The science keeps getting louder and stronger all the time – chronic inflammation in your body is never a good thing and can only cause problems. The good news is that there is something you can do about that.
In addition to exercise and other positive lifestyle changes, such as good sleep and maintaining adequate vitamin D levels, we know that a whole food, plant-based diet can help reduce levels of chronic inflammation and set you on the high road to better health.
What is Inflammation?
For all its bad press, inflammation is actually a natural function of your body’s immune, or defense, response to infections or injury. In fact, acute, meaning temporary inflammation, is a required process for your body to be able to heal itself from infection or injury. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can be described as a baseline level of perpetual inflammation in your body, and it’s not helpful at all.
The list of diseases linked to chronic inflammation in the body keeps growing – everything from cancer and heart disease to diabetes, neurogenerative diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and chronic inflammatory diseases such as periodontitis and rheumatoid arthritis, and the list seems to keep growing.
As researchers discover chronic inflammation to be a common factor in an increasing number of conditions, some believe that chronic inflammation may provide a “unifying theory of disease,” in other words, that it may be a common causative factor in a substantial percentage of non-infectious degenerative diseases.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be rid of these?
You Are What You Eat: Diet and Inflammation
Food matters – what we eat on a regular basis can substantially raise or lower the level of chronic inflammation in our body, and this may be the reason why certain dietary patterns are associated with health while others are associated with higher rates of illness. Fruits, vegetables and whole wheat are believed to reduce levels of chronic inflammation. What is it about these foods?
It’s what are called the “non-nutritive” factors, meaning that the anti-inflammatory effects don’t stem from vitamins, minerals or proteins, for instance. Instead, anti-inflammatory effects derive from carotenoids and flavonoids, both of which are believed to reduce inflammation by affecting “inflammatory signaling,” basically the inflammation-promoting communications within our bodies.
Carotenoids are fat-soluble yellow, orange and red plant pigments such as those found in carrots, oranges, acorn and spaghetti squash, mangoes, tomatoes, watermelon, sweet potatoes, red bell peppers and other yellow, orange or red plant foods. But appearances aren’t everything – some plant foods of different colors, such as kale, parsley and spinach, also contain carotenoids.
Because they are fat-soluble, carotenoids need to be eaten with some fat in order for them to be properly absorbed by the body. Animals, and that includes us humans, can’t manufacture carotenoids and can only get them from food.
Flavonoids, on the other hand, are found in almost all fruits and vegetables and also play a role in the colorful appearance of these foods. Plant foods that are especially high in flavonoids include blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, celery, almonds and romaine lettuce.
Take Control of Your Health
Fruits and vegetables, especially the ones summarized below – and whole wheat, are crucially important for keeping your body free of chronic inflammation. Smoothies, such as my V-8, Pumpkin Pie, Chocolate Cherry, Mint Chocolate, Heart Healthy, Healing Turmeric, and Green Berry smoothies are a great way to make sure you’re getting lots of inflammation-reducing fruits and vegetables.
Of course, you can’t live on smoothies alone! Good news – all the recipes on my Plantbasedcooking.com site contain anti-inflammatory plant foods, so you can’t go wrong!
While most all plant foods are anti-inflammatory, here are some of the best:
- Acorn and spaghetti squash
- Sweet potatoes
- Red bell peppers
- Kale, Swiss chard, and spinach
- Tomatoes, celery
- Romaine lettuce
- Whole wheat
Have you found that eating a plant-based diet has reduced inflammation and helped you heal? I’d love to hear about your story. Bon appetit!