Every few years, a new diet makes the rounds, promising amazing results. Recently, the focus has been on the anti-inflammatory diet – which the medical community looks at as more than a passing fad.
“The anti-inflammatory diet is very promising on several fronts,” explained Patty Guay-Berry, registered dietitian for the Shady Grove Adventist Aquilino Cancer Center. “Researchers are finding a diet that helps the body fight inflammation can reduce a person’s risk of heart disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s and cancer.”
Inflammation and your health
Inflammation is part of your body’s defense against outside threats, which may include stress, infection or toxins. The immune system senses these dangers and activates proteins from white blood cells and other substances to help protect your cells and tissues. A little inflammation is good for your health.
Chronic inflammation, however, is bad for the body. The immune system can overreact and constantly trigger inflammatory responses from factors like:
- Poor diet choices
- Lack of physical activity
- Alcohol and tobacco use
- Lack of sleep
- Chronic stress
“This inflammatory cascade is what can lead to serious health issues – including cancer,” Patty said.
How the diet works
“What we put in our bodies changes how our cells respond,” Patty said. “Certain nutrients in food that contain vitamins and minerals are proven to fight inflammation, while others – like processed foods, refined sugar and simple carbohydrates – can trigger an inflammatory response in the body.”
Antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, resveratrol and curcumin are all nutrients and compounds with inflammation-fighting properties.
Mindful choices equal healthy diets
It’s easy to get into a rut when it comes to meals and snacks. Patty encourages the people she sees to make more mindful choices.
“When you’re in the grocery store planning meals for the week or getting ready to order from a restaurant, stop and ask yourself ‘Is this good or bad for my body?’” she said. “Taking just 10 seconds to put more thought into what you are doing can help you break bad habits and make healthier choices.”
Anti-Inflammatory Diet Tips
Eat more whole foods
Load your grocery cart with plenty of fruits and vegetables for meals and snacks and skip processed foods.
“Start reading food labels,” said Patty Guay-Berry, registered dietitian for the Shady Grove Adventist Aquilino Cancer Center. “Stick to foods that have five ingredients or less.”
Another one of Patty’s favorite tips is to visit a local farmer’s market or join a community supported agriculture (CSA) group in your area. Access new and fresh fruits and vegetables, making it fun to eat healthy.
Cut back on sugar
Sugar sneaks its way into many foods –including bread, tomato sauce and packaged snacks. There are roughly 61 different names for sugar listed in ingredients. Patty once again urged reading labels and said, “Keep in mind, men should have only nine teaspoons of added sugar and women need to stick to six teaspoons of added sugar or less in a day.”
Add more whole grains and protein
Whole grain options often have less sugar and fewer refined carbohydrates, giving you more bang for your buck. High quality protein is also likely to have fewer additives.
“I often tell people to buy the best quality protein you can afford,” Patty explained. “You may not be able to eat grass-fed beef every night, but when you can, opt for higher quality cuts for stronger health benefits.”
And if your budget is tight, beans are a very affordable source of protein. When purchasing canned beans, make sure the cans are BPA-free.