As part of this issue’s theme of cuisine, we will look at how you can make delightful dietary choices to reduce and control inflammation in the body. Acute inflammation is the body’s natural biological response to danger, like pathogens or irritants, and is a protective measure to flush out foreign material or damaged tissue. The inflammatory response functions as a part of the body’s innate immune system. A perfect example of this principle is a bee sting; the site of the sting swells up to expel the toxin. However, chronic inflammation can involve the development of various inflammatory disorders, such as allergies, asthma, sarcoidosis, interstitial cystitis, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer—the list goes on.
For those sick folks who suffer from an inflammatory ailment, following a doctor’s recommendations is key to future health, and diet is one of the most important changes you can make for your day-to-day wellness. After all, it is the fuel our body relies on. There are many different foods which reduce inflammation naturally, and act as components of a wholesome and delicious diet. However, when considering how to adjust eating habits, it is also important to consider the foods which cause inflammation.
Reducing consumption of inflammatory foods is a wise choice. Sugar, candy, soda and other sweet treats should be limited, as well as lard, trans fats and refined carbohydrates including white bread, white rice and any foods with added sugars. Alcohol is a known trigger, as well as Aspartame, an artificial sweetener. Red meat should be avoided too. It can be shocking at first to find out that so many common foods can set off inflammation in the body. But the most important thing in dieting is to make small incremental changes that result in sustainable progress.
Don’t lose faith either, because there are some pretty tasty options for anti-inflammatory foods. Fatty fish like tuna, mackerel and salmon are great choices, and rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish is an excellent protein alternative to red meat. If you are averse to fish, fish oil is available in most health food stores to take as a capsule supplement. Nuts like almonds, walnuts and cashews are also great alternate proteins that make for an awesome little snack.
Plenty of vegetables are excellent for the anti-inflammatory diet. Leafy greens are often a key choice, such as spinach, kale and collard greens. Strawberries, blueberries, cherries, kiwi, pineapple and oranges have healthful anti-inflammatory qualities. Berries are super-rich in antioxidants and can make for a great snack, appetizer or dessert. Olive oil is also known to help protect the body against inflammation.
A number of inflammation-fighting spices can be used in your meals, such as:
- Jamaican allspice
It’s understandable if you read this thinking that it’s all too much to confront. Start small, avoiding red meat or french fries, and build up from there. Keep a list of healthy foods around to turn to when you don’t know what to make and starting to feel the hunger pangs. Perhaps try to have a big, Indian-style anti-inflammatory curry every Friday, packed with wholesome foods; or maybe an anti-inflammatory smoothie every other day, customized to your tastes. There is a wide array of options for supporting healthy levels of inflammation through diet. I hope you enjoy finding a strategy here that works for you!
Also published on Medium.