Pop quiz! What is something that protects us from injury, infection, and illness and improves healing time but is also linked to cancer, diabetes, and obesity (1, 2, 3)? If you said inflammation, you are right. Let’s discuss this complex issue and five foods you can add to your daily healthy habits to protect yourself from too much inflammation.
When Is Inflammation Good or Bad?
So when is inflammation good for you? It is good when your body is transferring more blood and fluid to an area such as an injury to heal it. Also, it is good when your body is fighting off an illness since the inflammation serves as a means of cell transportation to increase the number of cells available to do the fighting. These are both examples of acute inflammation.
Inflammation is a bad thing when it becomes chronic, meaning your body responds with too much inflammation or for too long. When this occurs, your system will start attacking its healthy cells and organs and there can be many serious consequences, such as chronic joint pain, increased disease risk, weight gain, reduced immunity, fatigue, reduced nutrient absorption, and many other things (4). It has also been shown that 3 out of 5 people worldwide die from chronic inflammatory diseases (5). But don’t be disheartened; there are many things we can do each day to combat chronic inflammation.
How to Avoid Bad Inflammation
First off, don’t smoke. Second, maintain a healthy weight or lose/gain weight to move toward your body’s healthy weight. And finally, eat a healthy diet. Research has found that the Mediterranean diet is linked to lowered inflammatory markers (6). More generally, I recommend eating a healthy diet that is full of colorful fruits and vegetables, is low in saturated and trans fats, and favors whole grain carbs over refined and processed carbs. Here are 5 inflammation-fighting foods and nutrients you can consider.
- Fish oils and healthy fats such as those in olive oil, fish, almonds, and avocados have been linked to reduced inflammation markers (7).
- Curcumin is a nutrient found in turmeric that makes this spice so healthy for us and a powerful inflammation-fighting antioxidant.
- Quick tip: Always combine turmeric with black pepper in your diet to increase the bioavailability of curcumin (8).
- Broccoli contains a key nutrient that fights inflammation by reducing your levels of cytokines and a protein called NF-κB, which drive inflammation (9).
- Tomatoes contain lycopene, which may reduce pro-inflammatory compounds (10).
- Quick tip: Eat tomatoes with extra-virgin olive oil since a healthy fat increases your absorption of lycopene.
- Green and black tea polyphenols are associated with a reduction in inflammation markers in clinical studies (11).
Remember, you can take action for your health every day. To do so, try increasing these foods and nutrients to show your body how much you appreciate what it does for you every day.
Sarah is the Shaklee Pure Performance Team dietitian/nutritionist. She is also a two-time competitor for the USA in the Summer Games, participating in the 10-meter Air Rifle event in 2012 and 2016. Her experience as an elite athlete and her status as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and Licensed Nutritionist (LN), make her perfectly suited to consult with Shaklee athletes on their nutritional needs. Sarah graduated from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas with a BS in Nutrition in 2013, and then earned an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Healthcare Management. She specializes in weight loss, improved sport performance, diabetes prevention, heart health, healthy aging, smoking cessation, and performance goals. Her hobbies include church ministries, mountaineering, physical fitness, and gardening. Keep up with her on her website or on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.