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Anti-inflammatory foods can help combat many health issues



It may be surprising, but our bodies need a healthy level of inflammation, which acts as a natural healing agent in response to injury.

Think of it like sugar: our bodies need a small dose of it, but too much can be harmful to our health.

Rheumatoid arthritis and appendicitis, as well as cardiovascular disease and certain cancers can be linked to inflammation. Our nation’s high rates of allergies, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome and chronic pain can also be attributed to chronic inflammation. Even more alarming, inflammation can set in over the years without any symptoms.

So what can you do to combat this silent epidemic?

“Anti-inflammatory foods have the ability to curb inflammation when they’re eaten consistently,” says Katelyn Mock, clinical dietitian at Adventist Medical Center. “Add these healthy items to your plate and your chances of developing chronic inflammation reduce dramatically,” Mock added.

Fruits and Vegetables

The easiest way to improve your diet is to increase your servings of bright-colored fruits and vegetables. By adding more whole fruits, berries and vegetables to your diet, you’ll be eating more foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, as well as antioxidants and phytochemicals, natural chemicals that can help reduce inflammation.

Try eating dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale and chard, as well as vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and broccoli. The recommended amount is at least four to five servings per day. Studies show that these vitamin E-rich vegetables play an essential role in protecting the body from inflammation.

More colorful vegetables, including beets and bell peppers, can also help heal inflammation. Beets in particular are an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C, which help protect the body from cancer, heart disease and inflammation.

In general, all fruits can help fight inflammation due to their low-fat, low-calorie and high antioxidant nature.

Berries in particular are stellar anti-inflammatory foods because of the organic chemicals that give them their colors. Raspberries can help prevent arthritis, while blueberries help prevent colon and intestinal inflammation.

Low-fat Dairy

Low-fat and nonfat milk provide essential nutrients to help the body fight inflammation. Yogurt and skim milk supply you with calcium and vitamin D, which are not only important for bone strength, but also help reduce cancer and other health risks. Yogurt has the added bonus of probiotics that reduce gut inflammation.

Whole Grains

Whole grains possess more fiber and less sugar than refined grains. These healthier grains can reduce levels of certain proteins found in the blood that rise when responding to inflammation. Check nutrition labels on bread, cereal, rice and pasta to make sure whole grain is the primary ingredient, and steer clear of products with added sugars.

Nuts

These tiny morsels of healthy fats are miracle workers when it comes to inflammation. Almonds are rich in fiber, calcium and vitamin E, and walnuts have high amounts of beneficial omega-3 acids. Most nuts are naturally full of antioxidants, which prepare your body to combat and repair the damage caused by inflammation. Studies show that when nuts are introduced to a healthy diet (along with leafy greens, whole grains and fruits), inflammation can be reduced in as little as six weeks.

Soy

Many soy products contain estrogen-like compounds that have been proven to lower inflammation levels in women. By adding soy milk, tofu and edamame into your diet, your body will be better equipped to deal with the negative effects of inflammation on bone and heart health.

Ginger and Turmeric

These spicy ingredients not only add zest to your cooking, but also aid the body to fight off inflammation. Turmeric helps deactivate certain proteins that regulate the immune system and trigger the process of inflammation, while ginger has been proven to reduce intestinal inflammation.


Top Ten Foods that Fight Inflammation

1. Whole Grains

2. Kale

3. Walnuts

4. Edamame

5. Spinach

6. Yogurt

7. Berries

8. Beets

9. Ginger

10. Tart Cherries


Berry Spinach Salad

Servings: 6

Ingredients

1 pound fresh spinach

4 cups fresh strawberries, sliced (raspberries and blueberries make a good substitution)

6 ounces almonds, toasted, sliced or slivered

Dressing

¼ cup agave or honey

¼ cup vegan Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup cider vinegar

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1 tablespoon minced red onion

¼ teaspoon paprika

¼ cup canola oil

Directions

Rinse, trim and slice strawberries.

Rinse and pat dry spinach.

Whisk dressing ingredients together.

Toss spinach, strawberries and dressing in large bowl.

Divide onto serving plates.

Garnish with toasted, sliced or slivered almonds.

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