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Fight Inflammation With Fish And Fiber

Inflammation may be one of the key factors in the development of diseases. Learn what foods can help you fight back.

Fight inflammation with a healthy diet
Feb 10 2016

What’s the key to a longer, healthier life? According to a new study, it could be your inflammation levels.

Researchers explored the health of more than 1,500 people—680 centenarians and 167 of their offspring. They found that inflammation was the most significant, controllable factor in predicting a person’s longevity.

So, just what is inflammation?

Inflammation is an important part of the body’s immune response—without it we can’t heal. However, too much inflammation causes damage to our organs. With some diseases, like arthritis, the immune system triggers an inflammatory response, even though there is no infection to fight. This causes the immune system to attack normal tissue and can cause long-term damage.

According to Refaat Hegazi, MD, PhD, a physician scientist with Abbott, inflammation is one of the key factors associated with chronic diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease. Hegazi says this is because inflammation leads to oxidative stress, which is a chemical imbalance in the body.

“Oxidative distress is the beginning of damage to the tissues and organs,” Hegazi says.

One way to control inflammation is through a healthy diet—both adding foods to your diet that decrease inflammation and decreasing your intake of those that increase inflammation. For example, foods high in sugar and saturated fat can spur inflammation, making your condition worse. Moderation is often the best strategy.  

A Healthy Diet Helps

According to Hegazi, strive to incorporate foods in your diet that are “fatty in nature, leafy and contain protein and fiber.” Try adding these foods with anti-inflammatory properties to your plate:

  • Fatty fish: Eat oily fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines several times a week, and you have the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation.

  • Fiber: Look for whole grains, beans and other foods high in fiber, which stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria that fight inflammation.

  • Dark, leafy greens: Add spinach, kale, broccoli and collard greens to your plate.

  • Nuts and soy: Nuts and soy products, such as soy milk, edamame and tofu, have anti-inflammatory properties and are natural sources of protein.

  • Olive oil: The thing that makes virgin olive oil tasty is also the reason for its anti-inflammatory properties. Oleocanthal, a compound found in olive oil, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects similar to ibuprofen.

Many of these foods are found in the Mediterranean diet, which has been proven to decrease inflammation and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke, Hegazi says.

Reduce Inflammatory Foods

While adding these foods to your diet, you should also reduce the following pro-inflammatory foods:

  • Saturated fat: Hegazi says less than 7 percent of your calories should come from saturated fat. That’s because saturated fat in higher doses can incite an inflammatory response. “It stimulates the same receptors as bad bacteria,” Hegazi says. These foods include margarine, animal meats and fried foods, especially if it’s fried in hydrogenated oils.

  • Refined sugars and carbohydrates: White bread, white rice and white pasta are all refined carbohydrate-heavy foods, which incite a pro-inflammatory response when consumed in excess. In addition, foods containing high-fructose corn syrup, such as sodas and desserts, increase inflammation and can lead to insulin resistance, which can increase the risk of diabetes in some genetically predisposed individuals.

  • Alcohol: Although red wine is often included in the Mediterranean diet, Hegazi says alcohol does incite inflammation. “Even moderate alcohol intake is considered a risk factor of cancer, epidemiological studies have recently shown,” he says.

Moderation is Key

For all these foods, however, it’s important to focus on the amount, Hegazi says. Although beef, for example, is a source of saturated fat, it’s also a good source of high-quality protein. “It just depends on the quantities consumed,” Hegazi says.

Inflammation in the body, just like the foods that control it, is all about finding the right balance. We need it to survive, but too much of a good thing can also hurt us.

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