Your immune system attacks anything in your body that it recognizes as foreign—such as an invading microbe, pollen, or chemical – through inflammation. Intermittent bouts of inflammation directed at truly threatening invaders protect your health.
However, sometimes inflammation persists, day in and day out, even when you are not threatened by a foreign invader. That's when inflammation can become your enemy. Many major diseases that plague us—including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer's—have been linked to chronic inflammation.
Foods that Combat Inflammation
One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation can come from food. Produce is high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols – protective compounds found in plants. Reducing the risk of inflammation means reducing the risk of chronic disease. To help reduce your risk of illness, include plenty of these anti-inflammatory foods in your diet:
- Olive oil
- Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
- Nutslike almonds and walnuts
- Fatty fishlike salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
- Fruits such asstrawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges
- Coffee and tea contain polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds, may protect against inflammation
Not surprisingly, the same foods that contribute to inflammation are generally considered foods to limit, including sodas and refined carbohydrates, as well as red meat and processed meats. Foods dense in calories can also contribute to weight gain, which is itself a risk factor for inflammation. In several studies, after researchers took obesity into account, the link between foods and inflammation remained, which suggests weight isn't the sole driver.
Aim for an overall healthy diet which may not only reduce the risk of chronic disease, but also pay dividends on mood and quality of life. If you're looking for an eating plan that closely follows the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating, consider the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils.
Recipe Corner: Warm Kale & White Bean Dip
Ingredients (makes 4 servings)
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided 2 cups frozen kale
1 shallot, thinly sliced ¼ cup white wine
1 garlic clove, minced 15-oz can cannellini beans
¼ tsp red pepper flakes 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt, divided
Whole grain crackers or bread, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 400°. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large nonstick skillet. Sauté the shallot over medium-high heat until soft, 3 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper and 1/2 tsp salt and cook 1 more minute.
- Fold in the kale and cook, stirring occasionally for 2 minutes. Add the white wine and simmer until evaporated, 2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small food processor, puree the beans with 1/2 tsp salt, 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1/4 cup water until smooth. Add the white bean puree to the kale mixture along with 1/4 cup Parmesan and stir to combine. Top with the remaining cheese.
- Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese has begun to brown. Serve warm alongside whole grain crackers or bread for dipping.
Nutrition Facts: Cal 220 Fat 11g Sat Fat 2.5g Carbs 18g Fib 6g Sugar 1g Pro 11g Sod 690mg Chol 5mg