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Inflammation and Diet


October 1, 2020

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By Jodi Martin

How does food influence your inflammation, your aches, and pains? Your body is a remarkable biological machine, designed to make an assortment of pro-and anti-inflammatory substances. The food we eat provides nutrients-proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and vitamin-like nutrients and minerals-that provide the nutritional building blocks for these substances.

If you eat the typical North American diet, loaded with convenience and fast foods, you likely consume too many nutrients that promote inflammation and not enough to reduce inflammation. Highly processed foods that cause inflammation have largely replaced anti-inflammatory foods. Typically, these anti-inflammatory foods are fresh and natural.

There are many bonuses when eating foods to reduce inflammation. If you avoid packaged and processed foods and grains, you are left with two "P" food groups – Protein and Produce. When people increase their protein cut back on carbohydrates, they also gain more energy. The energy levels are related to more stable blood sugar levels and a reduction in inflammation.

Choosing ten servings from a good variety of fruits and vegetables should be your goal. Fresh lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, garlic, green beans, kale, leeks, mustard green, onions, and shallots are the best sources of antioxidants to help dampen the overactive immune response, which can cause inflammation.

Refined sugars are the ultimate empty calories. The consumption of sugars and sugar like carbohydrates (white bread, muffins, pasta, bagels) can increase inflammation markers and promote inflammation in our body. The most common types of sugar are sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, fructose, and corn syrup. Stevia is made from an herbal leaf, is three hundred times sweeter than sugar, and is an acceptable sweetener.

There are many positive side effects to these dietary steps of better eating habits. Here are some steps to lead you toward foods that are anti-inflammatory and away from those that cause inflammation:

1. Eat a variety of fresh and whole foods.

2. Eat more fish, especially the cold-water varieties.

3. Strictly limit sugars and sugary foods.

4. Limit your intake of refined grains.

5. Eat a lot of high-fiber, non-starchy vegetables and fruits.

6. Use only healthy oils–Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the best. Avoid conventional cooking oils.

7. When thirsty, opt for water and natural beverages.

8. Snack on nuts and seeds.

9. Eat organically produced foods as often as you can afford to.

10. Eat lean meat from free-range or grass-fed animals.

11. Identify and avoid food allergens.

Meal planning with these steps allows for flexibility. Some planning may be required, but keeping meals simple can ease confusion.

– Martin is a Registered Dietician with the Columbia County Health System.


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