Inflammation is part of the body’s defense mechanism and plays a role in the healing process.
When the body detects an intruder, it launches a biological response to try to remove it.
The attacker could be a foreign body, such as a thorn, an irritant, or a pathogen. Pathogens include bacteria, viruses, and other organisms, which cause infections. Exercise also causes low grade inflammation.
Sometimes, the body mistakenly perceives its own cells or tissues as harmful. This reaction can lead to autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes.
Experts believe inflammation may contribute to a wide range of chronic diseases. Examples of these are metabolic syndrome, which includes type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity.
People with these conditions often have higher levels of inflammatory markers in their bodies.
Diet and lifestyle changes are key to reducing chronic inflammation.
Some healthy steps you can take to decrease inflammation are getting daily exercise, reducing stress, and getting quality sleep, regularly.
One of the most powerful tools to protect against chronic inflammation is to eat a diet rich in plant-based whole foods rich in anti-oxidants.
Dr. Varinthrej Pitis, MD, an internal medicine physician at Scripps Clinic in Carmel Valley in a Scripps article stated that “Making good choices in our diet to include fresh vegetables and fruits as well as reducing refined sugar intake can make a big difference."
Studies have shown that there is a link between the role of a whole-foods, plant-based diet in reducing chronic inflammation: A 2019 study published in Nutrients found a relationship between the Mediterranean diet and cancer incidence, demonstrating that the key nutrients in the diet can help fight chronic inflammatory cells.
Another 2019 study published in Nutrition and Aging found that an anti-inflammatory diet can reduce the force of neuroinflammation, resulting in a lower likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease.
Below are the top 11 plant-based foods that will reduce inflammation and nourish your body.
1. Avocados: are loaded with potassium, magnesium, fiber, and healthy fats. A 2020 study found that avocado is beneficial in reducing obesity, which activates low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress. The study found that avocados “induce antioxidant and anti‐inflammatory effects by improving enzymatic activity and modulating obesity‐related impairments in the anti‐inflammatory system in different tissues, without side effects.”
2. Berries: are abundant in antioxidants that can reduce your risk of disease. A 2017 study published in Molecules examined the healthy properties of berries, finding that they are neuroprotective, meaning that they protect nerve cells from further damage. This effect may be linked to lower toxicity and inflammation, which are associated with chronic diseases.
3. Cocoa: is a powder of ground cacao beans, heavily concentrated in dark chocolate. It is rich in flavanols that reduce your body’s oxidative stress, according to a 2019 study published in Nutrients. Oxidative stress is when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. High levels of oxidative stress can cause chronic inflammation, leading to damaged cells, proteins, and DNA in the body.
4. Extra virgin olive oil: a Mediterranean diet staple is a healthy fat-filled with nutritious benefits. A 2019 study published in Nutrients found that extra virgin olive oil contains polyphenols that decrease the amount of inflammatory markers in the body. The study also suggests that it is an important dietary tool in preventing chronic diseases like obesity.
5. Grapes: have important nutrients like vitamin K, copper, and manganese. It is also a great source of resveratrol, a key compound that has been found to prevent and mitigate intestinal inflammation, according to a 2017 study published in Nutrition Research Reviews. This could alleviate symptoms with chronic gastrointestinal diseases like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and perianal infections.
6. Green tea: is made from the camellia Sinensis plant filled with a large number of antioxidants. A 2017 study published in Nutrients found that this tea contains polyphenols such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which reduces the surge of inflammatory markers like cytokines.
7. Mushrooms: This fungus is low in calories and is a great source of selenium, copper, and B vitamins. A 2018 study found that reishi mushrooms protected against gut inflammation due to a reduction in the inflammatory cytokines. This vegetable could be incredibly helpful for people with sepsis, a condition caused by the body’s response to infection.
8. Peppers: have high amounts of vitamin C, similar to what is found in citrus fruits. They are filled with capsaicin, which has anti-inflammatory properties, according to a 2017 study published in Pharmacognosy Magazine. The study found that the consumption of capsaicin-rich foods, such as chili peppers, can reduce the inflammatory effects in muscle-related diseases such as myotube atrophy.
9. Tomatoes: are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and folate. They supply the antioxidant called lycopene, which has been shown to reduce pro-inflammatory compounds causing heart disease, according to a 2017 study. This has been linked to many health benefits, such as a low risk of contracting cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
10. Turmeric: is a spice-filled with curcumin, a nutrient known for its many health benefits. A 2018 study published in The Journal of Immunology found that curcumin in turmeric inhibits inflammation through suppressing the pathways that active it in the body. This points to the potential use of turmeric as a herbal supplement in helping alleviate symptoms with inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
11. Moringa: has powerful anti-inflammatory properties owing to its high concentration of isocyanates, biophenols and essential amino acids that reduce inflammation and assist in muscle recovery.
Barbara is a qualified Holistic Nutritionist, and author of the 'The Med Life Diet , 12 Essential Steps to Creating Healthy Eating and Healthy Lifestyle Habits and Attitudes for Life !' who promotes an authentic Mediterranean diet, teaches healthy eating and healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !
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Barbara is a qualified nutritionist offering Health, Nutrition & Lifestyle Counseling. She gives Healthy weight loss advice and promotes the Mediterranean diet. She is the author of the Med Life Diet - creating healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !