Chronic inflammation in the body can lead to issues like chronic pain, lupus, or other age-related illnesses. Beyond exercise and other healthy habits, incorporating anti-inflammatory recipes into your diet can help you manage, prevent, or reverse the effects of inflammation. We’ve gathered some of our favorite anti-inflammatory dinner recipes here. Make sure to hit the comments to share your favorites too!
Why is managing inflammation so important?
Inflammation in response to an injury can protect your body. Your body sends blood to the site of injury, creating swelling that protects from further injury. In due course and with treatment, this swelling will subside as the injury heals, and the body goes back to functioning as normal.
Chronic inflammation, however, has a much different effect on your body. With chronic inflammation, the body continues to react as if there is an injury present. When the body is taxed for one reason or another, cells send distress signals (and inflammatory response) until the cause is removed. If the cause is not removed (i.e., injury healed) then cells continue to alert the immune system that there is trouble.
With chronic inflammation, your body never gets a chance to rest and re-set. The immune system is constantly on guard, fighting, and the consequences of this can be dire.
Some of these consequences include:
- Autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
- Cardiovascular disease
- Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders
- Age-related illness
- Chronic pain
The good news is that inflammation and its damage is largely reversible with some simple changes. An anti-inflammatory diet, backed by these yummy anti-inflammatory dinner recipes or these anti-inflammatory smoothies from an earlier post, is a great place to start. Together, they can combat the consequences of inflammation in the body.
What is an anti-inflammatory diet?
An anti-inflammatory diet follows some simple principles:
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables
- Minimize “bad” fats (saturated and trans fats)
- Include omega-3 fatty acids
- Sharply decrease or eliminate refined flours and sugars
- Increase consumption of whole grains
- Avoid processed foods
- Add spice to combat inflammation
This diet is very similar to a Mediterranean diet that features plenty of olive oil, wild-caught seafood, and very few refined sugars and flours. Dr. Andrew Weil is one of the modern-day proponents of the anti-inflammatory diet. In the early 1970s, Dr. Weil wrote a book called The Natural Mind. This book began his life-long exploration into integrated medicine and natural ways of helping the body to heal itself.
Today, Dr. Weil is director of the Center for Integrative Medicine of the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona. His focus is on holistic care for not only optimal health but also to treat disease. To that end, Dr. Weil created an anti-inflammatory diet food pyramid.
This food pyramid is similar to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) food pyramid (replaced with a plate in 2011) but with some very fundamental differences. It focuses on whole foods versus derivatives. For example, whole fruit instead of fruit juice, whole grains vs. refined grains, and full fat vs. low fat foods. There are reasons for this. Whole grains—like brown rice and whole wheat flour— are infinitely better for the bo