Ongoing inflammation in the body is responsible for the development of various medical conditions, such as abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure. Doctors emphasise the importance of healthy diets and weight loss to reduce inflammation and insulin resistance. The Mediterranean diet, which includes a rich variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and moderate amounts of red wine, meat, and dairy, has been proven to lower inflammation. On the other hand, Western diets high in saturated fat from processed and takeaway foods tend to increase inflammation.
Excitingly, researchers studying the Mediterranean diet have devised an index to evaluate foods based on their potential to cause inflammation. Here are six foods that have been found to reduce inflammation:
- Fruits & vegetables: Consuming a diverse range of fruits and vegetables is associated with decreased inflammation. Aim to incorporate a mix of differently coloured produce in your daily meals, as each colour represents unique phytochemicals with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. For example, tomatoes (especially cooked ones) contain lycopene (red), carrots, butternut squash, and red peppers contain beta-carotene (orange), dark green leafy vegetables contain chlorophyll (green), and blueberries, cherries, and radishes contain anthocyanins (red and purple).
- Herbs and spices: Despite their small quantities in cooking, herbs and spices provide significant health benefits. They can help lower cholesterol levels, reduce high blood pressure, slow brain decline, and assist in blood sugar control. Use them to add flavour to your meals instead of relying on salt.
- Nuts: Incorporating nuts into your diet is associated with lower levels of inflammatory compounds in the bloodstream. Aim to consume around 30 grams of nuts per day.
- Legumes and whole grains: Legumes (such as beans, peas, and lentils) are high in fibre, have a low glycemic index (GI), and possess anti-inflammatory properties. Similarly, whole grains that include the entire grain (germ and bran) offer more nutrients and phytochemicals compared to refined grains like flour. Examples of whole grains include oats, wheat, barley, corn, and quinoa, which can be found in whole grain breads and cereals. Aim to consume legumes at least twice a week and incorporate whole grain breads and cereals into your daily diet.
- Healthy fats: Fish, fish oils, walnuts, flaxseeds (linseeds), and canola oil contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids that help combat inflammation in the body. Extra virgin olive oil contains oleocanthal, a natural anti-inflammatory compound that has shown promising results in reducing inflammation and combating cancer cells in laboratory studies. Dietitians recommend consuming at least two fish meals per week, incorporating omega-3-rich nuts and seeds into meals, and using extra virgin olive oil in cooking and salad dressings.
- Tea, red wine, and cocoa: These beverages contain various antioxidants, including polyphenols, catechins, procyanidins, and resveratrol. Fortunately, all of these antioxidants have been found to have anti-inflammatory effects. However, it's important to exercise moderation. Enjoy dark chocolate and red wine in reasonable amounts, and make green and black tea a regular part of your routine.
By incorporating these inflammation-reducing foods into your diet, you can contribute to your overall well-being and health. Remember to enjoy them in moderation and alongside a balanced lifestyle. TeleDoc can help connect you to an experienced nutritionists who can review your diet & customise a meal plan that fits your body type.