. The study concluded that oyster mushrooms could be considered a dietary agent against inflammation.25 However, remember that the anti-inflammatory activity is high in raw mushroom preparations.26
The anti-inflammatory activity of beetroot comes from its betalain pigments. They reduce the production of cytokines, thus, inhibiting inflammatory reactions.27 Various human studies have also reported that beetroot supplementation can minimize the effect of inflammation.28
12. Virgin Olive Oil
Virgin olive oil contains various phenolic compounds that exert anti-inflammatory actions. Oleocanthal, a phenolic compound found in virgin olive oil has anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug.29 According to a study, the consumption of virgin olive oil may decrease inflammation, lowering the risk of atherosclerosis development.30
The phenolic compounds such as flavonols and procyanidins in grapes may help you reduce inflammation. A research has pointed out that procyanidins might inhibit proinflammation factors.31 The polyphenols in muscadine grape are effective in attenuating ocular inflammation.
14. Dark Chocolate
There is no harm in falling in love with this dessert as it helps you fight inflammation. It has a high concentration of flavonoids. Thus, regular consumption of small doses of dark chocolate may reduce inflammation.32 Flavonoid intake is also beneficial to patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease. Moreover, the anti-inflammatory effects of cocoa polyphenols protect you against atherosclerosis, which is considered a low-grade inflammatory disease.33
Bromelain, the enzyme complex of pineapple can modulate inflammatory changes.34 It has immune-modulating abilities, by which it regulates the immune response preventing unwanted inflammation.35
If garlic is not yet an ingredient in your cooking, start using it. Garlic can modulate cytokine secretion, thus, inhibiting anti-inflammatory tendencies.36 It contains allicin, sulfur, and other antioxidants that can fight inflammation.37 According to a research, the anti-inflammatory activity of thiacremonone, a sulfur compound isolated from garlic, could be applied for intervention in inflammation-related neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease.38
This delicious fruit has a modulatory effect on pro-inflammatory C-reactive protein (CRP) and RANTES (Regulated on Activation, Normal T Expressed and Secreted). RANTES is a member of the 8-kDa cytokine family, which can act as a mediator of acute and chronic inflammation. Thus, cherries are valuable for the management and prevention of inflammatory diseases.39 A research has suggested that daily consumption of tart cherries may attenuate inflammatory and oxidative responses to exercise-induced muscle damage, leading to faster recovery after exercise bouts.40
18. Whole grains
Given its anti-inflammatory effects, you should consume whole grains daily as part of your healthy diet. The whole grain consumption may reduce CRP, in turn, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.41 A research study has concluded that the whole grains and a low-glycemic-index diet may reduce systemic inflammation among women with type 2 diabetes.42
Lycopene, a natural carotenoid found in tomato is an anti-inflammatory compound.43 A study has pointed out that consuming lycopene through whole food sources like tomato is more effective than lycopene supplements for lowering cardiovascular risks factors including oxidative stress and inflammation.44 However, more research studies are needed on the anti-inflammatory impact of tomatoes.
Bell peppers and chili peppers contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.45 Capsaicin, a spicy component of chili peppers is efficient in suppressing obesity-induced inflammation by modulating adipokine release.46
Foods That Trigger Inflammation
Besides knowing about anti-inflammatory foods, you should also identify those foods that cause it. Try to limit margarine, refined carbohydrates, red meat, and soda. A diet rich in sucrose or fructose may have an adverse effect on inflammation.47 According to a research, regular consumption of sugar-sweetened soda can increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis in women.48
Keep these in mind as you prepare to fight inflammation:
- Avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient labels.
- Apart from these, the Arthritis Foundation recommends to avoid gluten, trans fats commonly used in processed food, excess omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils, and Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer found in Asian dishes.49 These foods may aggravate the inflammation of joints.
- Dietary changes alone cannot promise you an inflammatory-free life.
- Physical activity and moderate exercise are vital to prevent inflammation.50
- Chronic alcohol use may lead to persistent systemic inflammation.51
- Also, quit smoking.
Along with cleaning up your diet, make these healthy changes to your lifestyles to strengthen your immune system.
References [ + ]
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