Inflammation may play a role in premature aging, periodontal disease, obesity, skin aging, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, among many other chronic health concerns.
Antioxidant-rich diets appear to protect against stroke by preventing the circulation of oxidized fats in the bloodstream that may damage the sensitive walls of small blood vessels in the brain. They can also help decrease artery stiffness, prevent blood clots from forming, and lower blood pressure and inflammation. Whereas all whole plant foods may have anti-inflammatory effects, some plants are better than others. High-antioxidant fruits and vegetables, such as berries and greens, have been found to douse systemic inflammation significantly better than the same number of servings of more common low-antioxidant fruits and veggies, such as bananas and lettuce.
Research dating back half a century suggests tart cherries are so anti-inflammatory that they can be used to successfully treat a painful type of arthritis called gout. Cherries can reduce the level of inflammation among healthy people too (as measured by a drop in C-reactive protein levels). A note of caution: For the same reason that high doses of anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin should be avoided during the third trimester of pregnancy, cocoa, berries, and other foods high in anti-inflammatory polyphenols should only be eaten in moderation in late pregnancy.
Studies have shown that consuming more fruits and vegetables may not only halt progression of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, but appears to improve lung function, and risks of suffering from allergic asthma may be halved by eating two or more servings of vegetables a day.
What about our mental health? Components in certain foods may increase the risk of depression, such as arachidonic acid, that is blamed for potentially impairing mood by inflaming the brain. The top-five sources of this inflammation-promoting compound in the American diet are chicken, eggs, beef, pork, and fish, although chicken and eggs alone contribute more than the other top sources combined. There are data suggesting that people with higher levels of arachidonic acid in their blood may end up at significantly higher risk of suicide and episodes of major depression. Overall, those eating the Standard American Diet may consume about nine times more arachidonic acid than those eating plant-based diets.
Image Credit: Vonschonertagen / Thinkstock. This image has been modified.
Popular Videos for Inflammation
All Videos for Inflammation
Foods that Help Headache & Migraine Relief
Plant-based diets are put to the test for treating migraine headaches.
Are Ancient Grains Healthier?
Ancient wheats like kamut are put to the test for inflammation, blood sugar, and cholesterol control.
Benefits of Grapes for Brain Health
Grape juice and whole grapes are put to the test for brain function, including cognitive decline in early Alzheimer’s.
Benefits of Garlic for Fighting Cancer and the Common Cold
Raw garlic is compared to roasted, stir-fried, simmered, and jarred garlic.
Are Pre-Cut Vegetables Just as Healthy?
Endotoxins can build up on pre-chopped vegetables and undermine some of their benefits.
Benefits of Flax Seeds for Inflammation
Elevated levels of pro-inflammatory, aging-associated oxylipins can be normalized by eating ground flax seed.
The Benefits of Early Time-Restricted Eating
Calories eaten in the morning count less and are healthier than calories eaten in the evening.
Trailer for How Not to Diet: Dr. Greger’s Guide to Weight Loss
17 ingredients to an ideal weight-loss diet and the 21 tweaks to accelerate the further loss of excess body fat.
The 5-2 Diet and the Fasting-Mimicking Diet Put to the Test
The effects of eating only 5 days a week or a fasting-mimicking diet 5 days a month.
Is Alternate-Day Intermittent Fasting Safe?
Eating every other day can raise your cholesterol.
Are Keto Diets Safe?
The effects of ketogenic diets on nutrient sufficiency, gut flora, and heart disease risk.
Plant-Based Diets Recognized by Diabetes Associations
Plant-based diets as the single most important, yet underutilized, opportunity to reverse the pending obesity and diabetes-induced epidemic of disease and death.