Inflammation is one of the body’s natural ways of protecting and healing itself. It includes many chemical reactions, helping to fight infection, increasing blood flow to places that need healing and generating pain to signal something is wrong with the body. Unfortunately, as with any process in the body, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.
The foods you eat influence the amount of inflammation in your body. Certain diets are more likely to reduce pain and other symptoms of disease. Follow these dietary tips to decrease inflammation.
Eat protein at every meal
Protein is a macronutrient used for many body functions. Try to include protein in every meal and snack throughout your day to ensure it makes up 20-25% of your total intake. Include healthy vegetable sources of protein as much as possible, including beans, nuts seeds and whole soy foods. Typical American diets are often extremely high in animal proteins, especially processed meats. Including more non-animal sources of protein not only helps reduce inflammation, but also improves nutritional quality overall by increasing a variety of other vitamins and minerals.
Choose the right fats
Fat is another essential macronutrient, but aim to limit fat intake to no more than 30% of your diet. Both saturated and unsaturated fats are needed to maintain proper health. Most foods contain both types, but read the label to see which type of fat is higher and choose foods with more unsaturated fat than saturated fat, more often. Avoid foods that say they contain trans fat.
Choose healthy carbs
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel and are needed to provide energy and help the brain function properly. However, eating too many carbs can lead to weight gain and inflammation. Carbohydrates should make up 40-50% of your diet and come primarily from vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds. Aim to decrease your intake of processed and refined carbohydrates like white bread, muffins, cakes and cookies. Choose whole grain options like brown rice or quinoa instead.
Don’t forget about fiber
Fiber is important for digestive health. It helps regulate blood sugar levels and may reduce your risk of some cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The recommended amount of fiber is 25-35 grams per day. Fruits, veggies, beans, legumes and whole grains are good sources of fiber.
Get your fill of phytonutrients
Natural chemicals found in plants, phytonutrients provide antioxidants, promote a healthy liver and have anti-inflammatory properties. The more color in your diet, the more phytonutrients will be present — so eat a variety of colorful plant foods. Phytonutrients are also present in many herbs and spices. Use them to season or sweeten food as a healthy alternative to salt and sugar.