Hints of spring are in the air, which inevitably leads to thoughts about fresh new starts. It’s the perfect time to think about a new diet. You’re probably well aware of the obvious benefits of changing your diet: looking good, higher self-esteem, better heart health. But did you know that your diet can cause other forms of relief?
If you have a condition that causes inflammation, your body is working overtime to flush out foreign toxins. While this is good for you overall, it also causes discomfort. Medication and other treatments are important, but many experts say that adopting an anti-inflammatory diet may help, too. An anti-inflammatory diet is not a fad. In fact, many doctors recognize its health benefits, so even if it doesn’t help with your condition, it can help lower your chances of having other problems.
What to Eat:
Anti-inflammatory foods are those that any mainstream nutrition expert would encourage you to eat.
Fruits and veggies: Go for variety and lots of color. Research has shown that broccoli and cabbage, as well as vitamin K-rich leafy greens like spinach and kale, can reduce inflammation. And the substance that gives fruits like cherries, raspberries, and blackberries their color is a type of pigment that also helps fight inflammation.
Whole grains: Oatmeal, brown rice, whole-wheat bread, and other unrefined grains tend to be high in fiber, which helps with inflammation.
Beans: They’re high in fiber, plus they’re loaded with antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory substances.
Nuts: They have a healthy kind of fat that helps stop inflammation. (Olive oil and avocados are also good sources.) To prevent calories from adding up, stick to just a handful of nuts a day.
Fish: Plan to eat it at least twice a week. Salmon, tuna, and sardines all have plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation.
Herbs and spices: In addition to flavor, they add antioxidants to your food. Turmeric, found in curry powder, has a strong substance called curcumin. And garlic curbs the body’s ability to make things that boost inflammation.
What not to Eat:
Anything highly processed, overly greasy, or super sweet isn’t a good choice for you.
Sweets, cakes and cookies, and soda: They’re not dense in nutrients, and they’re easy to overeat, which can lead to weight gain, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol (all related to inflammation). Sugar causes the body to release inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Anti-inflammatory diet experts often say you should cut out all added sugars, including agave and honey.
High-fat and processed red meat (like hot dogs): These have a lot of saturated fat, which can cause inflammation if you get more than a small amount each day.
Butter, whole milk, and cheese: Whole dairy products are also high in saturated fat.
French fries, fried chicken, and other fried foods: Cooking them in vegetable oil doesn’t make them healthy. Corn, safflower, and other vegetable oils all have omega-6 fatty acids. You need some omega-6s, but if you get too much, you throw off the balance between omega-6s and omega-3s in your body and end up with more inflammation.
Diets tend to go in hand with exercise, so as the weather warms up, take advantage of the chance to go outside more. As always, consult your physician on everything you do for your comfort.