By Karen Reed
Inflammation is a normal response by the immune system. When used properly, it can aid the healing process. However, more often than not the immune system attacks healthy cells. The immune system is confused over the cells and components that are good and bad for the body and acts thinking that it is doing you some good.
Some irritants can also cause inflammation of the skin and areas of the body like the digestive system. When our bodies do become inflamed, there is excess pressure placed on the nerves. Circulatory systems are narrowed, and the brain is told that there is a problem. Pain is the body’s way to tell you to stop doing what you’re doing.
Of course, when you’re otherwise healthy, you don’t want to stop. You know you’re not doing anything wrong.
So, you need to find a way to get rid of inflammation. While there are over the counter medications, you can use your diet to your advantage. It’s time to put together the perfect anti-inflammatory shopping list with this ultimate guide.
Organic vs. Non-Organic Food
Before we start putting together the food that you need to eat, let’s look at the organic vs. non-organic debate. If you can buy organic, this is the type of food that you want in your diet. It doesn’t matter if the food is fresh, frozen, liquid, or anything in between.
Organic food is created without any additives. There are no chemicals to help it grow bigger or antibiotics used in the sources that will pass into you. No pesticides are used to protect from animals, and there are no harmful toxins that will affect your body. In short, organic is completely natural and fresh, giving you all the benefits of the nutrients without the harmful extras.
The problem with organic is that it tends to cost more. If you want to keep the cost down, it can be worth taking a trip to a farmer’s market. Talk to the farmers to find out about the types of chemicals or preservatives they use in their vegetables and fruits.
You can also take a trip to the fishmongers or a butchers’ shop. While the animals may never have had antibiotics, the type of food they get will affect your diet. Cows raised on grass only are healthier than those raised on grain and other foods, for example.
With that in mind, it’s now time to look at the best foods to add to your anti-inflammatory shopping list.
Follow the Mediterranean Diet
One of the best diets to follow for an anti-inflammatory diet is the Mediterranean one. This incorporates foods that are full of antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids. These types of nutrients are the elements that reduce inflammation within the body. They send off the right signals to the immune system, supporting it and preventing it from attacking healthy elements in the body.
The omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants also help to protect the cells. Cells naturally die or become damaged over time. When you get the right diet, you can prevent free radicals from getting in and changing the makeup of the cell structure when the cells repair and grow back.
Another major benefit of the Mediterranean diet is the move away from processed junk food. The Med diet is all about wholesome and natural foods. This links us back to the discussion about the organic foods. It’s important to get away from food with preservatives and additives that are harmful. Focusing on a diet of our ancestors will be better.
The Perfect Anti-Inflammatory Shopping List
Here is the shopping list that you want to consider putting together to fight against inflammation in your body. We’ll split the sections up to make your trip to the grocery store easier.
Starting with the Vegetables. Vegetables are full of antioxidants and other nutrients that will support the whole body, especially the immune system. There are certain ones that you may not have ever considered and others that are extremely common in healthy diets.
Dark leafy greens are among your best vegetables to add to any type of healthy shopping list. They are full of iron, calcium, and various vitamins to support a healthy body. Not only will the nutrients support your immune system, but they keep your blood and bones healthy. You’ll get more oxygen around your body, furthering the support to your immune system. Good circulation also helps to reduce inflammation within the body.
A major benefit of dark leafy greens is the versatility. You don’t just need to eat them to get the benefits. You can blend them into green smoothies to fully support your system.
One type of vegetable that you may not have considered is bok choy. This is highly popular in stir fries and is sometimes referred to as Chinese cabbage. It offers a range of vitamins and minerals that support the immune system. In fact, a recent study has shown that bok choy has more than 70 antioxidant substances to support the body! There’s a reason it’s still popular in the Chinese diet.
Take a look at various Chinese dishes and recipes for new ways to use bok choy. Once you buy it, it will never be off your shopping list again.
Make sure you add some beets to your diet. These purple vegetables are by far among the best for the immune system and reducing inflammation. The color should give away the benefits since this is an indication of antioxidants and excellent nutritional benefits. Beets don’t just help to fight off inflammation but will also repair the damage when inflammation has occurred. This can help prevent further damage in the future.
