Did you know that certain foods act in the same way as anti-inflammatory drugs? The omega-3 fats in salmon, herring, anchovies, flaxseed, walnuts and omega-3 enriched eggs control hormones called prostaglandins that are responsible for the inflammation process. What you eat and what you don’t eat can help you control inflammation.
Inflammation not only causes stiff, sore joints in arthritis, but it also plays a big role in heart disease. It is scientifically well established that inflammation in the arteries is involved in the growth of plaque which builds up on artery walls causing atherosclerosis (blockage of arteries). Inflammation can be the “final straw” leading to a heart attack. Fatty plaque that is inflamed ruptures and forms blood clots which will block blood flow to the heart.
Scientists are also finding that the growth of certain types of cancers can be inhibited by reducing inflammation. Chronic inflammation is linked to the development of high blood pressure and diabetes. Foods with high glycemic index levels not only increase blood glucose levels, but also increase inflammation. There is also evidence that inflammation in the brain damages nerve cells and may contribute to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Those with painful arthritis know they have inflammation, but is there a way to check for chronic inflammation in your arteries? There is a protein in the blood called C-Reactive Protein (CPR) which is a key marker for inflammatory diseases. High levels of CPR are now considered an indicator of a person’s future risk of heart disease.
The good news is that your diet can go a long way to reduce CRP levels in your blood.
Cold water fish such as salmon, herring, anchovies, mackeral and sardines contain the omega-3 fats DHA and EPA that act much like anti-inflammatory drugs to control the prostaglandin hormones. Studies show that fish and fish oil reduce heart disease by controlling arrythmia, blood clotting and inflammation. A Danish study of people with arthritis revealed that an average of 4 ounces of cold-water fish daily decreased morning stiffness, swollen joints and general pain after 6 months. Other research is showing that omega-3s found in fish may also reduce the inflammation in asthma and psoriasis as well as reducing the growth of some cancers.
Ground flaxseed and walnuts
Plant-based, omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition. Supplementing diets with 2.3 ounces of walnuts and ground flaxseed reduced levels of CPR in the blood.
Omega-3 enriched eggs
Sold under a number of different brand names, omega-3 enriched eggs are on the market in various parts of the country. These eggs are the same as regular eggs except they contain higher levels of omega-3. They can provide approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of the recommended daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
Reduce omega-6 oils
It is important to limit the omega-6 fats because they cause the inflammation response. Omega-6 fats are found in corn, cottonseed, safflower and sunflower oils as well as in processed foods (e.g. boxed rice and stuffing mixes, frozen foods and desserts).
Cut back on high fat means and dairy products
Diets that include too much saturated fat such as meats and dairy products increase CRP, the biomarker of inflammation. One American study found that eating too much protein and not enough carbohydrate increased CRP by 61%.
Lose body fat
Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight is a very effective way to reduce inflammation. Research shows that fat tissue produces compounds that increase inflammation. Obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, certain types of cancer and arthritis.
Avoid foods with a high glycemic index
Gycemic index (GI) is a measure of how fast a food breaks down into glucose. Foods with a high GI such as potatoes, white rice, sugar and highly processed cereals increase blood glucose and inflammation.
Eat enough fibre
The U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey involving 3,920 participants showed that dietary fibre was associated with lower levels of CRP, a marker of inflammation.
The bottom line
A healthy diet can reduce inflammation:
Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains along with 2-3 portions of cold-water fish every week.
Choose olive and canola oils (monounsaturated fats) instead of corn, sunflower, safflower and soy oils (polyunsaturated fats) more often.
Keep saturated fat and trans fat intake low
Add ground flaxseed and walnuts to your diet
Consider switching to omega-3 enriched eggs
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