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Chronic Inflammation- how does it affect our body & what can we do about it?

When you hear the word "inflammation", you may instantly think of redness and swelling that happens from things like spraining your ankle or stubbing your toe.  That kind of inflammation is your body doing what it is supposed to do.  It is working to heal an injury.  It's part of our body's immune response. This is normal.  

When inflammation lingers and never fully goes away, this is called Chronic inflammation and can trigger several major health issues.  Such as Heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, depression and premature death,  just to name a few.

Fortunately, we DO have some control of reducing inflammation by eating better foods, reducing or managing stress, improving sleep, and getting more exercise.

Let's talk food! 

Pro-inflammatory foods in our diets include:   highly processed foods(think packaged foods that have long shelf life), fried foods, fatty meats, foods high in sugar,  foods high in sodium, high consumption of alcohol and diets low on fruits and vegetables.

The Mediterranean Diet has long been touted for it's healthy dietary patterns.  This diet is high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, oily fish and low in processed and refined foods. 

What to do???

Despite all of the promising marketing claims, there is NO MAGIC PILL to fix inflammation.  Just like there is NO DIET that can make you lose weight and keep it off if you don't change your lifestyle and be consistent!

But, you CAN focus on improving your overall diet quality.  Don't focus on a single food or nutrient.  When I say "Eat the Rainbow" it is because many nutrients can be consumed by eating a variety of foods that are the colors of the rainbow.  Not talking about skittles here!

Here are a few tips to help you improve your diet:

*Load at least half your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, like chickpeas and lentils.  These foods are high in fiber and anti-inflammatory nutrients.

*Flavor your food with herbs and spices rather salt.  Oregano, thyme, basil, paprika, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and lemon or lime juice all add great flavor that replaces salt.

*Try sipping tea and coffee.

*Eat oily fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel, which are full of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.

*Use extra virgin olive oil instead of butter.

* Choose complex carbohydrates, rather than simple. Try to eat whole grain breads and reduce highly processed foods. 

*Reduce your sugar intake, especially ADDED SUGARS!   Read the label.

*Include nuts and seeds in your diet.  Sunflower, almonds, cashews, pumpkin, walnuts....these are a great source of protein and good fat.

In short, eating an anti-inflammatory diet is a healthy approach to eating, whether you have chronic inflammation or not!  This way of eating will improve your overall health, well-being and quality of life.  So, eat up buttercup!!

**My sources:  Mayo Clinic, Journal of Nutrition, Harvard Health Publishing, Journal of the American College of Nutrition and Clinical Nutrition.



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