You may hear the term “inflammation” thrown around, and it’s almost always paired with the notion that experiencing it may be something that is guaranteed to result in negative health outcomes. And while it is true that chronic inflammation may be linked to health concerns, not all inflammation is necessarily bad.
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury, infection, or irritation. And even though the wellness world makes inflammation sound like a bad word, sometimes, inflammation can be a good thing. If you experience an injury or infection, acute inflammation acts as the body’s first line of defense. When a foreign pathogen enters your body or an injury occurs (like when you stub your toe—the worst!), your immune system triggers an inflammatory response, resulting in immune cells moving toward the site of injury or illness to help heal.
But while acute inflammation can be an important part of keeping your body healthy, chronic inflammation is another story. Persistent inflammation is linked to numerous health conditions such as metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It can cause tissue damage and organ dysfunction over time and is also associated with autoimmune disorders where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells.
Eat fish twice a week.
As for the dietary habits that may help fight chronic low-grade inflammation? Here are ten of the best eating habits that you may want to explore.
The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish (particularly fatty fish) every single week—a goal most Americans are not meeting. “Salmon provides quality protein, essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, vitamin D, and other nutrients,” Caroline Thomason, RD, CDCES, a Washington, DC-based dietitian and nutrition partner with Alaskan Seafood shared.
“EPA and DHA have proven anti-inflammatory properties, and you won’t find better food sources than fatty fish”. Thomason recommends salmon out of Alaska, as all Alaskan seafood is guaranteed to be wild and sustainably caught, which means it’s low in contaminants.
Include more nuts in your diet.
Nuts may be best known as a plant-based source of protein. But they also deserve to get attention over their rich phytochemical content, a factor that may help combat inflammation. Data has shown that higher nut consumption was associated with lower C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation).
Consume dairy foods.
Pistachios are a complete source of plant-based protein (aka they provide all of the essential amino acids) that may be a noteworthy nut to include in your diet if you are trying to fight chronic inflammation. Several reports have demonstrated the effectiveness of pistachio against oxidative stress and inflammation. And a study published in Nutrients showed that the polyphenol extracts from pistachios have anti-inflammatory properties.
“There have been three systematic reviews (these are research studies that compile the results of several other research studies) over the last six years showing dairy foods – specifically milk, cheese, and yogurt – have neutral to beneficial effects on inflammation,” Kerry Hackworth, MS, RD, LDN, Director, Nutrition Affairs at National Dairy Council, shared.
She also highlighted an inflammation ranking system that was published in The Journal of Nutrition. This system listed dairy foods (both whole-fat and low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt) as one of the top food groups that were linked to lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers.
Watercress is a unique aqueous green vegetable that adds a slightly peppery taste to your plate. It is jam-packed with many nutrients and it is a low-calorie food.
Watercress is also a natural source of a compound called phenylethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC). This bioactive compound has anti-inflammatory effects, helping people potentially reduce certain markers of inflammation. It also has been shown to offer anti-cancer properties, making this veggie a doubly positive addition to a healthy diet.