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
The Risks of Shark Cartilage Supplements
Why are millions of dollars spent on shark cartilage supplements?
Apple Peels Put to the Test for Chronic Joint Pain
Are the health benefits associated with apple consumption just due to other healthy behaviors among apple eaters?
Is Aloe Effective for Blood Pressure, Inflammatory Bowel, Wound Healing, and Burns?
The risks and benefits of aloe vera.
Does Cocoa Powder Cause Acne?
Is the link between chocolate and acne from the sugar, the milk, or the cocoa? Researchers put white chocolate, dark chocolate, baking chocolate, and cocoa powder to the test to find out.
Does Chocolate Cause Acne?
What are the effects of dairy products, sugar, and chocolate on pimple formation?
Does Marijuana Cause Health Problems?
Every year, cannabis is estimated to result in 2 million years of healthy life lost due to disability. How much is that compared to alcohol and tobacco?
The Role of Dairy & Gluten in Canker Sores
Does excluding dairy products, food additives, and gluten-containing grains from one’s diet help those with recurring canker sores (aphthous ulcers)?
Exclusion Diets for Eczema
Infants of mothers randomized to cut out eggs, milk, and fish were significantly less likely to have eczema even years later.
Best Foods to Avoid for Eczema
Randomized double-blind controlled trials suggest excluding certain foods, such as eggs and chicken, can significantly improve atopic dermatitis.
Amla vs. Drugs for Cholesterol, Inflammation, & Blood-Thinning
Indian gooseberry extracts put to the test head-to-head against cholesterol-lowing statin drugs and the blood thinners aspirin and Plavix.
Culture Shock – Questioning the Efficacy and Safety of Probiotics
In certain medical conditions, probiotic supplements may actually make things worse.
The Best Food for Fibroids
Women with uterine fibroids should consider adding green tea to their daily diet, as a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled interventional trial suggests it may help as well as surgery.