The Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Tuesday, July 07, 2009 | Party Time, food and drink

IStock_000000445688_L2 Inflammation means “to set on fire” in Latin. When a disease name ends in itis, it is an indicator of inflammation (i.e. arthritis, dermatitis, gastritis, tonsillitis and hepatitis). Inflammation leads to high blood pressure; Alzheimer’s disease; cancer; diabetes; gastrointestinal problems such as constipation, indigestion and heartburn; weight gain; heart attack; and stroke. Additionally, acne and rosacea are inflammatory diseases, which is why skin becomes red and plagued by pustules.

Most people don’t think of inflammation as a catalyst for making food choices, but perhaps it should be. “You are what you eat (and drink)” is more than just an old cliché; it’s a guide for sensible, healthy living. For people afflicted with inflammatory ailments, dietary choices can go a long way to help reduce suffering and reduce the effects of inflammation. Based on the nutrients you consume, inflammatory and anti-inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins are created in your body and affect its inflammatory response. Consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants helps your body to produce more anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. The key ingredients of an anti-inflammatory diet include:

Fruits and Vegetables
Eat at least nine one-half cup servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Eat organic, fresh, raw and green (the darker, the better) foods as much as you can, including onions, garlic, fruits, raw cilantro and parsley, fresh herbs, seaweed and organic whole leaf aloe juice. The antioxidants found in green leafy vegetables and colored fruits help prevent free radical oxidation that contributes to inflammation. It’s best to eat these foods raw, as cooking destroys some of their beneficial enzymes and antioxidants.

Healthy Proteins
Cell, muscle and tissue health depend on protein, and the best sources of proteins for an anti-inflammatory diet are omega-3 rich coldwater fish, free-range poultry and plant-based proteins such as beans, nuts and grains. Grilling, poaching and stewing methods are healthier ways to cook meat than frying and barbecuing, and replacing meat or fish with peanut butter or hummus once in a while creates a healthy change of pace.

Fabulous Fats
The fats found in olive oil, pumpkin and flax seeds, walnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts are sources of essential fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory properties. Avoid saturated and trans fats, as well as cottonseed, corn, peanut and soy oils, which contain omega-6 fatty acids that can compromise the beneficial effects of the omega-3 fatty acids.