If you’ve heard the term inflammation discussed and wonder what all the buzz is about, you’re not alone. The hot topic of inflammation is increasingly important as we unlock more information about how this natural defense mechanism can both help and hinder our health.
Inflammation is a natural part of our body’s immune response. It is necessary for healing and typically considered good. When the body detects a potential threat, known as an antigen, it sends an army of antibodies specific to that antigen to fight back. These threatening invaders (or antigens) may include bacteria, viruses, or chemicals. As part of this process, the body also produces an inflammatory response, which can appear as swelling or redness, to keep the infection from spreading. Sounds pretty straight forward right?
However, in some situations the body may experience a prolonged struggle to fight the invader, and as a result, over respond by ramping up the inflammation to the point it causes damage and detriments our health. This chronic inflammation contributes to conditions including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
While there are many factors to influence inflammation, (including stress, lack of exercise, poor dietary habits, and lack of sleep) focusing on your diet is a powerful first step. Here’s what you can do:
- Enjoy whole grains daily! They have more fiber, digest more slowly, and typically have less added sugars than refined grains. Therefore, they are less likely to spike blood sugar and encourage inflammation. In addition, they have been shown to decrease levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the blood. Make sure to read food labels for the words “100% whole grain”.
- Focus on eating fatty fish about three times a week. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats have been shown to reduce inflammation. If you’re not a fish fan, you can still get your omega-3 fats with a supplement such as Complete Nutrition’s Omega Shred which boosts your intake of heart healthy omega-3’s and supports a healthy weight.
- Fill up on foods rich in anti-inflammatory antioxidants such as vitamin C and beta-carotene including berries, peppers, and dark leafy greens. Eating a rainbow of colored produce daily is a great way to load up on powerful antioxidants.