Food as Medicine – 10 Natural Ways to Fight Inflammation, Disease and Aging
Along with exercise and a healthy body weight, anti-inflammatory foods are key to staying healthy and fighting disease as we age. Anti-inflammatory foods reduce the risk of all health problems, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, intestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, all forms of cancer, immune disorders including lupus, certain eye diseases, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic pain syndromes, and asthma.
Obesity, diabetes and heart disease are at epidemic proportions. The typical American diet that is high in fat and low in fiber has been known to be a major contributor to these diseases for decades, largely because chronic inflammation can promote excess weight and difficulty losing weight, and excess weight worsens inflammation, setting up a vicious cycle.
Chronic inflammation also accelerates the aging process, and the aging process itself results in chronic low-grade inflammation, another double-edged sword that challenges us with wrinkling, graying, joint swelling, muscle aches, decreased physical function, and compromised immune systems.
So, what’s a person to do? Look no further than your kitchen for powerful age and disease fighters that can keep you going healthy and strong.
While a plant-based diet is ideal for negating inflammation, if choosing animal foods, limiting the saturated fat content with non-fat and low-fat milk and dairy products and lean cuts of meat will help reduce the amount of pro-inflammatory components present in animal foods.
Pro-inflammatory foods include junk food, high-fat meats, high- sugar foods, and fast food. High fat foods contain fatty acids called arachidonic acid, and high sugar foods promote increases in compounds called cytokines. Too much arachidonic acid and cytokines in the body promote inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory foods are those that are low in saturated fat and refined carbohydrates, high in vitamins and minerals, and contain omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fiber. Omega-3s are found in fatty fish and nuts and seeds, and antioxidants and fiber are abundant in whole-grains, fruits and vegetables.
10 Easy Ways to Fight Inflammation
- Include a fruit or vegetable with every meal. Even better; have both.
- Enjoy a handful of nuts daily.
- Drink tea several times per day, especially green tea.
- Eat legumes like kidney beans, split peas and lentils three times per week.
- Make all your grain choices whole-grain; brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, buckwheat.
- Reduce the saturated fat content of casserole dishes by adding a cup of veggies to each cup of casserole.
- Squeeze the juice of a lemon or lime into your beverages or foods.
- Go meatless on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
- Sprinkle a tablespoon of ground flax or chia seed into something.
- Increase the amount of spices and herbs in recipes.
Karen Fisher, MS, RDN, CDE is a dietitian in Reno, Nevada, happily promoting the benefits of healthy foods at her nutrition consulting firm, Nutrition Connection. Find her website at www.NutritionConnectionNV.com