Heart disease is worsened because of generalized inflammation in the body. However, the inflammatory response is essential. Without it, the body can’t heal or protect itself properly but when inflammation is out of control, it can cause pain and increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
Nutrition is an important, yet overlooked, aspect of life. Daily food selections can either facilitate widespread and damaging inflammation or decrease disease processes that are driven by this immune response.
In general, foods that are high in processed sugar and saturated fat promote inflammation, obesity, and disease. Here are some foods that are more ANTI-INFLAMMATORY and have the opposite effect on the body. These foods should be included in our everyday diet.
- FISH: Salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines, are high in fatty acids that decrease inflammation. They should be baked or broiled instead of breaded and fried.
- DARK GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES: Spinach, kale, broccoli, and collard greens contain vitamin E. Studies have shown that vitamin E plays a key role in protecting the body from pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines.
- NUTS: Nuts are rich in fiber, calcium, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids which are all important in helping the body to fight off and repair the damage that is caused by inflammation. They are nutritious but still high in calories. This needs to be taken into account when trying to lose or regulate weight.
- BERRIES: Berries contain phytochemicals (naturally occurring substance in plants) that help fight inflammation. They are also low in fat and calories but taste delicious!
- WHOLE GRAINS: Whole grains contain more fiber and will help maintain blood sugar, help you to feel full longer and decrease levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of generalized inflammation) in the body.
- TART CHERRIES: Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University have found that tart cherry juice can reduce inflammation and help athletes improve their performance.
- HERBS & SPICES: The common Asian and Indian spices of GINGER and TUMERIC have various anti-inflammatory properties. GARLIC and ONIONS have also been shown to contain anti-inflammatory chemicals to help protect the body and strengthen the immune system.
- OLIVE OIL: Olive oil contains mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) which have been shown to decrease cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease. This a common component of the heart-healthy diet found in the Mediterranean region.
While nutrition cannot “cure” everything, proper nutrition can aid the body in healing and protecting itself. Incorporating healthy, anti-inflammatory foods into your everyday diet while eliminating highly processed foods is a good idea for anyone at any age!
Kristen Wright, FNP
Canyon View Women’s Care