Inflammation is a buzz word in nutrition circles. It’s our body’s natural process of healing. Yet, chronic inflammation, a subtle and steady current of immune cells flowing through your body, leads to cancer, arthritis, diabetes and heart disease.
It’s tricky. It creeps up on you. Always on the DL. It doesn’t give signals that it’s hanging out in your tissue wreaking havoc on your health. Until you feel pain. Ouch says the knee when running or shoulder as you reach for a plate in the cabinet. Turning over in the bed, creaky low back squeaks.
Who invited inflammation to rob you of vitality? Perhaps you did. If I was elegant, I’d say you made ‘poor food choices.’ I’m not today. So I say crap. Food that sucks the life out of you. Oh yeah, tastes great. But crap is like inflammation. It conceals itself as ‘real’ food. Like refined starches:
- boxed macaroni meals
- soda and sugar-sweetened beverages* (iced tea, Snapple)
- some chocolate, desserts, Twinkies)
Yeah, saturated fats, too:
- fatty beef and pork
- coconut oil
- processed food containing palm oil
- trans fat (margarines, shortening, processed foods – although 80% of trans fat has been removed in our food products, it’s still there)
The Mediterranean diet – mucho fruit, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fat + fish and at the same time ditching refined grains, red meat, processed foods (anything you didn’t make yourself) – cleans up inflammation substantially.
Here’s the down and dirty list for foods that fight pain (in addition to cleaning up your plate):
- Omega-3 fatty acids (like fish and fish oil) – acts like ibuprofen
- Green tea – antioxidants douse the fire of arthritis
- Curcumin (turmeric) relieves pain of osteoarthritis
- Ginger – reduces muscle pain from exercise (exercise creates temporary inflammation)
- Red grapes or wine – resveratrol reduces pain
- Olive oil – contains oleocanthal with anti-inflammatory properties like ibuprofen
- Coffee – another ‘after exercise’ pain reducer
- Pomegranate and cherries – reduces muscle soreness from physical activity
- Soy – isoflavones are anti-inflammatory in knee osteoarthritis
A 360-degree turn-around will leave you face planted in despair so start slowly. Pick one of these disease-fighting foods and when you’ve mastered that, pick another. Onward!
*Containing almost 17 teaspoons of sugar in every 20-ounce serving, sweetened beverages are the largest single source of added sugar in the American diet. Each day Americans consume 22 teaspoons of sugar — far surpassing the recommended 5 to 9 teaspoons per day.