What’s the deal with inflammation?
Reducing inflammation has always been a hot topic in the wellness world! Our bodies have natural mechanisms in place that promote healing and the fighting off of infections – inflammation is one of these mechanisms. Infections causing inflammation inside of our bodies could be from wounds, germs, or allergens. For example, a sore throat from a cold or the flu is our immune system fighting off that infection with inflammation for a short period of time. However, long-term inflammation can be a sign our immune systems are not working properly. We know that chronic inflammation can lead to an increased risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. We also know that anti-inflammatory nutrition can play a preventative role in developing these diseases.
So what foods contribute to chronic inflammation in our bodies? What foods are considered anti-inflammatory? Do our lifestyle choices affect chronic inflammation in our bodies?
Foods that contribute to inflammation in the body
- Saturated Fat: Foods that are higher in saturated fat like highly processed meats such as bacon, sausage, and deli meats have been shown to increase inflammation
- Trans Fats & Added Sugars: Highly processed foods containing trans fats or added sugars can increase inflammation in the body leading to an increased risk for developing disease
- Alcohol: An excessive amount of alcohol has been shown to increase inflammatory markers in our bodies. The 2020-2025 dietary guidelines recommend that if you drink alcohol, to limit consumption to 2 drinks or less/day for men, and 1 drink or less/day for women. Appropriate serving sizes of alcohol can be found here.
What can you do in your diet to help reduce chronic inflammation?
- Choose Color. Create a plate that is as colorful as possible! When we aim for making ½ of our plates fruits and vegetables, we are adding in phytonutrients. Phytonutrients, found in fruit and vegetables, play a role in cancer prevention, heart health, and inflammation
- Choose Lean Proteins. When picking your protein, select leaner cuts of meat like chicken and turkey. These will be lower in saturated fat. Incorporate “Meatless Mondays” into your week with plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, or tofu
- Choose Omega-3’s. Select healthy fats like omega-3’s and monounsaturated fatty acids. Foods containing omega-3’s include fish like salmon or sardines, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and eggs. Monounsaturated fatty acids include nuts/nut butter, olive oil, and avocado
- Choose Whole Grains. Choose carbohydrates that contain whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat/grain bread, and oats. Whole grains contain fiber that not only slows digestion and helps regulate our blood sugar, but also decreases inflammation
- Choose Herbs & Spices. Incorporate anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and garlic into your cooking
Free 3-Day Meal Plan
Adding anti-inflammatory foods into our diets can help decrease inflammation that causes pain and stiffness in our joints or exacerbate the pain caused by arthritis. Check out our FREE 3-day meal planner for meal ideas that incorporate anti-inflammatory foods like whole-grains, colorful fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins.
What can you do outside of your diet to reduce chronic inflammation?
- Get enough sleep! Sleeping long enough and getting quality sleep gives our immune systems the support they need to fight off chronic inflammation.
- Get active & incorporate movement into your daily routine. Most of us are sedentary throughout our days, but physical activity can help combat chronic inflammation. Find movement that you enjoy and look forward to. Keep in mind, it can be as simple as parking further away and walking to your destination, taking the stairs, or taking a walk after dinner to reach the recommended goal of 30-60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.
- Manage your stress. Stress in our bodies produces cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that increases inflammation in our bodies. By managing stress, we can decrease the amount of cortisol produced, therefore decreasing inflammation.
How we can help
At Main Line Nutrition, we focus on the 4 Pillars of Health – nutrition, movement, stress, and sleep – because we know each pillar plays a vital role in our overall health. If you are interested in working with one of our Registered Dietitians, they can create a custom, realistic plan for you that addresses all 4 Pillars! You can schedule here.