Ever dismissed acne, allergies, stomach problems, weight gain, moodiness, or that daily 2pm crash as just a part of life? Well, those things are not necessarily normal. People go years—decades, even—without realizing they're at the mercy of a little something called chronic inflammation. And it has a lot to do with diet.
What is inflammation, exactly? It's the body's natural response to infection or injury—pain, redness, or swelling are signals that the immune system is doing its thing. But bad habits like eating loads of sugar, not sleeping enough, being sedentary, or stressing constantly can prolong the reaction and lead to chronic inflammation, manifesting as a less-than-radiant appearance and feeling "off" pretty frequently. Without realizing it, many people get stuck in this state. If left unchecked, this could make you age faster and lead to chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Anti-inflammatory diet to the rescue! It's a great way to lessen the chances of developing these conditions, but best of all, it'll seriously make daily life a whole lot better. You'll regain vitality from the inside out—and that means a greater sense of well-being, as well as glowing skin and an overall healthier body. In other words, you'll feel like the best version of yourself. The first step is to ditch these inflammatory foods:
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods
- Red meat
- Polyunsaturated vegetable oils (safflower, soybean, corn, and sunflower)
If you drink more alcohol and/or coffee than you care to admit, you may want to cut back on those, too (sorry!). The good news is there are tons of amazing foods you can eat. Think along the lines of the Mediterranean diet, minus the pasta and parm. Olive oil, fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lots and lots of herbs and spices? Love. And once you get used to eating this way every day, you'll only crave these foods more—sugar, cheese, and bread will be a distant memory.
- The key is to focus on getting plenty of plant-based foods, which are rich in fiber and phytonutrients. Phytonutrients, many of which are antioxidants that fight free-radical damage, can ward off diseases and keep your body functioning like a well-oiled machine. A wide variety of fruits and vegetables should be the basis of this diet.
- High-fiber diets have shown to lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker associated with autoimmune diseases.
- Berries are the best because they're high in flavonoids and polyphenol compounds, antioxidants that are known to diminish markers of inflammation.
- And cruciferous veggies and dark leafy greens like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and spinach provide ample vitamins—particularly vitamin E that protects against certain inflammatory proteins known as cytokines—as well as minerals and phytonutrients.
- Whole grains (oats, quinoa, whole wheat couscous), legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans), and seeds (chia, flax, and hemp) boast lots of fiber, too. Not to mention, seeds provide plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, another one of the champions of an anti-inflammatory diet.
- Omega-3s can lower the risk of autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and lupus. (They're also totally beautifying for your skin and hair.) Seeds, nuts, and extra virgin olive oil are packed with them, but the best source is fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, halibut, and trout. While omega-6 fatty acids (found in sunflower seeds and many vegetable oils) are good for brain function and growth and development, they've gotta be balanced with plenty of omega-3s or else they can trigger inflammation.
Finally, fermented foods should be your new best friend. Since poor gut health and inflammation go hand in hand, probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, miso, and kimchi can reboot the digestive system with friendly bacteria.
Now you know what to eat—here's how to eat them. Check out these delectable recipes that'll make eating anti-inflammatory foods hardly feel like a "diet."
Lunch & Dinner
Enjoy and let us know know how you feel in the comments!