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I started my anti-inflammatory diet last night! Dinner #1: Indian-style curry, loaded with anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric and cinnamon. The anti-oxidants in these bright spices have been shown to reduce inflammation. Read on for an intro to understanding inflammation.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is the body's natural response to a variety of things it does not like – being injured, being exposed to toxins, or stress. It can also happen in relation to our lifestyle or the foods we eat. When the body is inflamed, a myriad of inflammatory factors are released, which can lead to unpleasant consequences like pain, diabetes, or artery blockages.

Our bodies are always moving along a spectrum of inflammation in response to all the things that we eat, do, and are exposed to throughout the day. Some inflammation can be healthy and is part of the body's immune response, but as a whole, Americans tend to have higher-than-helpful levels of inflammation due to the Standard American Diet (also known as SAD). Many of the foods that are easily available, inexpensive, and common in America tend to promote inflammation, while foods that can combat inflammation are less commonly eaten. Decreasing our overall level of inflammation can improve the quality of our lives as well as bode well for long-term health. Chronic inflammation is linked to dementia, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic disease.

What does anti-inflammatory eating consist of?

Well, that partly depends on who you ask, as research is constantly developing in this area. Growing research suggests that the following things are linked with higher levels of inflammation:
  • Saturated fats: butter, meat fat, dairy fat
  • Omega-6 fatty acids: corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil
  • Excessive carbohydrate and/or sugar intake
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Inactivity
  • Stress
  • Poor sleep
  • Overweight/obesity
The foods and habits listed below are linked with lower levels of inflammation:
  • Monounsaturated fats: avocado oil, olive oil, nuts
  • Herbs and spices including cinnamon and turmeric
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: fish oil, walnut oil, flax oil, chia seeds, canola oil
  • Antioxidants found in brightly-colored plant-based foods
  • Regular exercise
  • Vitamin D
You might notice that several of the things that may promote inflammation begin with the word “excessive.” Moderation is key here. Saturated fats, carbohydrates, sugars, and alcohol aren't “off-limits,” we only want to limit them and spread them out. Too much of any at one time can lead to a spike in inflammation that is hard on the body. You also might notice that “excessive” is rather vague, which is true. There are not many hard-and-fast recommendations for anti-inflammatory eating. I'll be addressing that more in the weeks to come.

For the next three weeks, I'll be researching more about anti-inflammatory eating as well as living it! Stay tuned for more info!

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