When you think of inflammation, you might think of bruises or pulled muscles. While you’d be right, it’s important to know that there are two different types of inflammation – acute and chronic. Injuries like strains, burns or bronchitis fall into the first category. Unpleasant as it may seem, acute inflammation is actually beneficial to the body, as it is an important part of the healing process. However chronic or systemic inflammation is quite different. Chronic inflammation can last for months or years and is associated with diseases from Alzheimers to cancer, heart disease to osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and allergies.
However, the good news is that there are things you can do to help prevent the second kind of inflammation. Avoiding triggers is the first step. This includes making sure your diet doesn’t contain high levels of added sugars, trans-fats and saturated fats. Other things to consider are making sure you get enough sleep and avoiding smoking, all of which are a good idea for a healthy lifestyle anyway.
But the second step is to load your diet with foods that have been shown to fight inflammation. Specifically, these are plant-based foods that contain compounds that help to reduce the immune response.
Dried plums (prunes) are a source of polyphenols. These are known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and increasing amounts of research have shown that dried plums help improve bone mineral density by reducing the rate at which bone cells break down and are reabsorbed.
There are more than 2,000 medical papers published about ginger, making it the most extensively-studied spice. It’s ability to reduce the body’s immune response is one of its best known healthful properties, with one study showing that, in patients with osteoarthritis, ginger extract helped reduce pain and joint stiffness by over 40%. Ongoing research is investigating the role of ginger in lessening cognitive decline and memory loss.
Turmeric is another spice that has been extensively studied, but it also has a long history of use in both Chinese and Indian medicine. This spice contains a volatile oil that shows significant anti-inflammatory activity, and a pigment called curcumin. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects are thought to be comparable to drugs such as hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone, but without the possibility of side effects.
For more information on other spices that help reduce inflammation, this this is a useful link.
Mangos aren’t just a nutritious fruit. One study reported that the polyphenols in this fruit appeared to inhibit the inflammatory response in breast cells, both cancerous and non-cancerous. In addition to this, mangos are a source of over twenty different nutrients, including vitamins A and C, folate and potassium.
Other foods that have proven anti-inflammatory action include lentils, chickpeas, beans and sweet tomatoes, so as you can see you have a wide range of choices when it comes to adding these foods to your diet.