Research shows that chronic inflammation can play a role in the development of memory loss. In fact, as AAPR.org points out, you could “Name any common disease associated with aging — cancer, dementia, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, Type 2 diabetes — and chronic inflammation will play a role.”
When low-grade chronic inflammation exists, your immune cells “silently attack your own body — your blood vessels, brain cells and organs included.” Stress is known to boost these undesirable inflammatory compounds, as does obesity and genetics.
Fortunately, there are inflammation-fighting foods you can add to your diet to fight back. They help you to reduce your risk of chronic inflammation, while providing you with a whole slew of health benefits.
Here are three types of food that are at the heart of an anti-inflammatory diet, along with the types of food to avoid. Foods given the thumbs up are a core part of the Mediterranean diet.
Fruits and Vegetables
No matter which type you choose to enjoy, they’ll help to fight inflammation in some way, thanks to the vitamins and minerals they contain, as well as what’s called phytonutrients. Fruits that can be especially helpful include apples and berries, citrus fruits and pears. As far as vegetables, green leafy ones should be included on your list, as well as tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, and green/yellow veggies.
Health organizations typically recommend you eat five half-cup servings daily, with significant health benefits now being shown for people who eat 10 daily portions.
There are two types of omega-3s (EPA and DHA) that help to prevent inflammatory compounds from being created; and, if they’re already formed, omega-3s help to get rid of them. People who eat fish have a lower risk of developing heart disease, as well as dementia and depression. The American Heart Association therefore recommends you eat two 3.5 ounces (cooked) of fish per week, or more. The best choices of fatty fish are high in omega-3 and low in mercury, including “Arctic char, mackerel (Atlantic), rainbow trout, salmon and sardines.”
Whole fiber provides plenty of benefits to our gut bacteria — and that “good” bacteria creates anti-inflammatory substances to help our overall health. Foods to include are brown rice, bulgur wheat, oatmeal, and whole rye, as well as barley and millet. Two other foods that aren’t technically grains also help: buckwheat and quinoa. Whole grains can help reduce inflammation and have been found to help cut your risk of heart disease and cancer.
What to Avoid
When your goal is to reduce your risk of inflammation, a Harvard publication notes you should avoid:
- refined carbohydrates, such as those found in white bread
- fried foods, such as French fries
- sodas and other sugary drinks
- red meat
- margarine, shortening, and lard
Healthline.com’s list of foods to avoid when you want to prevent chronic inflammation includes what’s on the list above, plus:
- desserts, such as cookies and cake, candy and ice cream
- processed meats, such as hot dogs and bologna
- processed snack foods, like chips and pretzels
- processed oils like soybean and corn oils
- trans fats, found in foods with partially hydrogenated ingredients
- excess alcohol