Your immune system is designed to attack anything in your body that it recognizes as foreign—such as an invading microbe, plant pollen, or chemical. The process is called inflammation. Periodic inflammation directed at truly threatening invaders is actually a good thing and helps protect your health.
However, when inflammation persists over time even when you are not threatened by a foreign invader, it can become a problem. Many major diseases that plague us (such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s) have been linked to chronic inflammation.
One of the most powerful ways to combat inflammation is by the food we choose to eat or not eat. By choosing the right foods, you may be able to reduce your risk of illness. But if you consistently choose the wrong foods, you could actually accelerate the inflammatory disease process.
Worst Foods You Should Avoid
- Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries
- French fries and other fried foods
- Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
- Red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausage)
- Margarine, shortening, and lard
Anti-Inflammatory Foods You Should Consume
- Olive oil
- Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
- Nuts like almonds and walnuts
- Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
- Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges
To reduce painful inflammation, you really just need to aim for an overall healthy diet. But, if you’re looking for a plan to follow that closely integrates all of the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating, consider the Mediterranean diet. It is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fatty fish, and healthy oils.