To Your Health
August, 2008 (Vol. 02, Issue 08)
Foods That Fight Inflammation
By David Seaman, DC, MS, DABCN
In recent years, researchers have come to appreciate that our diet can substantially influence the inflammatory state within our body. This view of inflammation is different than the standard view that characterizes inflammation as a response to injury, such as a sprained ankle, which then heals naturally and the inflammation goes away.
The new view of inflammation, developed over the past 10 years, is that it is a generalized state within the circulatory and immune system perpetuated by poor diet. The outcome of this is the dietary promotion of arthritis, osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and most other chronic diseases. We should call this "dietary trauma," as it leads to the development of biochemical changes similar to physical injury. The difference is that, for most people, dietary trauma occurs every time they eat, three or more times each day, every day.
In most cases, the outcome of dietary trauma is not noticed for years. It takes years to develop arthritis and other chronic diseases, so we don't usually associate a poor diet with disease expression. This allows us to easily deny such an association between diet, inflammation and disease. Thus, developing an awareness or mindfulness about eating is very important to help influence a behavioral change in our eating habits.
Foods That Promote Inflammation
Refined carbohydrates in the form of sugar, sweeteners and flour produce inflammatory responses, as do refined oils and obese (fatty) meat. A surprise to many is that even whole grains and legumes (beans) can promote inflammation.
With the above in mind, consider that the average American consumes about 10 percent of calories from dairy products, 20 percent from refined sugar, 20 percent from refined grains, 20 percent from refined oils and 2 percent from alcohol. The biggest problems clearly are the sugar, grains and oils. Approximately another 20 percent of calories come from obese meat, which is the fatty meat from domestic animals that live a sedentary life in feedlots, where they are fed a tonnage of grains/corn instead of grass/pasture. The remaining 10 percent of calories might be fruits and vegetables.
Foods That Prevent Inflammation
Rather than listing all the foods and snacks that should be avoided, let's focus on the foods that reduce inflammation. Researchers recently characterized a diet that offers preventive benefits for heart disease, called the "polymeal," which is consistent with the PaleoDiet, the traditional low-starch Mediterranean diet and the anti-inflammatory diet.