Beets are also extremely high in magnesium, which is a nutrient that we tend to be deficient in without realizing. It’s a magnesium deficiency that can lead to inflammation, as calcium is allowed to build up and cause problems. You want to get a balanced mixture of the two nutrients within your diet.
Don’t forget about your cruciferous vegetables, either. These include the likes of cauliflower and broccoli that are very easy to find in grocery stores. It isn’t a secret that these types of vegetables are good for you, but they tend to be overlooked because they can have a bitter taste. There’s no problem with cooking them to help release some of the bitterness. You’ll still get the health benefits.
Like with beets, broccoli especially is full of magnesium. This will offer you all the same health benefits as mentioned above. The cruciferous vegetables are also high in antioxidants to reduce oxidative stress within the body. Oxidative stress can lead to chronic inflammation, as the body is trying to reduce the problem.
Let’s Not Forget About the Fruits, Too. Now that we’ve looked at the best vegetables, it’s time to get your anti-inflammatory fruits. There are two types that are among the best for your needs.
The first is any type of berry. You’ll have heard that berries are full of antioxidants. Blueberries and raspberries tend to have the most antioxidants and are easy to get hold of. If you can get goji berries, they are certainly worth considering for much higher amounts of antioxidants. You may need to go to a health store for goji berries.
The antioxidants in berries are known as quercetin, which is the best for anti-inflammatory needs. There have been various studies into the use of quercetin for digestive issues. Inflammation is one of the main reasons for digestive upsets, but berries have been shown beneficial to reduce the pain and discomfort. It can also be linked to the fiber within the berries since fiber helps to protect the digestive system and get it working effectively again.
Another fruit worth considering is pineapple. In fact, any type of citrus fruit will be beneficial for reducing inflammation. Part of this is from the quercetin mentioned above. However, citrus fruits also have bromelain, which offers support for the digestive process. Pineapple especially has been used in natural digestive aids for centuries.
Of course, citrus fruits are also high in vitamin C, which is known for supporting the immune system. They also have manganese and vitamin B1, aiding in the prevention of disease formation. Citrus fruits, especially pineapple, have been shown to be just as effective as over the counter medication, without any of the side effects that comes from pharmaceutical drugs.
Get the Right Meat. Now it’s time to look at your meat options. While there are some benefits with red meat and poultry for other parts of the diet, they’re not going to offer you the benefits you need for your anti-inflammatory diet. The Mediterranean diet is all about eating fish.
You want to get the oily fishes, like salmon and mackerel. The aim is to add more omega 3 fatty acids to your diet, and oil fish have them in abundance. Salmon is considered the best out of all your options and is also one of the cheapest in the grocery stores or fish mongers. Try to opt for plain salmon fillets instead of smoked salmon to get all the benefits!
Omega 3s have been tested to see how good they are for reducing inflammation. Our diets tend to be high in omega 6 fatty acids, which lead to inflammation. The Omega 3s help to reduce the amount of omega 6s, giving the body no reason to react negatively. Omega 3s also offer relief from constant inflammation for other reasons.
There is also research that shows omega 3 fatty acids help to reduce the risk of various health problems. They’ve shown positive results in reducing heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and dementia risks. They support the cognitive function, which can help to produce the happy hormones to encourage the immune system to keep inflammation at bay.
It’s important to find out the location of the fish when buying it. Farmed fishes aren’t health options. They’re trapped and have added preservatives in most cases. Look for wild versions of salmon and other oily fishes.
Choose the Right Oil. The oil that you use for cooking will also have an effect on the inflammation within the body. Coconut oil is the best type of oil that you can use for anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also one of those that you can buy in bulk at a low cost in most grocery stores.
Coconut oil is in solid form at normal room temperatures. This makes it one of the best options for topical treatments as well as in cooking. It’s an oil that is used throughout Asian cultures, as it heals common inflammatory conditions such as chronic pain and arthritis.
If you don’t want coconut oil, then you can opt for olive oil. It’s not as good but is better than most other vegetable oils that you will find in supermarkets. Don’t forget to buy extra virgin olive oil where possible. This is the one favored within the Mediterranean diet.
