While we’ve all been busy focusing on avoiding cholesterol and fat we’ve mostly ignored what is turning out to be one of the most important health concerns of our time: inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is literally a stealth bomber, damaging your body just as deadly and silently as an invisible, odorless poison gas. It’s been linked to diseases as diverse as cancer, Alzheimer’s, obesity, congestive heart failure and diabetes. Inflammation is truly what Time magazine called it decades ago: “The Silent Killer.”
Chronic Inflammation: The Slow Killer
Nearly everything that’s an irritant to the system—the air pollution we breathe, the tobacco smoke we inhale directly or indirectly, the some 80,000 chemicals we’re exposed to in our environment—has the potential to produce some level of inflammation.
The food we eat can produce an inflammatory reaction—and frequently does. Some foods, like sugar and excess vegetable oils, have the effect of turbo-charging our inflammatory production pathways, while some foods (like wild salmon, with its rich content of omega-3’s and the antioxidant astaxanthin) have precisely the opposite effect.
Most researchers agree that the ideal relationship of omega-6 (pro-inflammatory fatty acids) to omega-3s (anti-inflammatory fatty acids) is about 1:1, exactly the ratio you find in the diet of the hunter-gatherer societies who were so remarkably free of chronic diseases. But the ratio of pro-inflammatory fats to anti-inflammatory fats in the typical Western diet is a whopping 16:1, or even higher.
What You Can Do About Inflammation
If you can put out the “fire within,” or at least stop it from spreading, you’ll be well ahead of the game.
And it all starts with food.
The plant kingdom is absolutely loaded with natural anti-inflammatories. (One example: quercetin, found in onions and apples.) Some of the anti-inflammatory superstars that you should include in your diet on a regular basis are:
- Leafy greens (e.g., spinach, chard, kale)
- Bell Peppers
- Brassica vegetables (e.g., Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower)
- Beans: all types
- Nuts and seeds
- Spices (ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves)
- Herbs: parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano, mint, tarragon, dill
- Tea (all types)
- Red wine
- Cocoa/chocolate (minimum sugar, maximum chocolate)
- Flaxseeds and flax oil
In Part Two, we’ll discuss the many supplements can help lower inflammation.