In the second of a series of exclusive blogs for getback, Nutritionist Bonnie Chivers explains how diet can help to reduce inflammation and the risk of illness or disease.
We are increasingly learning that the best way to reduce or avoid inflammation lies in your food and beverage choices, rather than the medicine cabinet.
First things first: what is inflammation?
It is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but our understanding of it is generally quite limited. Inflammation is the immune system’s response to an injury or infection. If you strain your back, or cut your finger, your immune system responds by sending white blood cells to surround and protect the area. This is what causes redness or swelling. Infections such as the flu or pneumonia trigger a similar response to eliminate the harmful pathogens.
Chronic inflammation often begins with a similar cellular response but changes into a long-lasting, persistent state. Toxins such as cigarette smoke, unhealthy food or an excess of fat cells (especially around the midriff) can also trigger inflammation, which tends to be chronic.
So, in short – when inflammation is good, it fights and heals. But chronic inflammation persists, even when you’re not injured or threatened by infection and this inflammation is linked to ever-common diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteo arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s. Chronic inflammatory diseases are the most significant cause of death in the world and they are ranked by The World Health Organization (WHO) as the greatest threat to human health.
The good thing is that thousands of studies have shown that components in foods and beverages can have anti-inflammatory effects. If you structure your diet around these foods you can reduce your risk of illness or disease. But constantly choose the wrong ones, and you can accelerate disease processes.
What to choose:
An anti-inflammatory diet contains nutrient-rich whole foods, and plenty of fibre, anti-oxidants and healthy fats. This diet is rich in vegetables, whole fruit, whole grains, legumes and fatty fish and the overall diet should be as unprocessed as possible.
Aim for a variety of types and colours, a rainbow of veggies provides phytonutrients. Try to consume a minimum of 4-5 servings per day. Extra points for leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard and Asian greens), broccoli and cauliflower, brussel sprouts or beetroot.
Whole pieces of fruit
Three to four servings per day will have most people thriving! Extra points for oranges, berries and cherries. Ideally, make sure fruit is eaten whole, not drunk as juice that strips fruit of its fibre.
Such as salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel & tuna.
Herbs & spices
Turmeric, ginger, basil, oregano, thyme, cinnamon etc. Use them to cook, sprinkle over food such as morning oats, or drink them in herbal teas.
Extra virgin olive oil is the best option (safe for home cooking, or delicious drizzled on salad or whole grain bread). Healthy fats are also present in seeds, nuts fish and avocado.
Walnuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, chia, hemp. Snack on them, or include them in salads or home-made muesli. You can even stir them into dinners preparations like curry, pasta or pies.
Brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa.
Especially black beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, lentils, red kidney.
Water, green tea and organic coffee, in moderation.
BAppSc, MHumNutr, PhD Candidate
Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation – MCHRI
School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University
No content on this blog should be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. Please note the date of this blog post, as evidence pertaining to these findings may change over time.