Pre­vent in­flam­ma­tion with a healthy diet

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - An­thony Ko­maroff Ask Dr. K

You’ve writ­ten that chronic in­flam­ma­tion has been linked to dis­eases such as di­a­betes and heart dis­ease. Is there any­thing I can do to fight in­flam­ma­tion with­out using med­i­ca­tions?

In­flam­ma­tion in the body is a dou­ble-edged sword. Short-lived in­flam­ma­tion, di­rected by your im­mune sys­tem at in­vaders like bac­te­ria or viruses, pro­tects your health.

But some­times in­flam­ma­tion per­sists, even when there is no health threat. That’s when it can be­come your en­emy. Many ma­jor dis­eases have been linked to chronic (on­go­ing) in­flam­ma­tion, in­clud­ing can­cer, heart dis­ease, di­a­betes, arthri­tis, de­pres­sion and Alzheimer’s.

The good news is that pow­er­ful tools to com­bat in­flam­ma­tion can be found in the gro­cery store. I spoke to my col­league Dr. Frank Hu, pro­fes­sor of nu­tri­tion and epi­demi­ol­ogy in the Depart­ment of Nu­tri­tion at the Har­vard School of Public Health. He ex­plained that com­po­nents of many com­mon foods have anti-in­flam­ma­tory ef­fects.

By choos­ing the right foods, you may be able to reduce your risk of ill­ness. Con­sis­tently pick the wrong foods, how­ever, and you might speed up the in­flam­ma­tory dis­ease process.

The same foods that con­trib­ute to in­flam­ma­tion are al­ready gen­er­ally con­sid­ered bad for our health, so it’s eas­ier to re­mem­ber them. They in­clude so­das, re­fined car­bo­hy­drates, and red and pro­cessed meats. These foods af­fect in­flam­ma­tion di­rectly.

They also con­trib­ute to weight gain, which is it­self a risk fac­tor for in­flam­ma­tion. How does that hap­pen? When you put on weight, the fat cells in your body be­come more nu­mer­ous and also grow larger.

We used to think that what fat did was pro­vide a store­house of en­ergy for when we needed it, sort of like in­su­la­tion that pro­tected us against the cold. In the past 20 years we’ve learned that fat cells are lit­tle fac­to­ries that make hor­mones and im­mune sys­tem chem­i­cals. These sub­stances in­flu­ence our ap­petite, our me­tab­o­lism — and in­flam­ma­tion.

To reduce in­flam­ma­tion, avoid or limit:

• Re­fined car­bo­hy­drates, such as white bread and pas­tries; • Fried foods such as french fries; • Soda and other sugar-sweet­ened bev­er­ages; • Red meat (burg­ers, steaks); • Pro­cessed meat (hot dogs, cold cuts); • Mar­garine, short­en­ing and lard. On the flip side are foods and bev­er­ages that reduce the risk of in­flam­ma­tion and chronic dis­ease. Fruits and veg­eta­bles are par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive. Good choices are blue­ber­ries, ap­ples and leafy greens, which are high in nat­u­ral an­tiox­i­dants and polyphe­nols. These are pro­tec­tive com­pounds found in plants. Nuts and cof­fee may also be pro­tec­tive.

In­clude plenty of these anti-in­flam­ma­tory foods in your diet: • Toma­toes • Olive oil • Green leafy veg­eta­bles, such as spinach, kale and col­lards • Nuts, such as al­monds and wal­nuts • Fatty fish like sal­mon, mack­erel, tuna and sar­dines

• Fruits such as straw­ber­ries, blue­ber­ries, ap­ples, cher­ries and or­anges

• Spices, par­tic­u­larly ginger and turmeric

If you’re look­ing for a di­etary plan that closely fol­lows the tenets of anti-in­flam­ma­tory eat­ing, con­sider the Mediter­ranean diet. This diet is high in fruits, veg­eta­bles, nuts, whole grains, fish and healthy oils.

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