Beat Silent Inflammation with Good Nutrition

The last time I went for my annual physical, my doctor told me I had one of the lowest levels of myeloperoxidase (a marker of inflammation) he had ever seen. Then I ran across an article on what to eat to beat inflammation, and took a closer look. Not surprisingly, the recommendations to reduce inflammation are aligned with the same guidelines for clean eating.

In case you haven’t followed the scientific story on inflammation, chronic or “silent” inflammation has been associated with cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses. Plasma levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and myeloperoxidase are markers of inflammation. These markers have been used to study various foods and food groups to assess their effects on inflammation. Here are some of the findings that may have a bearing on your diet.

Use olive oil rather than vegetable oils. Olive oil is rich in an anti-inflammatory compound called oleocanthal. It contains lots of healthy monounsaturated fats that fight cardiovascular disease. Olive oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids while vegetable oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids.

Balancing the intake of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is important. Fatty acids are used to make hormones that control inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids produce anti-inflammatory prostaglandins while omega-6 promote inflammation. Both types are essential fatty acids (we need them to survive) but you need to balance the two in the diet. Other good choices for oils are avocado oil and macadamia nut oil.

Spice your food. Turmeric contains curcumin, an antioxidant that contributes a big anti-inflammatory boost-some say as much as Motrin and other non-steroidals. Consumption of ginger, a relative of tumeric, has been shown to decrease colon inflammation and possibly colon cancer. Cinnamon also falls into the anti-inflammatory camp because of its’ ability to prevent release of proatherogenic arachidonic acid from cell membranes.

Use whole grains not refined grains. White bread and baked goods cause spikes in blood sugar and have been associated with higher CRP levels. High CRP levels have also been associated with overloading on sugary drinks and many processed foods.

Eat your vegetables. Dark leafy green vegetables contain a host of anti-oxidants, flavinoids and other anti-inflammatory compounds. Eat the rainbow to get a variety of nutrients. Asian mushrooms frequently show up on top ten lists of immune boosting foods. Broccoli, cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables are particularly good inflammation busters. Conversely, some people are sensitive to solanine, an ingredient found in the nightshade family of plants (tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant) and find these vegetables irritating.

Go easy on the fruits because they are higher in sugar and may harbor pesticides. Papaya contains papain and is rich in Vitamin C and E. All types of berries are loaded in anti-oxidants and good nutrients and excellent choices.

Eat Salmon or other fatty fish. Salmon is a great source of omega-3 and since salmon do not live as long as tuna, it has a lower risk of mercury contamination. If you can’t eat fish 3-4 times per week, consider fish oil capsules.

Obesity and stress are big contributors to the inflammatory process. Strive to get your weight into the normal range. Physical activity is one of the best ways to bust stress and burn a few extra calories. Eat clean for all kinds of good reasons.

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