The Nutrition Twins by The Nutrition Twins
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Inflammation and anti-inflammatory are two buzz words you’ve likely heard quite often lately. When you hear the word inflammation mentioned in the news or online, they aren’t typically referring to the beneficial, initial inflammation that helps heal injuries like ankle sprains. Rather, they’re talking about ongoing, systemic inflammation in the body, which serves no purpose and may be linked to a wide range of diseases and disorders. Fortunately, with some dietary tweaks, a lifestyle that promotes chronic inflammation can turn into one that minimizes it—all while including tasty, satisfying foods.

The first step to turning your body into a well-tuned, inflammation-fighting machine is knowing which foods promote inflammation and then swapping them out for the better choices. And here’s an added bonus: If you’re looking to shed a few pounds, reducing your intake of inflammatory foods can help as most of them contribute to weight gain.

Foods that promote inflammation include:

1. Sugar and refined carbohydrates

Cakes, cookies, bakery items, sugar, grains made with white flour including white bread, pasta, bagels, etc.

  • Too much sugar can alert the body to send out extra immunity messengers called cytokines, which create inflammation.
  • Think of refined carbohydrates as an indulgence and consume them in small amounts.
2. Fried foods

French fries, tempura, doughnuts, etc.

  • Aim to indulge only occasionally and share with friends.
3. Animal fats

Butter, full-fat dairy products, fatty cuts of beef, pork, etc.

  • A daily pat of butter or a serving of full-fat yogurt in a diet that contains primarily anti-inflammatory foods isn’t problematic; however, the typical American diet is already inflammatory, so these habits contribute to even more inflammation.
4. Excessive drinking
  • Stick to one drink a day if you’re a woman, and one to two drinks a day if you‘re a man.
5. Trans fats

Crackers, baked goods, crusts, frozen pizzas, stick margarines, etc.

  • Read ingredient labels and steer clear of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils.
6. Omega-6 oils

Seeds and vegetable oils from corn, sunflower, safflower, soy and vegetables; mayonnaise; and many salad dressings.

  • While the body needs omega-6 fatty acids for health and development, it needs a healthy balance of omega-6s and omega-3s. Too much omega-6s trigger the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals.
  • The current ratio in the U.S. diet is estimated to be 16:1 omega-6s to omega-3s, instead of the ideal 4-to-1 or lower ratio.
  • Cut back on processed and fast foods to reduce the ratio and choose olive, flaxseed and avocado oils over other vegetable oils.

Foods that fight inflammation:

1. Fruits

All of them (go for variety and choose rich colors as each color represents a different health-promoting phytonutrient)

  • Fruit contains potent antioxidants that mop up free radicals that damage your cells and cause inflammation.
  • All fruits reduce TNF-alpha, a marker of inflammation.
  • Brightly colored fruits like berries and cherries contain anthocyanins, which are anti-inflammatory powerhouses.

Try these recipes:

2. Veggies

All of them (like fruits, consume a variety and choose those with deep colors)

  • Their phytochemicals are superstars and combat inflammation.
  • Kale, Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables are rich in sulfur and go through two detox phases in the liver, forcing the body to create more enzymes that clean out the body and reduce the toxic, inflammation-producing load.
  • Stack sandwiches with spinach and tomatoes; use lettuce or kale for wraps and toss bell peppers and red onions in omelets.

Try these recipes:

3. Walnuts and Chia Seeds
  • Research has shown that nuts reduce markers of inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  • Walnuts are highest in anti-inflammatory omega-3s and their polyphenols also help to reduce inflammation.
  • Chia seeds contain alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3s in plant foods that fight inflammation.

Try these recipes:

4. Spices

Especially turmeric, ginger, garlic and cinnamon

  • Turmeric is a marigold root and its active ingredient, curcumin, has been found to be beneficial in fighting inflammation and helping to ease symptoms of inflammatory diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease.
  • Ginger has been shown to reduce inflammation after exercise as well as decrease joint pain in chronic inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.

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5. Fatty fish

Salmon, tuna, sardines, herring and white fish

  • Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are associated with lower levels of inflammation. Your body can’t make omega-3s—eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)—so it’s important to get them through your diet.
  • Eat at least one to two servings of fatty fish a week.

Try these recipes:

6. Tea
  • Tea contains polyphenolic compounds called catechins, which are ultra-strong antioxidants.
  • Aim for three to four cups a day for maximum benefits, as research suggests.

Try these recipes:

Looking to expand your nutrition knowledge and learn how to translate that information into actionable lifestyle changes for clients and patients? Learn more with ACE’s Fitness Nutrition Specialist program.