Inflammation is your body’s way of protecting itself when you are sick or injured. Depending on the situation, it can be a good or bad thing.
When your body is under attack from foreign invaders, inflammation can help stimulate healing. But what happens when your body starts “repairing” perfectly good healthy body tissue? I can tell you now that it’s not good for you.
What Is Inflammation?
When you scrape your arm, your immune system springs into action, bringing white blood cells to the injured area. Your body increases production of white blood cells, immune cells and substances called cytokines that help fight infection. (4)
You may notice swelling or redness. This is natural and good for you, it means your body is repairing itself.
The foods you eat can have a major effect on inflammation in your body. They can either increase inflammation, or help fight it.
In this article we will explore how to add anti inflammatory foods into your diet for weight loss, better health, to ward off (and cure) diseases and even for beauty and longevity.
What Causes Inflammation?
Diet is perhaps the biggest factor in unwanted inflammation. (5)
You hear it all the time “you are what you eat” and if you are eating unhealthy junk, guess what? Your body will be unhealthy, weight loss will come to a screeching halt, and perhaps worst of all you could be opening yourself up to a slew of diseases.
Here are some of the top foods that cause inflammation and other inflammation causing items:
Sugar and Sugar Syrups
Sugar and inflammation go hand and hand. When you consume large quantities of sugar your blood sugar rises and your body generates more free radicals. Free radicals stimulate the immune system, create inflammation in your body and blood vessels, and that’s bad for heart and organ health. (6,7,8)
As we already know, free radicals speed up the aging process and make it harder to fight off infection. But did you know that they can also cause cancer, heart disease, cause pain and increase your chance for autoimmune diseases?! (9)
Stress is also a major component in inflammation. Constant stress will actually tell your body it needs to repair itself, resulting in unnecessary inflammation. This will create free radicals and as we’ve pinpointed above this will lead to a slew of health issues from cancer to heart disease and chronic pain. (10)
Sometimes we can’t help the stress, and that is where an anti inflammatory diet comes in, more on that below.
Smoking is known to cause inflammation. Nicotine, even for the most infrequent smokers, can cause inflammation. (11)
What’s more interesting is that when you crave a cigarette and do not have one, the stress also increases inflammation. So this inflammation is often around the clock, when you smoke you cause inflammation and when you are not smoking you are creating the stress that creates more inflammation.
Other foods that have been known to cause inflammation include:
- Fried foods (12)
- Processed foods (13)
- Large amounts of refined carbohydrates (such as white bread) (14)
- Unhealthy fats (such as lard and margarine) (15)
- Large amounts of red meat and processed meat (deli meat and hot dogs) (16)
- Sugar packed drinks and treats (17)
- Alcohol (18)
How Does Inflammation Affect Your Body?
We’ve touched on how inflammation can increase your risk of different diseases above. Heart disease, cancer, chronic pain, obesity, stroke, migraines, thyroid issues and even ADD/ADHD and alzheimer’s risks are all increased when you have inflammation in your body.
Inflammation and Weight Loss
Inflammation can also hinder weight loss efforts. It is believed that high levels of inflammation causes insulin resistance and metabolic disturbances. (19)
In layman’s terms inflammation causes excess belly fat and a low metabolism, hurting your weight loss efforts and actually adding weight. Studies have shown that fat cells plump and multiply faster in an inflamed body. So if you are looking to shed some pounds, or maintain your current weight pack your anti inflammation diet full of anti inflammatory foods.
Inflammation and Skin Health
Inflammation can negatively affect your natural beauty as well, causing acne, premature ageing and saggy skin. It speeds up the ageing process and makes your skin look dull. Remember your skin is your largest organ! (20)
How much do you spend in beauty products? How about try some beautifying antioxidant foods. You will glow from the inside out and look younger and more vibrant than ever.
Inflammation and Life Expectancy
Finally let’s talk about longevity. We all want to live longer and inflammation is not helping you achieve that goal! If you really think about it, it’s kind of a no-brainer… above we’ve noted different negative effects of inflammation including life threatening diseases, weight gain and even diseases that affect the brain, all which cut down on your life expectancy.
Bottom line, if you want to live longer you’ve got to feed your body the foods it needs to stay young and healthy, so eat up your antioxidants and live to 103 baby!
Top 10 Anti Inflammatory Foods
Anti inflammatory foods are a great way to combat inflammation. By filling your body with the nutrition it needs your body can naturally reduce harmful inflammation and free radicals.
