First things first, this is really a case of too much of a good thing. Inflammation actually plays an important role in our health, as it signals the immune system to not only protect against bad bacteria and viruses but also heal and repair damaged tissue. Problems arise when there’s too much inflammation or they go on for too long, triggering the body to react to or attack the things that it shouldn’t, such as healthy cells, tissues, and organs.
That can lead to obesity and diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular issues, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. This condition, known as chronic inflammation, can be managed with a careful and sensible diet that avoids or at least minimises these inflammatory foods.
Avoid Refined sugar
Sugar can be delicious but the consequences of consuming it regularly is not that sweet. It causes bad cholesterol (LDL) to rise and leads to excess body fat and weight gain, all of which then creates more inflammation.
Eat more of Berries and cherries, which are rich in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory effects.
Avoid Artificial trans fatsFrench fries, crispy chips, crunchy popcorn … so satisfying to munch on but so high in trans fats, which are vegetable oils that are hydrogenated so they stay solid at room temperature and prolong the shelf life of food. They also appear in the form of vegetable shortenings, margarine, and baked goods like cakes, cookies and crackers. Like sugar, trans fats increase inflammation by raising LDL (bad cholesterol) while lowering HDL (good cholesterol).
Eat more of Monounsatured fat, like avocados, are the good fats you want to load up on. They help reduce the body’s inflammatory response.
Avoid Vegetable and seed oilsSoybean, corn, safflower, sunflower, peanut, rice bran … these oils are popularly used by those who believe them to be healthy as they are high in omega-6. This is an essential fatty acid that the body needs, along with omega-3. But when we overload on omega-6, it contributes to chronic inflammation.
Eat more of Extra virgin olive and coconut are the recommended options when it comes to plant-based oils. The benefits of olive oil are well documented, particularly for their heart-healthy properties, while coconut oil is a good source of antioxidants and helps lower LDL.
Avoid Refined carbohydratesHands up if you’re one of those who can’t live without rice! It may be a staple in Asian culture but you may want to think twice about making it too regular a part of your diet. White rice is a form of refined or simple carbohydrate, along with the likes of white bread, pasta, pastries, and cereals. They have higher glycemic index (GI), which causes spikes in blood sugar levels, and promote inflammation in the body.Eat more of Unprocessed or complex carbs such as vegetables and fruits, which are high in fibre, help regulate blood sugar and nurture the good bacteria in the gut. Refined carbs, on the other hand, have been stripped bare of fibre, bran and nutrients.
Avoid AlcoholYou’ve probably heard that drinking a glass of wine a day is good for you. As long as you keep to that, you should be fine. Just be aware that the more alcohol you consume, the higher your levels of CRP, a marker of inflammation in the body. Heavy drinking has been associated with leaky gut, in which harmful bacteria seeps out from the colon and spreads to other parts of the body. Inflammation goes up and can even lead to organ damage.
Drink more of Dark chocolate, cocoa and green tea provide antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory effects so make these your drinks of choice instead.
Avoid Processed meatsWho loves waking up to the smell of luncheon meat or bacon in the frying pan? They add so much umami to food that they’re often hard to resist. Unfortunately, these processed meats – that’s meats that are salted, fermented, cured, or smoked – are sources of saturated fat. This is another bad fat to avoid as they trigger inflammation that can then lead to cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Eat more of Replace processed meats with fatty fish such as wild caught salmon, anchovies and sardines, enriched with omega-3 to reduce inflammation, and are just as satisfying to the palate.