Inflammation is the immune system’s natural, self-protective response to a foreign substance in the body. (One example of inflammation in action would be, say, the way your finger turns red and swollen when you get a splinter.) As with all things, however, too much inflammation can be bad for you. Research has shown that chronic (or longterm) inflammation can play a part in the development of chronic illnesses and conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer’s and even cancer. Chronic inflammation can present itself in bloating, swelling and digestive issues, often caused by poor diet choices.
The good news is that by making a few dietary changes you can improve your immune system and fight inflammation. Whether you’re feeling bloated and uncomfortable or you are fighting an autoimmune condition, here is a short list of top inflammation-fighting foods to keep on rotation in your diet.
- Tomatoes. These guys are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that destroys free radicals that can wreck havoc on your immune system. Cooked tomatoes have more potent lycopene in them: Try cooking up a batch of homemade tomato sauce, or roasting some cherry tomatoes to put on your salads.
- Berries. While most fruits and veggies are great inflammation-fighters, berries are an especially excellent addition to your diet thanks to high levels of antioxidants and, in particular, anthocyanin, which is what gives berries their rich color but is also what boosts your immunity. Add a handful of mixed berries into your smoothie or green juice for an extra hit of antioxidants.
- Olive oil. Need another excuse to add a healthy dose of extra virgin olive oil to your diet? Here it is: Scientists have found that the oleocanthal compound found in olive oil has anti-inflammatory effects and can help in fighting the effects of inflammation in the body. Add some extra to your salads or use it in your cooking and reap the benefits (and deliciousness).
- Fatty fish. Mackerel, sardines, tuna, salmon and other fatty fish contain rich reserves of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help to heal your immune system and also to, you guessed it, fight inflammation. Fish not your thing? We get it. Try a high-quality fish oil supplement instead.
- Leafy green vegetables. Eating collard greens, broccoli, kale, spinach and other leafy greens provides you with large reserves of vitamin E, which has been linked with a reduction of inflammation in the body. A giant salad or green juice should give you your daily vitamin E hit.
- Nuts. Packed with nutrients including protein, fiber and healthy fats, nuts keep you fuller, longer (win, win). They are also packed with antioxidants, rendering them effective in fighting inflammations as well. A handful of almonds or walnuts thus serves the dual purpose of keeping hunger and inflammation at bay. We’ll say it again: Win, win.
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