Inflammation is a normal body function and an important part of healing. Generally, it’s triggered by the immune system, which stimulates different cells and proteins—such as white blood cells—to help repair any damaged tissue (from an injury, for example) or eliminate the threat of an invader (such as a viral infection). Telltale signs of inflammation include heat, redness, swelling and pain in the affected area. There may also be loss of function associated with inflammation.
Problems arise, however, when inflammation continues for longer than is normal or healthy, as chronic inflammation plays a role in many common ailments. Some examples of symptoms associated with this include:
- Joint pain
- Weight gain
- Skin rashes
- Frequent headaches
- Bloating and digestive issues
Inflammation can also contribute to common chronic illnesses such as arthritis, cardiovascular and metabolic disease.
Following anti-inflammatory dietary principles can help to mitigate these risks, and improve other areas of health. Here are our top five tips for improving your diet and reducing inflammation.
1. Eat your greens… and all the other colours too
Aim for 5-6 serves of vegetables each day, and 2 serves of fruit. An example of one ‘serve’ would be 1 cup of raw / leafy or ½ cup cooked vegetables. This will provide you with a wide variety of naturally occurring anti-inflammatory nutrients and increase your overall fibre intake.
You can also include spices such as turmeric, ginger, chilis and garlic into your meals – all of which have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities, which are linked to improved health and reduced risk of chronic disease.
2. Consume foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids
These beneficial fats have been shown to reduce inflammation and can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, metabolic disease, and arthritis. Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water fish such as salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel. Plant based sources include hemp seeds, flax seeds and meal, walnuts, and beans such as navy, kidney and soy.
While you’re at it, use oils in food and cooking that contain healthy fats. Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and grass-fed ghee are all good options.
3. Eat fibre
A diet rich in natural fibre (at least 25g / day) helps to regulate digestive function, reduce inflammation and is associated with reduced risk for chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. It also supplies a variety of naturally occurring anti-inflammatory nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, and other whole grains.
Good sources of dietary fibre include whole grains, nuts, seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables. To give you an idea of how much fibre you’re getting, see the average amount of fibre in each of these foods: 1 apple = 2-3g, 1 banana = 2-3g, 1 corn cob = 6-7g, 1 cup broccoli = 3-4 g, 1 cup quinoa = 6g, ½ cup rolled oats = 4.5g.
4. Get rid of processed foods and refined sugar
Avoid highly processed foods (junk food, confectionary, pre-made meals, etc.) and those that contain additional sugar, salt, trans-fats and preservatives. These offer little nutritional benefit and can aggravate inflammation, making it difficult to heal chronic conditions
- Stay hydrated
Be sure to drink at least 1.5-2L of water each day, over the course of the day. Dehydration can exacerbate inflammation and has a significant impact on overall health. Regularly sipping from a bottle or glass of water during the day, along with the inclusion of herbal teas, can help to increase your overall intake.