Research has shown that when it comes to what we eat this can have a big effect on inflammation. A pro-inflammatory diet, especially long-term, has been linked with an increased risk of chronic inflammatory diseases. For example, the ‘Western diet’ which consists of calorie-dense, highly processed foods combined with a low fruit and vegetable intake are linked to higher levels of inflammation. Consuming an anti-inflammatory diet may help reduce inflammation and delay disease progression as well as reducing joint damage. Such diets include the Mediterranean Diet.
The truth about fats
Avoid the trans fats, limit the saturated fats and replace them with essential polyunsaturated fats.
Trans fats are a by-product of converting healthy oils into a solid form to prevent them from becoming rancid, this process is known as hydrogenation. Hydrogenated oil has no known health benefits and can increase the amount of harmful Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol within the blood. Increasing LDL cholesterol further impacts your health by reducing the amount of beneficial High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in the bloodstream and promotes the development of atherosclerosis. (a condition by which there is an increase in the amount of fatty plaques in the arteries).
Evidence indicates that trans fats are pro-inflammatory and consumption of these fats puts you at a higher risk of coronary heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and found in red meat, whole milk dairy products, cheese and the majority of commercial bakery goods. A high consumption of saturated fats may increase the total cholesterol, in particular, harmful LDL cholesterol. Therefore, recommendations to replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Unsaturated fats can be either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated. Monounsaturated fats are known as Omega-9 fatty acids and good sources include olive oil, avocados, peanuts and almonds. There are two types of polyunsaturated fat (1) Omega-3 fatty acids and (2) Omega-6 fatty acids, they are known as essential fatty acids. Humans cannot make their own Omega-3 and Omega-6 and therefore have to be obtained from the diet. However, the ratio of Omega-6 to omega-3 should be fairly balanced. Studies have shown a higher consumption of Omega-6 to Omega-3 may promote chronic inflammation in individuals.
Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and may aid the reduction of blood pressure, raise HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Sources of Omega-6 include vegetable oils (e.g corn, sunflower, safflower, sesame), nuts, seeds, lean meat, eggs, poultry and evening primrose oil. Sources of Omega-3 include flaxseeds, soybeans, rapeseed oil, walnuts, oily fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies), algae and liver.
The truth about grains
What’s the difference between refined grains and whole grains?
Cereals are members of the grass family and are grown for their seeds (grain) which are high in carbohydrate and protein. Whole grains refer to the entire grain kernel including the bran, germ and endosperm. Refined grains comprise mainly of the endosperm due to the milling process that removes the bran and germ, this is done in order to extend their shelf life but in doing so removes dietary fibre and nutrients.
Diets high in whole grains are associated with lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 Diabetes, Metabolic syndrome, weight gain and improved gut digestion. This may be due to phytochemicals produced by plants that have beneficial effects on our health.
The truth about fibre
There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre helps to slow digestion and promote absorption of nutrients whilst lowering LDL cholesterol in the blood. Insoluble fibre adds bulk to your stool aiding the digestive system to reduce constipation.
Studies have found that a diet high in fibre may lower CRP levels, as mentioned before this is an inflammatory biomarker, and further reduce inflammation by lowering body weight and feeding beneficial bacteria within the gut. The recommended guidelines for fibre intake are 30 grams daily.
Foods to Avoid
Certain foods can be pro-inflammatory, they trigger the release of chemical messengers to stimulate the immune system’s inflammatory response, such as the formation of free radicals which can lead to cell damage. These include:
- Refined Grains
- White Pasta, bread and rice – these quickly break down and convert into sugar, promoting inflammation.
- Red & Processed Meat
- Pork – arachidonic acid within red meat such as pork is considered pro-inflammatory and processed pork products tend to contain nitrates for preservation which have been found to increase the risk of Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease.
- Beef – high in saturated fat.
- Trans & Saturated Fats
- Fast Foods
- Commercial baked goods
- Processed products
- Fried Food – Hydrogenated Oil
- Sweet Desserts
- Whole dairy products
- Refined Sugar
- Commercial baked goods
- Fruit Juice
Foods to eat
However, foods can be anti-inflammatory. In particular, colourful fruits and vegetables that contain phytonutrients which are rich in antioxidants, aiding the body’s healing process and reducing inflammation within the body by reducing free radicals. These include:
- Brown Rice
- Whole Oats
- Citrus Fruits
- Nuts & Seeds
- Chia Seeds
- Hemp Seeds
- Sesame Seeds
- Macadamia nuts
- Pinto Beans
- Red kidney Beans
- Extra Virgin Olive oil
- Cold Rapeseed Oil
- Flaxseed Oil
- Green Tea
- Black Coffee
- Herbal Tea
- Coconut Water
- Low fat Dairy Products (Low sugar)
- Manuka Honey
- Coconut Oil
- Bok Choy
- Brussel Sprouts
- Red Bell Pepper