“The inflammation process has one goal: to respond immediately to detect and destroy the toxic material in damaged tissues before it can spread throughout the body,” says Lauren Whitt, Ph.D.from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “The trouble with inflammation occurs when the defense system gets out-of-control and begins to destroy healthy tissue, causing more damage than the original issue.”
Obesity has even been found to cause inflammation, and it can lead to the development of cardiovascular and metabolic disease, according to the National Council on Strength & Fitness. Weight loss can reduce inflammation, and Whitt says the key is eating the right types of anti-inflammatory foods.
“I encourage people to focus on eating whole foods and foods that are high in fiber,” Whitt said.
Add these four types of anti-inflammatory foods to your diet:
• Citrus fruits. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, an essential antioxidant that reduces inflammation naturally.
• Dark, leafy green vegetables. Vitamin K is a powerful antioxidant, and it's abundant in dark, leafy greens such as kale.
• Tomatoes. Lycopene, the substance that gives tomatoes their red color, is a potent antioxidant.
• Wild-caught salmon. Salmon contains a rich concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fats that reduce inflammation and also protect against heart disease.
• Nuts and seeds. Almonds and sunflower seeds provide generous amounts of vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that fights inflammation and the diseases connected with it. For example, one study found that vitamin E reduced the risk of Alzheimer's by 67 percent.
Whitt added that eating anti-inflammatory foods shouldn't feel overwhelming. “Take baby steps by incorporating leafy greens into a salad at lunch, or add a piece of whole fruit to your breakfast.” In addition try to eat more farm-fresh foods and reduce processed and fried foods. A healthy diet may reduce the need for some medications.
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“Americans are constantly on the lookout for a quick-fix, so when our immune systems kick into overdrive, we would generally prefer to pop a pill and keep moving,” Whitt said. “But if we focus on our diets, we can alleviate the need for the anti-inflammatory medications in many cases.”
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