If there's one thing we all deal with as we age, it's inflammation. Inflammation on its own is not a bad thing; it's the body’s natural response to injury and illness. By flooding a particular area with white blood cells, your body is self-healing. Excessive inflammation, however, can cause pain and a host of other disorders and diseases.
So, what can you do? Obviously, medication is an option, but relying less on medication is ideal, especially when there are other options. In this case, let’s explore the dietary option.
A typical North American diet – particularly one that includes processed or takeout food – tends to be loaded with more sodium than your body needs, which a hindrance to deterring inflammation. But take heart; there are some healthy and delicious options to help you reduce inflammation. Most of these dietary options are standouts because they contain antioxidants, minerals and essential fatty acids.
Let's start with the foundation for all good eating habits: green leafy vegetables (like spinach, kale and swiss chard). Taking chard as an example, it is extremely high in antioxidants and Vitamins A, C and K. Green leafy vegetables can be used in a multitude of recipes – the simplest of which is your salad or green smoothie.
Staying green, let's look at very versatile veggie: celery. A recent study found that celery, thanks to its high level of antioxidants, can reduce inflammation, improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels and can also help prevent heart disease. Something else that adding more celery to your diet can do is help balance your minerals. We already mentioned one of the negative effects sodium can have on inflammation is that it brings with it excess fluid and nutrients. You need to neutralize that with potassium, which will flush away the toxins, and celery is an amazing source of potassium.
Let's stray from anti-inflammatory’s favourite colour, green, to a more colourful food: the beet. Why am I talking so much about colour? Because a great indication of a food’s antioxidant level is its deep colour. Beets can repair cells and fight inflammation thanks to high levels of potassium and magnesium. Be sure to handle your beets with care, however, as they can turn your whole kitchen – not to mention your fingers – red!
From one deep colour to another: blueberries. In the case of the blueberry, its antioxidant is called quercetin and it is an incredibly strong anti-inflammatory. Studies have even shown that blueberries can slow cognitive decline and improve both motor function and memory. And they're delicious! So, if you aren't eating blueberries daily (like on your oatmeal, in your smoothie or by the handful), get on it!
It’s time to go green again with an antioxidant powerhouse and the building block for every healthy diet: broccoli. The antioxidants found in broccoli work together to lower oxidative stress in the body and combat chronic inflammation. Also brimming with magnesium and potassium, broccoli is an amazing advocate in the fight against inflammation. If you’re not a fan of broccoli straight up, throw some in your stir-fry, salads and soups.
It’s time to meet bromelain. Often used as a supplement, bromelain is a digestive enzyme that has immune-altering abilities. In other words, it can regulate your immune system’s responses that often lead to unnecessary inflammation. So, what delicious fruit contains bromelain? Pineapple. With high amounts of Vitamin C and B1, pineapple is also known for high levels of potassium, manganese and other antioxidants. Pineapples are also filled with phytonutrients that can help reduce a lot of common illnesses.
Now to a different sort of food, and one that some people believe can accomplish almost anything. While a few of the benefits attributed to coconut oil may be farfetched, one is that it possesses anti-inflammatory properties. It's got a ton of antioxidants, and coconut oil also helps fight osteoporosis thanks to its impact on oxidative stress and free radicals. Another reason coconut oil is such an amazing anti-inflammatory is that it can be used as an ingredient, a cooking oil or a topical treatment by applying directly to inflamed joints.
So, if you are looking for non-medical treatment for inflammation, look to your diet – nature provides loads of healthy and delicious foods that can help!
Lorne Marr is a fitness enthusiast and blogger. Visit his site at http://lornemarrfitafter45.ca
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