June 21, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Inflammation

My mum asked me to look into foods that increase or decrease inflammation and related chronic pain conditions.

I don't know if such a thing is even possible, and Google leads me to thousands of quacks and charlatans. Can you help?

-- Rachelle T.
Location Unknown


Nutrition plays an important role in promoting -- and reducing -- inflammation.

Before we even get to actual foods, though, it's important to address weight.

Excess body fat heightens inflammation, so working towards shedding any extra pounds is the first step in my book.

Foods that I suggest your mother eat sparingly include refined carbohydrates (mainly white flour and added sugars), saturated fats, trans fats, and Omega-6 fatty acids (found in most plant oils, nuts, and seeds.)

A point of clarity regarding Omega-6 fatty acids: although they absolutely serve a purpose (and are essential, meaning we can only get them from our diet), the traditional U.S. diet is overly abundant in them.

Moving on, then. There are also many foods that help manage -- and even decrease -- inflammation.

These include whole grains, monounsaturated fats (think avocados, olive oil, and peanut butter), Omega-3 fatty acids (walnuts, flaxseed, salmon, tofu, wheat germ, and some legumes) and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

In the case of fruits and vegetables, the more variety the better.

Why? Research suggests that different compounds (i.e.: anthocyanins in blueberries, carotenoids in sweet potatoes, and phenolics in tart cherries) can aid in the reduction of inflammation.

Keep in mind, though, that for optimal results, these foods should be consumed on a daily basis for a prolonged period.

Additionally, the above mentioned foods should not be consumed with excess calories or sugars (putting a spoonful of walnuts into a Coldstone ice cream bowl or having a Reese's peanut butter cup are not effective ways to manage inflammation.)


gd said...

i think that ginger is also very good for anti-inflammation.

Andy Bellatti said...

That is correct, gd.

Compounds in certain spices (including garlic, tumeric, and ginger) have also been shown to help with inflammation.

Again, though, these have to be consumed in certain quantities over long periods of time, and in their natural state (ie: garlic cloves as part of a stir fry, not garlic-flavored pita chips).