There are times when inflammation actually helps us. For example, it can be the body’s natural response to eliminate or repair an injury or the body’s response to harmful bacteria. But when things get out of balance and inflammation becomes chronic, it can increase the risk of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and rheumatoid arthritis and cause symptoms like fatigue and joint pain.
We have the ability to curb chronic inflammation through our food choices. What we eat can not only increase or decrease inflammation but also increase or decrease our risk of developing these diseases and symptoms.
The first step to combating chronic inflammation is to eliminate or reduce inflammatory foods such as:
- Foods high in sugar
- Foods high in sodium
- Processed foods
- Fried foods
- Red meat
- Dairy products
The next step is to increase our consumption of anti-inflammatory foods like fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines), fruits (strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and apples), leafy greens, nuts, olive oil, turmeric, and ginger.
Many of us do a good job consuming foods with anti-inflammatory properties during the spring and summer when fruits and vegetables are plentiful. But when winter rolls around, we often struggle to make healthy selections and opt for comfort foods instead.
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet during the winter doesn’t have to be difficult, nor does it mean you have to give up comfort foods. Start by trying these disease-fighting, anti-inflammatory recipes, and adding these winter vegetables to your diet:
This leafy green has been high on the popularity charts for some time and for good reason. It’s rich in folate, potassium, and calcium and is loaded with antioxidants, specifically, vitamins A, C, and K. These antioxidants have been shown to combat inflammation by protecting the body against free radicals that can cause cell damage. By minimizing free radicals, the body no longer has to fight back with an inflammatory response—making inflammation less likely. Kale is also high in vitamin B6, which is important for keeping the immune system healthy. Since inflammation is an immune system response, a healthier immune system is less likely to prompt inflammation. Try adding kale to soups, stews, and salads, or use it as the base for your green smoothie (do note that raw kale can cause digestive issues for some, so experiment and see what works for your body!).
These delicate greens are often consumed raw or added to warm dishes at the final stage of cooking. Arugula is loaded with antioxidants and, like kale, combats free radicals lessening the likelihood of inflammation. Need another reason to add arugula to your diet? According to the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) arugula is one of the 10 most nutrient-dense foods.
This nutrient-rich cruciferous vegetable is low in calories, high in vitamins B and C, and a great source of magnesium and folic acid. Broccoli is also loaded with fiber. Studies show that an increase in dietary fiber is associated with lower inflammation, making broccoli a great addition to an anti-inflammatory diet. Try adding broccoli to soup, stir-fries, and salad, or simply steam or roast it with olive oil and sea salt.
4. Brussels sprouts:
As a kid, I turned up my nose at these edible buds. But over the years I’ve come to love them. Brussels sprouts are rich in fiber and loaded with more than 100 percent of your daily allowance of vitamin C. This cruciferous vegetable also contains dietary glucosinolates. Studies suggest that this naturally occurring compound can help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation.
5. Butternut squash:
Similar to pumpkin, butternut squash has a bright orange flesh and is delightfully sweet. It’s also packed with vitamins A and C. These antioxidants help reduce inflammation by protecting the body against free radicals. Its high dietary fiber content is yet another anti-inflammatory property that makes it a perfect addition to a healthy diet. Try roasting the squash before adding it to your favorite soup recipe for an extra-rich flavor.
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is super easy if you follow these five simple principles.
And are you feeling a little fatigued? Feel like something's just not right, but Western Medicine tells you, "you're fine"? Jason Wachob, founder & CEO of mindbodygreen, tells all in his health story. Sign up now for FREE!