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Calm down inflammation with food

Have you ever sprained your ankle, cut yourself or stung by a bee? The pain, redness, swelling, and heat that it produces are the body’s defence mechanism to fight the acute inflammation and to repair tissue damage. Acute inflammation typically resolves quickly, within a period of hours to days.

Have you ever heard of chronic inflammation? Chronic inflammation can begin via the same process but can last from several months to years.

Un unhealthy lifestyle that includes smoking, poor diet, alcohol consumption, sedentary behaviour, stress and weight gain can also cause this type of low grade, persistent inflammation.

What are the symptoms of chronic inflammation?
Symptoms include fatigue, muscle aches, gastrointestinal issues (constipation, diarrhoea, bloating), weight gain, headaches and skin issues.

Can this low-grade inflammation cause any disease?
Unfortunately, yes! Low-grade, chronic inflammation can contribute to several diseases including Alzheimer’s, dementia anxiety and depression, high blood pressure and heart disease, type 2 diabetes, allergies, asthma and skin conditions.

Can we modulate inflammation through food?
Yes, there is a substantial amount of evidence to suggest that many foods and nutrients modulate inflammation both acutely and chronically.

What foods cause inflammation?

1. Sugar and other refined carbohydrates
Table sugar (sucrose), high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, barley malt, dextrose, fructose, glucose, malt dextrin and maple syrup. Foods high in added sugar include candies, chocolate, cookies, cakes, soft drinks and some breakfast cereals.
Refined carbohydrates like white pasta, rice, white bread have most of their fibre removed. Fibre promotes fullness, improves blood sugar control, and feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

2. Artificial trans fats
On ingredient labels, trans fats are often listed as partially hydrogenated oils. Foods that contain trans fats include processed foods like frozen fried foods, microwave popcorn, certain margarines and vegetable shortenings, packaged cakes and cookies, some pastries, and all processed foods that list partially hydrogenated vegetable oil on the label.

3. Vegetable and seed oils
Vegetable oils like canola, sunflower oil, palm oil and soybean oils increase inflammation due to the high content of omega-6 fatty acids.

4. Excessive alcohol
A moderate alcohol intake, of red wine in particular, has been shown to provide some health benefits. However, higher amounts can lead to severe problems. To avoid health risks, alcohol intake should be limited to two standard drinks a day for men and one for women.

5. Processed meat
Common types of processed meat include sausage, bacon, ham, smoked meat, and beef jerky.
Processed meats contain most advanced glycated end products (AGEs) than other meats. AGEs are formed by cooking meats at high temperatures and are known to cause inflammation.

What foods can we eat to reduce inflammation?

1. Berries
Berries contain high amounts of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory effects.

2. Eating the rainbow of vegetables
Vegetables contain different pigments, or phytonutrients, which give them their colour. Focusing on eating a variety of colours will increase your intake of anti-inflammatory compounds. Enjoy red, yellow, orange, green, purple, white and brown veggies weekly.

3. Oily fish
Salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies are all great examples of oily fish. They are a great source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.

4. Avocados
Avocados are packed with healthy monounsaturated fats. They also contain anti-inflammatory carotenoids and tocopherols.

5. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra Virgin Olive oil is one of the healthiest fats you can eat. It’s rich in monounsaturated fats and a staple in the Mediterranean diet, which we know has a numerous health benefits.

6. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is delicious and also rich in flavanols, some very powerful antioxidants!

7. Turmeric
Turmeric has gained a lot of attention in the recent years due to its component, curcumin, a very powerful anti-inflammatory. To make sure you get the best effect out of turmeric, remember to heat it and add some black pepper!

8. Green tea
Tea has antioxidants called catechins, which reduce inflammation. Green tea contains EGCG, the most powerful type of catechin.

Federica is a clinical nutritionist available at the Bondi Junction and Kingsford location. She understands nutrition can be confusing and is passionate about guiding people through the confusing noise.

Pahwa R, Goyal A, Bansal P, et al. Chronic Inflammation. [Updated 2021 Sep 28]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:

Minihane AM, Vinoy S, Russell WR, et al. Low-grade inflammation, diet composition and health: current research evidence and its translation. Br J Nutr. 2015;114(7):999-1012. doi:10.1017/S0007114515002093

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