If someone told you your x,y,z was "inflamed", you may automatically assume that was not an optimal situation, right? Hearing the words "inflammation", "inflamed", or "inflammatory" typically generate thoughts of injuries to the minds of most-- and they are not wrong...
Inflammation is the reaction to your body attacking anything it deems 'foreign'. It is the result of your immune system rushing to the rescue by fighting away any bacteria or viruses that may have entered. It is your body reacting to injury, and it's not all that bad!
Think of it in this sense: You get stung by a bee. Soon after, you may notice swelling and redness around the affected area. This is inflammation stepping in to kick any unwanted pathogens out and keep you healthy. This is a time in which we love inflammation!
In another example, say you are training a muscle group and, as a result, are sore the next day. There is actually some inflammation going on as exercise prompts such a response by injuring the muscles. This injuring generates acute inflammation which helps your muscles grow! And, so long as you do not bother the sore muscles and let them recover, soon the inflammation and soreness will disappear and you'll come back feeling stronger. This is acute inflammation, and it is our friend!
However, what if you were to get stung by a bee over and over in the same place? Well, to start, you'd have some pretty terrible luck; but also, your inflammation may never go down as the body never fully had a chance to 'heal' you.
The same goes for those muscles. Perhaps you don't give them enough time to rest and recover between injuries (aka workouts), your body is going to remain in a constant state of inflammation as you keep re-inuring yourself, training on already inflamed muscles. This is when inflammation, more specifically chronic inflammation, becomes a big problem.
Chronic inflammation occurs when inflammation does not simply flare up and then die down, but rather the inflammatory response persists day in and day out, for an extended period of time-- even if there isn't a foreign invader in your system. Many major diseases that plague us—including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer's—have been linked to chronic inflammation.
So, how do we stop inflammation from getting to this point? Well, one of the best ways is also a tasty way! We can combat chronic inflammation by consuming more anti-inflammatory foods!
Anti-inflammatory foods are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols. These foods are known to reduce markers of inflammation, which in turn lowers the risk of other chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. And more good news? They are delicious foods that may already be part of your daily diet-- and if they aren't, they are easy to start integrating.
Here are my top 10 choices for anti-inflammatory foods and spices!
1.) Leafy greens
Why they fight inflammation: Leafy greens, such as Swiss chard, are high in vitamins A, C, and K.
2.) Bok choy
Why it fights inflammation: Bok choy is another excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It also contains a large amount of phenolic substances/phenolic antioxidants.
Why they fight inflammation: Beets contain betalain, and excellent anti-inflammatory. As well, they are packed with folate, potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
Why it fights inflammation: It is basically the antioxidant powerhouse! Packed with key vitamins and flavonoids such as vitamin K, C, E, A, B6, folate, and manganese.
Why they fight inflammation: Fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, and oranges include inflammation fighting flavonoids such as quercetin and bromelain. They also contain essential vitamins such as K and C, as well as manganese.
6.) Fatty fish
Why they fight inflammation: Fatty fish such as salmon are excellent sources of essential fatty acids, especially omega-3s-- some of the most potent anti-inflammatory substances! They are also packed with vitamins and minerals such as phosphorus, protein, and vitamin B6.
Why they fight inflammation: Much like the fish, nuts such as walnuts and almonds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as manganese-- nuts definitely provide some great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
and as for spices...
Why it fights inflammation: It has an ability to block a molecule called NF-KB, which travels into the nuclei of cells and turns on genes that promote inflammation.
Why it fights inflammation: It inhibits pro-inflammatory pathways and promotes anti-inflammatory pathways. It also is packed with antioxidants and can promote good blood circulation and speed up healing time!
Why it fights inflammation: It activates insulin receptors, contains antioxidants, and, like turmeric, inhibits the NF-KB proteins.
So, if you're looking to reduce levels of inflammation, aim for a healthy diet that integrates a lot of these foods and spices.
In addition, head towards a less processed diet by avoiding fried foods, sodas, processed meats, lard, and high amounts of refined carbs.
Remember, acute inflammation is our friend! But we want to do whatever we can to avoid its evil twin: chronic inflammation.
I'm not saying completely avoid anything that can cause inflammation, but I am saying limit it, and most certainly take advantage of all the wonderful, natural anti-inflammatories out there!