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What are anti-inflammatory foods?

Health is not just the absence of disease, but a state of immense vitality. When we look at the diseases that are common in our society (heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease) – we see that long-term lifestyle changes are needed.

Perhaps you have heard the term ‘anti-inflammatory diet’ before and wondered what that was? It is not a diet per se, but rather a holistic way to naturally support your body and any chronic disease you may be experiencing. By addressing inflammation with anti-inflammatory foods we can help alleviate symptoms of dis-ease and restore health at a cellular level. Below are some foods that can be included into your day to help reduce inflammation and promote overall wellness from within.

  1. Eat your greens – Leafy and/ or green vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet as they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber and are also low in calories. Include greens such as broccoli, kale, spinach, collard greens, chard, lettuce (try all the different ones you can get your hands on), bok choy, watercress, beet greens, rocket, cabbage and endive. Greens are antioxidant powerhouses, rich in all the good stuff that work together to lower oxidative stress and reduce inflammation within the body.
  2. Fresh fruit & vegetables – Eat the rainbow! Including a variety of colours to your plate daily ensures you are consuming the diverse range of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals each food has to offer. For example; small, dark coloured fruits such as blueberries, blackberries and cherries are antioxidant rich and inflammatory fighting. Orange foods such as carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, apricots and oranges are bursting with carotenoids, vitamin C and beta-carotene that benefit the body in different ways such as supporting skin and eye health. Red vegetables contain lycopene, an antioxidant that helps support cardiovascular health, and avocados contain many vitamins, minerals as well as heart healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, which have been associated with reducing inflammation.
  3. Omega 3’s – The 3 main omega-3 fatty acids are ALA, EPA and DHA. They make up an integral part of cell membranes throughout the body and provide a range of health benefits such as supporting cardiovascular health and reducing inflammation. ALA is an essential fatty acid, meaning that your body can’t make it, so its important to source it from the foods / and or supplements you consume. Sources of omega 3’s are commonly found in oily fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna. Plant based sources of omega 3 are found in nuts (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts) and seeds (chia, flax, hemp & sesame).
  4. Grains and legumes – Whole-grains such as oats, quinoa, buckwheat, millet and brown rice contain fiber, protein and many antioxidants that help to fight inflammation. They also support bowel function and health. Legumes (also known as pulses) are a good source of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein. They are naturally low in fat and have a low glycemic index, meaning they are broken down slower in the body helping to keep you fuller for longer. Some examples of legumes include kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans and peas.
  5. Herbs and spices such as ginger, garlic, turmeric and olive oil contain many phytochemicals that support our immune system and circulation as well as having an anti-inflammatory action within the body.

A healthy eating plan rich in fruits and vegetables can help lower your risk of many serious and chronic health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, kidney disease, osteoporosis and some types of cancer. They are also essential to many daily functions of a healthy body (American Heart Association, 2019).