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Nutrition Notes: The role of nutrition in preventing inflammation

Karen Lentner head shotNutritionist Karen LentnerDid you know that inflammation is more than a swollen ankle or a cut finger after a fall or injury? Inflammation, especially chronic inflammation, can be far more serious and may be the cause of serious health issues including cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and more.

There are two types of inflammation, acute and chronic:

Acute inflammation

Acute inflammation often occurs after an infection or injury, such as a sprained ankle or redness in the skin caused by a scrape or cut. It’s a healthy, natural process that helps your body heal.

Chronic inflammation

Chronic inflammation is long-term and persistent, often occurring in conditions including arthritis, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease. Foods, stress, and chemicals may also be a cause of inflammation.

What are signs of chronic inflammation?
Signs of chronic inflammation include:
  • chronic fatigue
  • high blood glucose levels
  • gum disease
  • allergies
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • joint pain or stiffness
  • reddened, blotchy skin associated with eczema or psoriasis
  • digestive problems including gas, bloating, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or constipation

Obesity or excess fat around your waist may be a sign of inflammation in your gut.

Since chronic inflammation can contribute to health issues, what can we do to decrease it?

One of the most powerful ways to fight inflammation is by DIET – avoiding common inflammatory foods, and adding anti-inflammatory foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and nutrients. These foods help fight inflammation and nourish your body to keep you healthy.

Foods that fight inflammation – INCLUDE plenty of these in your diet:
  • Green leafy vegetables: spinach, kale, chard, and cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
  • Fruits: including berries, oranges, cherries.
  • Fatty fish: salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines
  • Healthy fats: including olive oil, coconut, walnut and hazelnut oils, and avocado.
  • High fiber foods: whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans (legumes).
  • Probiotics and fermented foods: including yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, and miso. Check labels to make sure they contain live organisms that help restore gut health and reduce inflammation.
  • Teas: including white, green, and oolong, which have antioxidants that may reduce inflammation.
  • Herbs and spices: including turmeric, curry, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, basil, rosemary, and thyme: use these seasonings generously.
Foods to avoid that may promote inflammation – try to AVOID:
  • Refined carbohydrates, sugars: including white bread, pastries, donuts; and for some people, avoiding gluten is helpful.
  • Processed meats: hot dogs, sausage, kielbasa, and red meat (burgers, steaks).
  • Soda, other sugar sweetened beverages.
  • Fried foods, lard, shortening.

For an overall healthy diet that helps reduce inflammation, consider the Mediterranean diet as it’s rich in fish, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and healthy oils. Consider eating less processed and more natural foods as these may improve your physical and emotional health and your overall quality of life. Exercise daily, get enough sleep, consider yoga or mindfulness to reduce stress, and maintain a healthy weight.

Consider joining us for a healthy meal at one of our dining centers or call LifePath to set up Meals on Wheels at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259.