Cristina Swartz, MS, RD, LDN, CNSC
Your diet affects the amount of inflammation in your body, which can be good news if you’re willing to make the right food choices.
Too much inflammation can harm your health: It damages tissue and can contribute to serious conditions, such as heart disease, cancer and even diabetes. Chronic illness, stress, aging and lifestyle factors, such as diet, activate inflammatory responses in the body. Eating foods that are processed, packaged and high in sugar contribute to inflammation, as does a diet full of refined grains containing artificial food additives.
Choosing “anti-inflammatory foods” can help you reduce the harmful effects of inflammation. You might be wondering, what are anti-inflammatory foods? They are foods rich in antioxidants, polyphenols and omega-3 polyunstaturated fats, which protect healthy cells and block processes in the body that promote inflammation.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and other lean meats, whole grains, nuts and seeds all have anti-inflammatory properties. Herbs such as basil, parsley or oregano add a lot of flavor to meals while packing an antioxidant-rich punch. Pass on saturated fats from processed meats, such bacon and sausage. Instead make salmon, cod or tilapia the centerpiece of your next meal.
The anti-inflammatory diet does not restrict your food choices but encourages you to eat a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables and other healthy, whole foods. To avoid issues with chronic inflammation, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises that you eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, get adequate sleep and engage in regular physical activity. Consider every day as an opportunity to enjoy the taste and benefits of eating right.
For a meal full of anti-inflammatory foods, try this easy recipe from The Healthy Kitchen: Recipes for a Better Body, Life, and Spirit:
Grilled Fish with Tropical Relish
4 fish fillets, such as cod or halibut, about 6 ounces each
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the relish
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and finely chopped
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon of capers, drained
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of salsa
Rinse the fish fillets under cold running water and pat them dry. Brush the fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Preheat grill or broiler. Meanwhile, prepare the relish by stirring together the mango, onions, peppers, basil, capers, balsamic vinegar and salsa in a bowl. Grill the fish on high heat or broil, about 2-3 minutes per side or until desired doneness. Spoon the relish over the fish.
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