Acute inflammation is a process that happens normally and can facilitate healing after infection or injury. The complex process ultimately results in common symptoms of pain such as heat, swelling, and redness.
However, if inflammation persists for an extended amount of time, it becomes chronic, and chronic inflammation contributes to the physiological processes associated with many diseases.
Nutrition plays an important role in the prevention of chronic inflammatory diseases. For example, research has shown found that diets high in trans fat and saturated fat are pro-inflammatory. And on the other hand, a diet high in monounsaturated fats can help reduce inflammation.
Broccoli is one of the richest dietary sources of sulforaphane, a phytochemical with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Studies have shown that sulforaphane activates a protein known as Nrf2, which helps to protect arteries from inflammation that can lead to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease which results in a build-up of plaque up inside the arteries, and can lead to angina, heart attack or stroke.
Beets are an excellent source of betalain, an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.
Beets are also a good source of magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is associated with inflammatory diseases. Individuals consuming less than the RDA of magnesium have been show to be 1.48 to 1.75 times more likely to have elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammation marker.
3. Olive Oil
One phenolic compound known as oleocanthal found in extra virgin olive oil has been discovered to have powerful natural anti-inflammatory benefits. Oleocanthal exhibits the same anti-inflammatory response in the body as the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory ibuprofen by inhibiting the inflammatory enzymes cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2).
Olive oil helps to reduce the risk of diseases that are associated with low-grade chronic inflammation such as atherosclerosis and arthritis.
The predominant fatty acid in olive oil is known as oleic acid, which also been shown to help reduce levels of inflammatory markers.
4. Coconut oil
Besides the immune boosting medium chain saturated fat content, coconut oil has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.
One study has shown that antioxidants extracted from virgin coconut oil to be more effective for inflammation reduction in arthritis than Indometacin, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug often prescribed for arthritis.
Certain types of fish are rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), omega-3 fatty acids which have long been related to reduced inflammation and a lower risk of chronic inflammatory diseases.
Studies have also shown a reduced use of anti-inflammatory drugs with an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
Higher intakes of EPA and DHA have been associated with decreased inflammatory markers.
Salmon has the added benefit of containing astaxanthin, an antioxidant with potent anti-inflammatory properties. Astaxanthin is found in red hued shellfish and fish such as salmon and red trout.
Curcumin is the active anti-inflammatory compound found in turmeric, a commonly consumed spice in curry dishes.
When a study compared the anti-inflammatory potency of curcumin to aspirin and ibuprofen, curcumin was found to more potent.
Tomatoes are the best source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Lycopene is also an anti-inflammatory agent that prevents the production of inflammatory cytokines.
Consumption of tomato juice has been shown to reduce inflammation in overweight individuals.
A study has revealed that daily blueberry consumption can increase natural killer cell (NK) counts. NK cells are crucial components of the innate immune system and play an important part in the regulation of inflammatory responses.
Sweet and sour cherries contain several antioxidants and polyphenols that possess anti-inflammatory properties.
Bing cherries contain an anti-inflammatory compound called cyanidin which inhibits the activity of an enzyme involved in the production of uric acid.
One study showed that individuals who consumed Bing cherries for 28 days had a reduction in CRP inflammation markers which remained low for days after discontinuing cherry consumption.
Studies have found that cherry anthocyanidins can block both COX-1 and COX-2, two enzymes part of the pain process. The anti-inflammatory activities of the cherry anthocyanidins were found to be as effective as the anti-inflammatory drugs ibuprofen and naproxen.
One study has shown that individuals who drank tart cherry juice after exercise had less muscle pain.
10. Dark chocolate
Cocoa and dark chocolate contain high concentrations of flavanols which act as strong antioxidants. Cocoa flavanols have been associated with numerous health benefits such as improving blood flow decreasing blood pressure, and having anti-inflammatory properties.
A study has shown that regular consumption of small doses (20 g every 3 days) of dark chocolate is associated with lower levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein.
In another study, participants who drank a beverage every day made with 40 grams of unsweetened cocoa powder had reduced levels of adhesion molecules, which are inflammatory markers associated with atherosclerosis.
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