Photo: Jennifer Causey Styling: Claire Spollen

Incorportating inflammation-fighting foods into your daily diet is way easier/tastier than you might think. 

Gillie Houston
November 07, 2017

While you’ve likely heard of inflammation and its link to serious health issues like diabetes, cancer, and arthritis, chances are you haven’t taken any serious steps towards protecting your body from this lingering menace. Now, researchers have discovered that higher levels of inflammation could also take a significant toll on your mental health.

According to a new study published in Neurology, brain shrinkage and the development of Alzheimer’s disease in middle age may be linked to chronic inflammation, the New York Times reports. The scientists who conducted the study, measuring inflammation indicators in 1,633 middle-aged people over the course of 24 years, found that subjects who had experienced higher levels of inflammation earlier in life performed lower in mental agility and memory tests and had a smaller brain volume overall.

So what is inflammation, and what can be done to stop it? On the one hand, everyone experiences acute, temporary inflammation in day-to-day life. This includes swelling, redness, and itchiness as a result of insignificant occurrences like mosquito bites and minor bumps and bruises.

However, chronic inflammation—the kind that could potentially lead to serious brain issues—develops inside the body, often with no outwardly recognizable symptoms or indicators. And, the longer it is ongoing the more likely it is to do irreversible damage to the body and to lead to the development of a chronic condition.

This more dangerous form is often the result of past injuries or infections, as well as diseases that contribute to and are as a result of existing inflammation, like inflammatory arthritis. However, there are also a number of common daily causes of inflammation, including chronic stress, smoking, high alcohol consumption, excess weight, and the bacteria in our gut, which have the power to suppress or activate inflammation.

“It’s important early in life that we prevent diseases like diabetes, heart disease or hypertension that cause systemic inflammation,” says Keenan A. Walker, a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University and the lead author of the Neurology study.

One of the most immediate steps that can be taken to instantly decrease the likelihood of inflammation is to make small changes in your diet. Reducing your consumption of inflammatory foods like refined flour, dairy, vegetable oil, saturated fat, fried foods, processed meats, sugar, and artificial sweeteners/additives is the first step to bettering your body.

There are also a number of inflammation-fighting foods that will help lower those levels slowly but surely, as our friends at Cooking Light point out. With these anti-inflammatory ingredients and recipes, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing you’re doing your health a favor one meal at a time.

Salmon

This omega-3 rich fish is a powerhouse when it comes to helping the body produce anti-inflammatory compounds and keeping existing inflammation at bay. Aim to incorporate dishes like Thai Crunch Bowls with Salmon and Salmon in Smoky Tomato Broth into your meal rotation a few times a week. Bonus points if you make a recipe like this Sheet Pan Salmon with Potatoes and Green Beans with extra-virgin olive oil, which, along with flaxseed and canola oil, is also high in omega-3s.

 

Avocado 

Everyone’s favorite creamy super-fruit contains a special blend of antioxidants and unsaturated fats, which work together to fight inflammation fast. While you could keep it basic with avo toast for breakfast, you won’t regret also getting your fix at dinner with Pan Seared Tuna Tacos with Avocado Mango Salsa, Spaghetti with Spinach-Avocado Sauce, and a Strawberry Avocado Salad, which also incorporates berries, another anti-inflammatory food.

Turmeric

This brightly-hued spice is not only seriously trendy right now, but also contains a compound called curcumin, which helps to relieve symptoms of inflammation-related issues. Start your day with a Turmeric Latte made with almond milk and an Omelet with Turmeric, Tomato, and Onions. Then, incorporate the spice into your dinner sides with the help of this Roasted Cauliflower with Turmeric and Cumin.

Broccoli

Broccoli, as well as its cruciferous veggie relatives like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage, is packed with anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, which will help reduce your risk of cancer. And while plain steamed broccoli is a bit of a bore, a Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken and Broccoli, Broccoli Salad with Cider Dressing, or Shaved Broccoli and Brussels Sprout Slaw will leave you and your dinner companions wanting more.

Shiitake Mushrooms

This delicious fungi variety is shown to improve immune system health overall and lower inflammatory markers, along with its Oyster and Enoki cousins. Dishes like Shiitake and Sweet Pea Risotto, Chicken and Shiitake Marsala, and Quinoa with Leeks and Shiitake Mushrooms will be so tasty you’ll forget you’re also doing something great for your health.

Tomatoes

Packed with lycopene, a chemical compound shown to reduce and suppress inflammation, tomatoes are an easy bet for getting a healthy dose of anti-inflammatory foods. Stick with the classics, like Roasted Tomatoes and One Pot Pasta with Tomato Basil Sauce, or get a little more adventurous with Cumin-Spiced Chicken with Chunky Tomato Sauce.

Spinach

This leafy green vegetable is packed with an amazing mix of antioxidants that simultaneously reduce inflammation and give your immune system a boost. To get the most significant nutritional boost from the greens, serve them uncooked, as a Spinach Salad with Tahini Vinaigrette, Spinach Quinoa Salad with Shrimp, or Spinach Salad with Berries and Goat Cheese.

Cherries

This summer staple helps to lower levels of one of the key blood proteins used to measure inflammation, offering relief from inflammatory ailments. While there are plenty of cherry desserts to pick from, reduce your sugar intake by trying your hand at a savory cherry recipe like Pork Tenderloin with Cherries and Shallots or a Grilled Chicken Salad with Cherries.

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