Followed by the likes of Gisele and Tom, and hailed by dietitians and health experts alike, anti-inflammatory eating has become extremely popular among the mainstream public, and for good reason. Aside from being a healthy diet (prepare to say goodbye to cakes and pastries), it is said to reduce inflammation in the body, which is believed to cause a number of health woes.
“I’ve cut [these foods] out of my diet completely and noticed a huge difference. Especially with water retention too. Once you adopt this way of eating and feel your best it’s easy to stick to. It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle,” says Claire Greive, fitness influencer, nutritionist and long-term AI eater.
Check out the anti-inflammatory soup Victoria Beckham’s nutritionist swears by:
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s natural and essential immune response. When we experience injury or infection, our body sends fighter cells to the area. This increases the blood flow, which in turn causes the redness, swelling and pain you associate with the word, ‘inflammation.’ In other words, acute inflammation isn’t a bad thing. However, chronic or constant inflammation can be. When chronic inflammation occurs, the immune response is never ‘switched off’ so to speak, which can be dangerous.
“The major risk with inflammation is that if it remains untreated it can lead to a worsened disease outcome, specific to the current or related disease. Chronic inflammation can also cause additional health issues and it often results in a reduced quality of life,” says Chloe McLeod, accredited dietician and author of Anti-Inflammatory Eating.
According to the Huffington Post, the constant production of immune cells can cause long-term damage. This may lead to cancer, heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimer’s, among other health concerns.
What causes inflammation?
What triggers ongoing inflammation differs from person to person. However, prolonged infection, stress, unhealthy lifestyle habits and obesity are some common factors. The foods we choose to eat – or not eat – can also play a role.
When suffering from muscle and joint pain, she suggests avoiding acidic foods such as oranges, alcohol, and coffee and junk foods, which are high in sugar and wheat, as these can exacerbate the inflammation causing the pain. While foods can exaggerate inflammation, Mcleod says they may also help with reducing the risk of it developing, and its severity when it occurs.
“Further research is beginning to show that inflammation starts in the gut, as a result of poor gut health. Improving the health of your digestive system is imperative when it comes to managing and preventing inflammation,” she says.
So what should we be eating?
The anti-inflammatory diet, while not a ‘diet’ per se, is most closely aligned with the Mediterranean diet. It recommends consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and omega 3 fatty acids. It suggests avoiding processed foods, alcohol, refined carbohydrates, dairy, and saturated and trans fats. Oh, and being liberal with spices like turmeric and ginger. At this stage, more research needs to be done to truly understand the relationship between inflammation and the diet. However, when looking at the list of recommended foods to avoid – and those to chow down on – it’s safe to say it would undoubtedly improve your health.
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