Below we have supplied you with a list of the Top 10 Anti Inflammatory Foods. Try to incorporate them into your daily diet and reap the health, weight loss, beauty and longevity benefits of an Anti Inflammatory Diet.
Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries are all natural anti inflammatory foods. Packed full of antioxidants that reduce disease, berries can help you reduce inflammation and ward off disease. (21, 22)
Berries also naturally boost your metabolism, so those of you looking to lose weight, eat up!
#2. Fatty Fish
Salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines and herring are all packed full of omega-3 fatty acids, reducing inflammation. (23)
#3. Cruciferous Vegetables
These wonderful greens also turn off your hunger receptors, so you will be full and satisfied longer!
Did you know that by eating this healthy fat your body will actually shed unwanted fat faster?!
You can read more about this in my How to Lose Weight Fast article.
#5. Organic Green Tea
Try swapping it for your morning (or afternoon) coffee, we love to add in some berries for added flavor and antioxidants.
Snack on them, freeze them for hot days or halve them and top salads with grapes.
#7. Chili and Bell Peppers
Loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants, peppers have powerful anti inflammatory benefits… and P.S. – all that vitamin C naturally increases your metabolism so eat up! (35)
#8. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This is one of my favorite superfoods. Hey, if you’re gonna use a fat to cook with, might as well use one that is a superfood, right?!
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is so packed full of antioxidants that some studies have shown it is as effective as an over the counter ibuprofen at reducing swelling! (36)
Cherries are my personal favorite. It’s one of the best anti inflammatory foods I know of.
Many of you already know I suffer from a disease called CRPS. I have found that along with the amazing natural anti inflammatory benefits, eating a handful of cherries actually cuts my chronic pain down in a big way!
I like to keep a bag of dark frozen cherries in my freezer, and let me tell you they are even better than frozen grapes! Go for the dark cherries though, the darker the better for antioxidants.
#10. Dark Chocolate
Heck yeah, dark chocolate!!! I just love that it is so good for you!
You want to get 70% cocoa or above for maximum antioxidants and anti inflammatory benefits.
Sample Anti Inflammatory Diet
There are many ways to get Anti Inflammatory foods into your diet. I like to recommend you work on adding the ingredients to your daily meals.
So if you currently cook with butter, swap it out for extra virgin olive oil, or swap your afternoon coffee for an organic green tea and so on.
Try a green smoothie with berries, kale, avocado and a handful of frozen cherries and you’ll have a natural anti inflammatory diet powerhouse you can take with you and sip through a straw.
Try topping your morning oatmeal with berries, use a cheese grater to shred a tablespoon dark chocolate over the top for a sweet treat in the AM that’s packed full of antioxidants.
A nice Strawberry Spinach Salad topped with sliced strawberries, walnuts and a vinaigrette made with extra virgin olive oil is great for getting your antioxidants in mid day.
Visit your favorite sushi bar for some sashimi!! Fatty fish is packed full of antioxidants!
Enjoy some salmon and broccoli, cook them up in some extra virgin olive oil for added benefits.
Try some stuffed bell peppers, add your favorite beans, some chopped tomatoes (also anti inflammatory) and broccoli to the insides.
Roast them up then top with salsa and some sliced avocado.
Perhaps the easiest way to add anti inflammatory ingredients to your diet is to make sure all your snacking is packed full of antioxidants! Here are some examples:
- 1 cup of mixed berries (or your favorite berry)
- ½ avocado, smashed with your favorite hot sauce, scoop out with bell pepper sticks
- 2 dark chocolate covered strawberries
- 1 cup cherries or grapes, these are both so yummy frozen!
Anti Inflammatory Supplements
However, here at Lose Weight by Eating, we try to take the “kitchen approach” and recommend you try to find all your nutrition in your kitchen. So we won’t dive too deep in supplements, but instead share the best foods to fight inflammation.
Final Words on an Anti Inflammatory Diet
Whether you are looking to reduce inflammation for overall health, to look younger or to lose weight you can do so in your kitchen. Next time you visit the grocery store pick up 3-5 of the ingredients in this article that sound good to you. Try snacking with them to start and then work them into your favorite recipes.
Don’t forget to try and minimize the foods that cause inflammation, and be patient with yourself… remember stress causes inflammation. So try and take it easy and take baby steps to incorporate an anti inflammatory diet.