Despite being a natural process that occurs in your body, inflammation can become disruptive to your health when it goes unchecked. Here’s how you can keep the odds in your favor.
You’ve probably heard about inflammation, and why an anti-inflammatory diet is so important for good, long-term health. Unfortunately, anti-inflammatory diets can sometimes get lumped in with many fad diets, but this one actually holds some truth.
Inflammation is the body’s own way to heal itself by fighting injury and infection. It’s great for when we’re sick, but not so great when the body turns on itself. In some cases, inflammation occurs when the immune system is attacking its own body’s healthy cells, leading to autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and other chronic conditions.
Research has also shown that long-term inflammation may play a role in the development of diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Certain food and lifestyle behaviors have been shown to turn the inflammatory process on, while others can turn it off.
Let’s quickly explore 5 lifestyle factors that can help reduce your chances of inflammation.
A diet high in refined carbohydrates, trans fats, saturated fats, and Omega-6 fatty acids can turn that inflammation on. Same goes for a diet full of processed foods. The good thing is that studies have shown that a diet high in fruits and vegetables may be one of the best defenses to nourish and heal the body, thanks to their high vitamin, mineral, fiber, and polyphenol (natural plant compounds that have antioxidant properties) content.
A plant-based diet high in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains has been linked to lower inflammation. Aim to eat 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, and keep things varied and colorful: think tomatoes, watermelon, grapes, broccoli, eggplant, zucchini, and other colors in the plant-based rainbow. Get your dose of Omega-3s from walnuts, olive oil, avocados, and fish, and opt for beans and lentils for plant-based protein.
Foods high in fiber and probiotics can also help reduce inflammation, with experts recommending 25-30 grams of fiber per day to help control blood glucose, regulate bowels, decrease inflammation, and lower cholesterol. We can eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables and whole grains to easily meet those needs. New research has also been showing the importance of gut health for overall health, which is why we want to get our dose of probiotics through yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, or tempeh.
Stress has been shown to wreak havoc on the body, and those who experience chronic stress can disrupt their body’s ability to control inflammation. In other words, if we are stressed out all of the time, there’s an increased risk of inflammation, which can lead to increased risk of other chronic diseases that negatively affect quality of life.
Whether that be yoga, writing, drawing, walking, or reading, nourish your body and mind by finding stress-relieving activities. Do what you love and slow down to take time for genuine self-care.
Sleep plays an important role in the inflammatory response. Research has shown that when we do not get enough sleep, the inflammatory response can kick into gear and turns against our healthy tissues and organs.
Missing out on sleep night after night can also increase risk for many chronic conditions like heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to ensure quality rest that will allow your body to function in a happy and healthy way. If you need help getting to sleep on time, consider setting a bedtime alarm 30 minutes before you want to start “winding down.”
We all know that physical activity is important, but let’s add anti-inflammatory benefits to the list. Research has shown that even 20 minutes of movement a day can help decrease markers associated with inflammation.
More importantly, don’t think of exercise as punishment. Movement can be anything that you enjoy: walking, running, yoga, weight lifting, dancing…the list goes on and on. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes/day, and get that blood pumping in any way that you can.
5. HERBS & SPICES
Many cultures have used herbs and spices as natural remedies for inflammation for centuries. Some herbs and spices that have been linked with anti-inflammatory properties include cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, and ginger. Try seasoning your recipes with these delicious herbs and spices to enhance the flavor of your dishes while reaping its health benefits.
In addition to herbs and spices, teas have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. Incorporate green tea into your afternoon regimen, and sip away.
Chronic inflammation tends to be an underlying condition that is often overlooked. By incorporating a healthy, balanced plant-based diet with movement, sleep, and relaxing activities, you can fight chronic inflammation and lower your risk for other chronic illnesses.
Support your body with a fighting chance, and it will thank you for it.
Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: NATALIE WALTERS
Wendy Lopez, MS, RD, CDE and Jessica Jones, MS, RD, CDE are the founders of the popular food blog Food Heaven Made Easy. As Registered Dietitians and certified diabetes educators, they started Food Heaven as a creative outlet for two friends with a passion for spreading the word about delicious, nutritious living that’s cost-effective and simple. Learn more about Wendy and Jessica at Food Heaven Made Easy.