Today we’re talking inflammation and why an anti-inflammatory diet is so important for good, long term health. An anti-inflammatory diet sometimes gets lumped in with a lot of fad diets, but this one actually holds some truth.
Inflammation is the body’s own way to heal itself by fighting injury and infection. Which is great for when we’re sick, but not so great when the body turns on itself. In some cases, inflammation can happen when the immune system attacks the body’s healthy cells leading to autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and other chronic conditions. Research has also shown that long term inflammation may play a role in the development of diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Some food and lifestyle behaviors have been shown to turn the inflammatory process on, while others can turn it off.
In this article we will explore 5 diet and lifestyle factors that will help to reduce inflammation:
A diet high in refined carbohydrates, trans fats, saturated fats, and omega-6 fatty acids can turn that inflammation on. Same goes for processed foods. The good thing is that studies have shown that a diet high in fruits and vegetables may be one of the best defenses, thanks to their high vitamin, mineral, fiber, and polyphenol (natural plant compounds that have antioxidant properties) content. All of these work together to help nourish and heal the body.
So basically, plant-based is life.
A diet high in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, and lean proteins has been linked to lower inflammation. Aim to eat 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Make sure you keep things varied and colorful…think tomatoes, watermelon, grapes, broccoli, eggplant, zucchini, and other colors in the plant-based rainbow. Get healthy doses of omega-3s from walnuts, olive oil, avocados, and fish. Opt for beans and lentils for a healthy, plant-based protein like in our Hearty Vegetable Lentil Soup.
Foods high in fiber and probiotics can cut inflammation as well. Experts recommend 25-30 grams of fiber per day to help control blood glucose, regulate bowels, decrease inflammation, and lower cholesterol. We can eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables and whole grains to meet those fiber recs. Probiotics help promote healthy gut bacteria. New research has been showing the importance of gut health for overall health, which is why we want to get our dose of probiotics through yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, or tempeh. Check out our article on ways to boost gut health. Eating a diet rich in whole grains, lean proteins, and plenty of fruits and veggies is your key to an anti-inflammatory diet.
Stress has been shown to wreak havoc on the body. Experiencing chronic stress has been shown to disrupt our body’s ability to control inflammation. In other words, if we are stressed out all of the time, we might experience increased inflammation. This increased inflammation may increase risk of disease and negatively affect quality of life. Nourish yourself by finding stress relieving activities. This might be yoga, writing, drawing, walking, reading, you name it. Do what you love and slow down.Take time for genuine self care. Need a bit more guidance? One of our favorite (free!) meditation apps is Insight Timer, which includes over 2 million guided meditations.
Sleep plays an important role in the inflammatory response. Research has shown that when we do not get enough sleep, the inflammatory response is kicked into gear and turns against our healthy tissues and organs. Missing out on sleep night after night can also increase our risk for many chronic conditions like heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to ensure quality rest that will allow your body to function in a happy and healthy way. If you need help getting to sleep on time, consider setting a bedtime alarm 30 minutes before you want to start “winding down.”
We all know that physical activity is important, but let’s add anti-inflammatory benefits to the list. Recent research has shown that 30 minutes of movement a day can decrease inflammation. And try to stop thinking of exercise as punishment. Movement can be anything that you enjoy. Walking, running, yoga, weight lifting, dancing, and the list goes on. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes/day and get that blood pumping in any way that you can. Our favorite fitness apps are Sworkit, Couchto5K and ToneitUp.
5. HERBS & SPICES
Many cultures have used herbs and spices as natural remedies for inflammation for centuries. Some herbs and spices that have been linked with anti-inflammatory properties are cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, and ginger. Season recipes with these delicious herbs and spices to enhance the flavor and reap the health benefits. In addition to herbs and spices, teas have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. Incorporate green tea into your regimen..here’s our Refreshing Mango Green Tea Smoothie! We also love this warming Golden Milk Latte recipe (so goooood). Need inspo for spices? Try our spice mix recipes here.
THE TAKE HOME?
Chronic inflammation tends to be an underlying condition that is often overlooked. By incorporating a healthy and balanced diet with movement, sleep, and relaxing activities, you can lower your risk for chronic inflammation. The beautiful thing about eating plant-based is that aside from helping to reduce inflammation, you lower your risk for so many other chronic illnesses.
Try incorporating some of these tips into your routine and let us know what you think in the comments below!