Let’s have a look at the benefits of a diet based on minimally-processed, nutrient-dense, whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, intact whole grains and healthy plant-based fats (nuts, seeds, olive and avocado oil) as well as fish and seafood as your best defense against inflammation, a.k.a. the anti-inflammatory diet, or some variation that you’ve probably heard about. Along with influencing inflammation, this diet will provide steady energy and ample vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids and dietary fiber.
Foods that Reduce Inflammation
- Remember that some seemingly healthy foods are really not – get acquainted with ingredient lists when buying packaged foods as well as nutrition facts tables.
- Eat whole foods as much as possible – this is tough when you’re crunched for time but there is a big difference between making scalloped potatoes from a box with a powdered mix and scalloped potatoes made with fresh potatoes, real milk, butter and cheese as one example.
- Eat more fruit: fresh, frozen or canned in juice. Try a small serving [4 oz or 125 ml] of 100% fruit juice such as concord grape, pomegranate, prune, cherry, black currant etc. Berries of all kinds are a great option, as are orange fruit such as mango, apricots, cantaloupes and peaches.
- Eat more vegetables: fresh, frozen or canned [rinse to remove sodium]. It’s better to eat some instead of none. Aim to include both dark green and orange vegetables daily: kale, spinach, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, carrots, collard greens etc.
- Eat more tomatoes & tomato products like tomato juice, Garden cocktail, or V8. Include cooked tomato products regularly: tomato paste, tomato sauce, canned tomatoes.
- Eat more intact whole grains; experiment with less common versions such as millet, buckwheat, quinoa, kamut, teff, couscous, black and wild rice.
- Eat low-mercury fish at least twice a week for the omega-3 fats. Check out Health Canada’s guide to better seafood choices or the guide by Sea Choice for sustainable options. Project Fish Map is one such version for phones. Fatty fish will have more omega-3s per serving so you’ll get more bang from your buck with salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel and trout versus cod or albacore tuna.
- Use omega-3 fat supplements if you don’t eat a lot of fish. You can get supplements sourced from fish, squid/calamari or algae.
- Include plant based sources of omega-3 fats daily; walnuts, organic edemame, ground flax and chia seeds, hemp seeds/oil.
- Drink green, white and rooibos tea and yes, coffee is a rich source of anti-oxidants [limit to 2-3 small sizes, i.e. 8 oz or 250 ml, per day].
- Eat whole nuts and seeds, olives, extra virgin olive and avocado oil.
- Eat more mushrooms of all kinds, or consider dried mushrooms and make a ‘tea’ with them.
- Include liberal use of dried or fresh herbs and spices.
- Eat more ginger and turmeric.
- Limit/avoid foods with lots of free/added refined sugars [rely on the ingredient list for this, not the nutrition facts table which doesn’t distinguish between added sugars and naturally occurring ones].
- Limit refined and processed fats and fried foods.
- Avoid industrial trans fats; look for the words hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated oils and shortening in the ingredient list of any packaged foods. If you see them, put the food product down and walk away.
- Exercise; this helps the body to produce naturally occurring anti-inflammatory defenses.
- If you’re overweight, consider losing some as extra body fat produces pro-inflammatory compounds and drives a lot of inflammation-based chronic diseases
Supplements to consider; consult with a practitioner for ideal/personalized doses
- Vitamin D3
- Vitamin C
- Omega-3s [fish, squid or algae]
- Magnesium if at risk for metabolic syndrome
- Chromium if at risk for metabolic syndrome