Nutrients which reduce chronic inflammation
The biggest single risk to your long term health is what’s called ‘chronic sub-clinical inflammation’. It’s a continuous, damaging level of inflammation of body tissues that tends to build up as we age, but is normally not noticeable. So it’s an insidious, but major threat.
How major? VERY major!
“Inflammation is an underlying contributor to virtually every chronic disease … along with major killers such as heart disease, cancer and stroke.”
“Inflammatory factors predict virtually all bad outcomes in humans … having heart attacks, having heart failure, becoming diabetic … becoming fragile in old age … cognitive function decline, even cancer to a certain extent.”
Russell Tracy, Professor of Pathology and Biochemistry, University of Vermont College of Medicine
“… we can now seriously start thinking about inflammation as a potential driver of accelerated ageing and how we might be able to delay it.”
Institutes for Ageing and Cellular Medicine at Newcastle University
Chronic versus acute inflammation
We are normally familiar with inflammation as the sign of a good immune response. We suffer a cut or sting and the area becomes inflamed – which is a sign that your immune system is working to bring healing white blood cells like neutrophils and macrophages to cure the problem.
But that type of inflammation is called acute inflammation. The cause and the cure are both short term.
The problem arises when damage occurs within your body’s tissues, but that damage is not completely cleared by the immune response. That sets up a low level of continuous, long term chronic inflammation that damages cells and tissues.
This type of inflammation is a key driver of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, erectile dysfunction and indeed any diseases ending in ‘itis’ – which means inflammatory. So arthritis, colitis, sinusitis and many, many, more.
It also creates an environment that more easily allows the spread of cancerous cells.
Top 7 Anti-inflammatory foods
Therefore lowering the level of inflammation is a vital contribution to your long term health. So make sure the following feature regularly in your diet:
Salmon (or other oily fish)
Salmon contains Omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show that people who have a higher intake of Omega 3 suffer fewer heart problems because Omega 3 reduces inflammation and helps lower cholesterol . The American Heart Association suggests you eat oily fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, trout and herring at least 2-3 times a week.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, part of a group including cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. They are high in a plant compound called glucosinolates, which are powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Population studies show that eating a diet high in cruciferous vegetables is linked to a lower risk of cancer.
Blueberries contain significant amounts of polyphenols and carotenoids.It is the polyphenol and carotenoid content of plant foods, not just their vitamins and minerals, which makes fruits and vegetables so valuable to your health.
Carotenoids are largely concentrated in the skin and colouring of fruits like blueberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and strawberries – and they and polyphenols have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which researchers strongly believe helps prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease.
The carotenoids lutein and lycopene are known to prevent and repair the DNA and cellular damage done by free radicals – which, unchecked, can trigger cancer.
Kale is a great source of vitamins A, C, and K, and the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. Kale, like broccoli, contains glucosinolates, plus the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids have been shown to protect vision and lower your risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration. A similar anti-inflammatory superfood is spinach. It too contains lutein, vitamin K2 (which is heart healthy), folic acid, and beta carotene. Research shows that people who eat a largely plant based diet, including these leafy green vegetables, have a significantly reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.
Carrots and sweet potatoes
Carrots of course contain the carotenoid beta-carotene which your body can convert to vitamin A as needed. Carrots also contain other carotenoids (zeaxanthin and lutein), and these antioxidants help reduce your risk of cancer by shielding your healthy cells from free radical damage. They are also a good source of fibre.
Sweet potatoes, like other orange-coloured vegetables, are also high in vitamin A and beta-carotene antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. They are also high in fibre and high fibre consumption is linked to lower cancer risk.
Almonds, walnuts and other nuts
Nuts are very healthy, and you should try to incorporate a handful each day into your diet – either as a snack or on cereals. Eating almonds, walnuts, pecans and Brazils is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Walnuts are a great source of protein, vitamin E, minerals and phytochemicals called sterols. They also contain monounsaturated fatty acids (as does olive oil) and heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats, plus they’re a great source of magnesium, fibre, and potassium – all cardio-healthy nutrients.
The combination of the vitamins, minerals, carotenoids and polyphenols in these top 7 (ish) foods is the basis of a highly anti-inflammatory diet.
You really are – and will become – what you eat.
Reduce pro-inflammatory foods
But you must also aim to reduce the amount of pro-inflammatory foods in your diet.
Your body uses fatty acids from the food you eat to make the outer membranes of cells and also certain important hormones. Omega 6 fatty acids – found in polyunsaturated plant oils like safflower, sunflower and corn oil and in very many ready meals and processed foods – are used by the body to produce hormones that promote inflammation.
Omega 3 fatty acids (from oily fish) have the opposite effect – they are used to produce hormones that reduce inflammation.
All this is why University College London recently joined the American Cancer Society in recommending 9-10 portions of fruits and vegetables a day. Plus the 2-3 portions of oily fish.
Of course it is rather a challenge for most people – so an anti-inflammatory nutritional supplement like NutriShield that includes a range of polyphenols, flavonoids and carotenoids plusOmega 3, as well as an optimised level of vitamins and minerals, can be a good choice to ‘fill in the gaps’.
If you want to read more about this topic you can download a free e-book called “Inflamm-ageing” below.
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Dr Paul Clayton designed NutriShield as a comprehensive health supplement with OPTIMUM levels of essential nutrients. See more detail elsewhere on this site or click on the button.
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See the website www.healthdefence.com for excerpts and links to buy direct from the publisher.
See online here for delicious recipes from the Health Defence Cookbook incorporating healthy foods featuring in a Mediterranean Diet.