Coconut and olive oils have shown to be far more effective than over the counter medication for reducing inflammation. They also help to reduce oxidative stress within the body, preventing osteoporosis and other health conditions.
One of the best things about the two types of oils is that they’re easy to use. You can apply them directly to the skin without irritation, making excellent natural treatments for moisturizing and cleaning the skin. It’s possible to use them in oil pulling to remove bacteria from the mouth. You can also use them in your cooking. You just need two tablespoons a day of the oils to get all the benefits.
Top the List with Nuts and Seeds. If you’re not allergic to nuts, you will want to add some to your diet. It’s important to get the fattier nuts, those that are rich in protein and omega 3. Walnuts, almonds, and Brazil nuts are among the best types of nuts to add to your anti-inflammatory shopping list. You can add them in however you want. Some people opt for crushing them over salads, while some like to add them to stir fries. You can also eat handfuls of them for a healthy snack throughout the day.
The fats within nuts are all healthy, supporting your liver to remove toxins from the body. They are also full of protein and fiber to build the muscles and support the digestive system. Nuts have also been linked to reducing the risk of Type II diabetes, helping to fight off other medical reasons for inflammation.
For those who want extra ways to reduce inflammation and those who are allergic to nuts, seeds are a popular option to add to your shopping list.
Flaxseeds are currently the most popular because they are so easy to use. They make excellent vegan alternatives for some dairy products while offering extra antioxidants and omega 3s. Flaxseeds are full of lignans, which are fibre-related antioxidants, helping to balance the hormones and improve the cell health. They also help to create more good bacteria within the gut to eliminate yeast and avoid fungal infections.
The best way to get flaxseeds into your diet is to grind them. This helps your body absorb all the health benefits to reduce inflammation.
Another type of seed to consider is becoming increasingly easier to find in stores. Chia seeds are little black seeds that offer a balance of both omega 3 and omega 6 to the body (even though omega 6 isn’t great, it’s still needed in a small amount). Chia seeds are among the best types of foods to get antioxidants into your body. They are full of a range of nutrients that will fully support the immune system and cell health to keep inflammation to a minimum.
In fact, chia seeds will reverse current inflammation within the body. They help to keep the blood pressure normal and regulate your cholesterol levels to ensure the best heart health. They reverse oxidative stress to avoid various health problems.
Finish Off with Spices to Add Flavor. Herbs and spices offer the best way to add more flavor to your foods at a low price. Spices are the best for anti-inflammatory diets, as they offer the nutrients that fight against all the reasons for inflammation. In fact, spices are commonly recommended in herbal remedies for colds, flu, and other ailments.
Let’s start with turmeric as a spice to add to your anti-inflammatory shopping list. This is full of curcumin, an active ingredient to fight against inflammation. It’s been well documented in science in fighting against inflammation effectively, offering various benefits overall. Curcumin is so good that it’s now added to many anti-inflammatory medications, including ibuprofen and aspirin!
You only need a little turmeric to get major benefits. It’s especially beneficial if you have rheumatoid arthritis and other similar stiff joint conditions, as it will support joint health and remove the components causing the swelling.
It’s also worth adding ginger to your shopping list. It doesn’t matter if you add fresh or dried ginger. All types will offer the same benefits as they all contain the important antioxidants. You can even drink ginger tea to get all the benefits!
Ginger has long been used in herbal remedies. It’s been recorded around the world as a way to boost your immune system and thoroughly warm the body. Effectively breaking down the toxins collected throughout the day, ginger supports the digestive and sewage system to improve the overall health.
Now It’s Time to Create Your Anti-Inflammatory Shopping List
The list of ingredients above is the one that you need to take with you to the grocery store to get rid of inflammation. Some of the foods are perfect for fighting off inflammation before it happens, while others will reverse the effects to help you live a normal life.
These herbal remedies aren’t just used because history has shown benefit. Scientists have proven that the foods have all the elements needed to keep inflammation at bay and boost the immune system to keep the body in a fully working order.
There’s no need to add various over the counter medications to reduce inflammation. There’s no need to take time off because said inflammation has caused chronic pain. A change to your diet will fix everything.
Karen Reed is Managing Editor at Positive Health Wellness