Foods you should eat to help fight inflammation

We typically think of inflammation as a result of an injury or disease. But diet also plays an important role in chronic inflammation.

This is in part because the foods we eat influence the types of bacteria that populate our gut and their chemical byproducts. While some foods encourage the growth of bacteria that stimulate inflammation, others promote the growth of bacteria that help suppress it. That’s why it’s important to know which foods have anti-inflammatory properties and which can cause inflammation.

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Fighting Inflammation
Chronic inflammation plays a central role in some of the most challenging diseases of our time, including rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and even Alzheimer’s. This report will examine the role that chronic inflammation plays in these conditions, and will also provide information on the breadth of drugs currently available to alleviate symptoms. Drug choices range from simple aspirin, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that’s been available for more than a century, to disease-modifying drugs and so-called biologics that promise more targeted treatments.

Foods that fight inflammation

Fruits and vegetables. Most fruits and brightly colored vegetables naturally contain high levels of antioxidants and polyphenols. Polyphenols are potentially protective compounds found in plants. Studies have shown that polyphenols have multiple anti-inflammatory properties and may improve the function of cells that line blood vessels. Foods high in polyphenols include onions, turmeric, red grapes, cherries, and plums, as well as dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collard greens.
Nuts and seeds. Studies have found that consuming nuts and seeds is associated with reduced markers of inflammation and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Some oils and fatty fish. Olive oil, flaxseed oil, and fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel offer healthy doses of omega-3 fatty acids, which have long been shown to reduce inflammation.
Coffee, cocoa and green tea. The polyphenols in coffee and the flavanols in cocoa are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. Green tea is also rich in both polyphenols and antioxidants.
Foods that can fuel inflammation

The foods that contribute to inflammation are the same ones generally considered bad for other aspects of health. These include:

Sugary sodas
Refined carbohydrates (like white bread and pasta)
Red meat and processed meats
Processed foods. Certain components or ingredients used in processed foods such as the emulsifiers added to ice cream, may have effects on inflammation.
Such foods are also likely to contribute to weight gain, which is itself a risk factor for inflammation..

The key to reducing inflammation with diet

To practice anti-inflammatory eating, it’s best to focus on an overall healthy diet rather than singling out individual “good” and “bad” foods. In general, a healthy diet means one that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils, and limits food loaded with simple sugars (like soda and candy), beverages that contain high-fructose corn syrup (like juice drinks and sports drinks), and refined carbohydrates.

For additional advice about ways to reduce inflammation, check out Fighting Inflammation , a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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Fighting Inflammation
Fighting Inflammation

• Inflammation: Friend or foe (or both)?
• The biology of the immune response
• When good inflammation turns bad
• Inflammation and allergic responses: When your body rebels against its environment
• Inflammation and autoimmune disease: When your body fights itself
• SPECIAL SECTION: Combating chronic inflammation with lifestyle changes
• Inflammation and your heart


* Please note, we do not provide responses to personal medical concerns, nor can we supply related medical information other than what is available in our print products or website. For specific, personalized medical advice we encourage you to contact your physician.


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