by Ashley Murphy
When the Boston Globe reported that Tom Brady follows an anti-inflammatory diet, the popularity of anti-inflammatory foods soared. And while we may not all be high profile football stars, we can all benefit from eating foods that reduce inflammation.
You are probably most familiar with inflammation that accompanies some type of trauma causing redness, swelling, heat, and pain. This type of inflammation is called acute inflammation and helps to protect us against injury, irritation, and infection.
This short-term inflammation is important for tissue repair and healing. However, prolonged (or chronic) inflammation can have harmful effects on our health. It has been linked to illnesses such as heart disease, cancers, type- 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to greatly reduce inflammation. These include: maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, exercising at least 150 minutes per week, getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, keeping stress levels low, minimizing your exposure to polluted air, and eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods.
Here are some food tips to help your body fight inflammation:
Pump up your intake of fruits and vegetables. Aim to eat four to five servings of both fruits and vegetables every day. Although this may seem like a lot, one serving is equal to one medium fruit, 1/2 cup of canned or frozen fruit, 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables, and 1 cup of leafy greens.
Use olive oil in cooking and salad dressings. Choose virgin olive oil when possible since it’s been shown to have more antioxidants than refined oils. Need a quick salad dressing recipe? Toss together 3/4 cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, a little salt and pepper.
Trade in refined grains for whole grains. Whole grain foods are a good source of fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. Eat oatmeal for breakfast, choose brown rice for your burrito bowl, and add quinoa to your salad.
Choose high quality omega-3 fatty acids. Find these in fatty fish, fish oil supplements, walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds. Strive to eat two to three servings of fish each week.
Eat less fast food and convenience foods. Many contain or are cooked in trans fats, which have been proven to increase inflammation. When eating out, order a salad with olive oil and vinegar (skip the cheese and fried toppings) or a grilled chicken sandwich.
Cut down on animal fats. Butter, high- fat dairy and fatty cuts of beef and pork are high in saturated fat. Choose leaner cuts of meat and low-fat or fat-free dairy most of the time.
Go meatless more often. Lentils and beans are great sources of protein and fiber. Replace the ground beef in your tomato sauce with lentils or throw black bean burgers on the grill.
Spice up your food. Add spices like ginger and curry for an added anti-inflammatory punch.
Shake the sugar. Replace traditional desserts, candy and sweets with dark chocolate, raspberries or cherries. These are rich in antioxidants to ward off inflammation.
To learn more about an anti-inflammatory diet, visit a registered dietitian. Find one near you at www.eatrightri.org/find-an-rd.
Ashley Murphy, MHSc, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian and health educator in Rhode Island. You can find more nutrition tips and recipes on her blog at www.nutrition-by-ashley.com. . Ashley is a member of the Rhode Island Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For more information, visit www.eatrightri.org.