13 foods you should include in your diet now! Fight inflammation the natural way
For those of you who have missed it, I was diagnosed with arthritis at the tender age of 29. At first, I was completely freaked out, then after going to a rheumatologist for a few times (boy my bank account was not happy) and drinking the handful of pills he prescribed for a few months, I got angry. Angry because I felt terrible and even worse on the meds, angry that I got this disease, angry that the doctor could not tell me which type of arthritis I had – the possibilities are so wide! From Rheumatoid to Osteo, with a long list of other types in-between. Even fibromyalgia! I mean seriously, how difficult can it be to diagnose me? But what made me even angrier was the doctor’s deadset belief that nothing that I was going to do would make this better, the only option is to take the meds. Even when I went to him with the latest studies and research that has found that how we live can impact how we feel, and can very successfully be used to treat most modern diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and inflammatory diseases, he still refused and stuck to his guns – the pills or a life of discomfort and pain.
When the realisation that the doctor is only interested in his prescription pad hit, I stopped going. I also stopped my pills – which was hectic. Withdrawals and generally not feeling great was my reality for a few weeks. After my system cleared I noticed that pain-wise I felt no different off the pills than what I did on the pills. So if medication is not helping, then all the more I need to approach this holistically. My research found that the best ways to handle chronic inflammation (which is what arthritis is) are to change your entire life, from how much you sleep, to how you exercise, how you handle stress, and especially what you eat.
More and more doctors and other specialists are starting to agree that what we put into our mouths are vitally important to our health. Food is not only fuel, but medicine, and if we eat the right things, we increase our chances of being healthy and strong, as well as to reduce inflammation caused by internal and external stressors.
But what is inflammation?
Your body was beautifully and wonderfully made with the ability to defend itself against most internal and external attacks. When your body senses something is wrong, i.e. that it is under attack, then inflammation is the body’s response to counter these attacks. Experiencing inflammation every now and again is not only normal but perfectly healthy as well. We need inflammation to protect us from more serious threats to our health. The problem comes in when you experience the inflammation for extended periods, or very regularly, without being triggered by a specific attacker. When this happens, inflammation stops being a protector and starts being something that we need protecting from. Most of our modern diseases have links to chronic inflammation. Luckily we can decrease our body’s inflammatory response by feeding it the right things, and food is at the top of that list.
By eating the right foods you may be able to reduce your risk of illness associated with inflammation, by reducing the inflammation.
Here is my list of 14 top anti-inflammatory foods for you to include in your diet:
1. Rooibos tea
This South African indigenous tea should have the name Golden Tea because when it comes to your health, it is priceless. Rich in antioxidants, enzymes, and chemical compounds this tea can help reduce inflammation, prevent serious illness and even make you look younger.
Effective in any of its forms – dried, fresh, paste, oil, supplement or extract – ginger not only tastes great but reduces inflammation caused by overactive immune responses. Ginger’s main bioactive compound Gingerol is what is responsible for its medicinal properties.
Herbs have been used for centuries to promote health and healing. Fresh herbs, like basil, thyme, and oregano are a great source of antioxidants, and spices like cumin and chilli pepper have compounds that can help to reduce inflammation and fight pain.
4. Green leafy vegetables
Leafy greens like spinach, kale, chard, arugula (rocket), endive, turnip greens, beet greens, and collard greens all contain significant concentrations of vitamins and other nutrients that have been found to reduce chronic inflammation. Vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K, just to name a few, have all shown, in research, that they can fight inflammation. Many leafy greens also contain alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat that is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits.
Rich in quercetin and anthocyanins, antioxidants that have been shown to fight inflammation and even prevent cancer, blueberries are one of the most beneficial fruits to add to your anti-inflammation diet. Others that you can include are cherries, pineapple, strawberries and oranges.
Turmeric’s primary compound, curcumin, is its active anti-inflammatory component and has been documented for its effects against inflammation. Due to its high anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric is highly effective at helping people manage rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A recent study out of Japan evaluated its relationship with interleukin (IL)-6, the inflammatory cytokine known to be involved in the RA process, and discovered that curcumin “significantly reduced” these inflammatory markers.
7. Red wine
Many doctors recommend wine, specifically red, as a beneficial component of a successful anti-inflammatory diet. Studies have found that resveratrol, a polyphenol found in red wine, has been shown to prevent chronic systemic inflammation in several ways.
Unlike most fruits, the avocado is rich in monounsaturated fat and high in vitamin E — two anti-inflammatory components that have been linked to a reduced risk of joint damage in osteoarthritis.
It tastes so good that we will put up with the bad breath afterwards. More than great taste, garlic contributes to your health as well, especially to reduce the swelling in your joints that are caused by inflammation.
Onions are full of nutritious antioxidants such as the flavonoid quercetin. Quercetin acts as an anti-inflammatory in the body by inhibiting low-density lipoprotein oxidation (an important reaction in atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease), and protecting and regenerating vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant).
11. Fatty fish
Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, pilchards, etc.) are a great source of protein and the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA that reduce inflammation. In clinical studies, people consuming salmon or EPA and DHA supplements had decreases in the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP).
12. Olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the healthiest fats you can eat. It is rich in monounsaturated fats and the effect of oleocanthal, an antioxidant found in olive oil, has been compared to anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.
13. Green tea
“It reduces your risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, obesity and other conditions, with many of its benefits due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, especially a substance called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). EGCG inhibits inflammation by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokine production and damage to the fatty acids in your cells” according to Healthline.com
14. Dark chocolate
Packed with antioxidants that reduce inflammation, dark chocolate is worth a lot more than merely a treat. The flavanols found in dark chocolate is what is responsible for chocolate's anti-inflammatory effects. They can also help to keep the endothelial cells that line your arteries healthy. However, make sure to choose dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa — more is even better — to reap the anti-inflammatory benefits.
Of course, knowing what you should eat is not half as important as knowing what you should not eat. If you are serious about changing your diet to be more anti-inflammatory, then avoid the following foods:
1. Any processed food – they are usually high in unhealthy fats, salts and sugars, all linked to inflammation.
2. Alcohol – only in moderation, and preferably only wine, whiskey, etc. No sugary liqueurs or coolers.
3. Sugary drinks
4. Trans fats – found in some margarine and most fried foods
5. Processed carbohydrates such as white pasta and rice
7. Vegetable and seed oils
8. Sugar in general, but fructose specifically
9. Too much caffeine
10. Processed meat
Some healthcare professionals such as doctors and dieticians are incorporating an anti-inflammatory diet as part of the holistic treatment of many conditions that are either directly linked to inflammation or worsened by it. Some of these conditions include:
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• IBS (inflammatory bowel disease)
• Crohn’s disease
• Hashimoto’s disease
• Heart disease
• Metabolic syndrome
Some further tips to help you stick to an anti-inflammatory diet:
Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, cut out all fast foods (even the “healthier” offerings), stop drinking carbonated beverages but especially sodas, start meal planning and prepping, shop with a list, keep healthy snacks on hand, keep hydrated, stay active – even if you just go for a daily walk, pay attention to your sleep to make sure you get enough good quality sleep.
Since changing my diet I have felt a lot better, and certainly much better than I did on the medication! There are a few other things I do, such as taking supplements, CBD pills and ointment, doing yoga, I have even started meditating! But I can tell you, the moment I go off the path and eat the wrong kind of foods is the moment I get stiff and sore. And from where I am standing, being able to move tomorrow is way more important than my craving for an ice cream sandwich!
For more info on how to reduce inflammation naturally, read these posts
Have you tried an elimination diet before? Please share with us!