Foods and inflammation: which cause it and which fight it

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Year after year the importance of correct nutrition in order to maintain good health is becoming more obvious. During the last decade we’ve seen a special interest in the fact that food can both cause and fight inflammation. Taking into account that the vast majority of chronic diseases are caused by excessive inflammation it could be wise to adapt our diet so our body can benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of certain food items. In this article we’ll try to understand which foods fight inflammation and we’ll evaluate other strategies that will help us fighting inflammation the natural way.

In order to evaluate different food categories we’ll use this scale:

Indispensable

Very beneficial

Beneficial

Neutral

Harmful

Very harmful

Jeopardizes your health

Vegetables: What new can be said about vegetables…? They provide vitamins, minerals, water and fiber, both soluble and insoluble. They’re, in our opinion, the only food item that must be consumed frequently. Colorful veggies like peppers and tomatoes are rich in antioxidants and should be consumed frequently. Also, one should adapt vegetable consumption to personal needs. Therefore, if you have trouble with nightshades (eggplant, tomato, peppers and others) you can consume more spinach or lettuce instead. If you have bowel problems and can’t tolerate raw veggies, steaming or juicing may be a good idea. In any case, veggies are indispensable for our health.

Fruit: Very rich in minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and sugars. If they don’t give you any problems, consuming 5 or 6 pieces per day should be no problem, even more if you’re doing plenty of physical activity. Make sure you consume fruit between main meals and not after them, as fruit may produce fermentation in your bowel. Some arthritic sufferers may have problems with citrus fruits. If you have any bowel issues, make sure you consume fruit with a correct glucose/fructose ratio. On the other hand, if you’re insulin resistant make sure you don’t consume more than 15-20 grams of fructose per day in order to avoid non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In summary, fruit is very beneficious for humans.

Fish: It’s, for sure, the healthiest source of animal protein together with eggs. Generally fish contains huge amount of Omega 3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. On the other hand, fish and seafood contain important amounts of indispensable minerals such as iodine and selenium. Try to consume small fish such as anchovies, sardines or mackerel combined with wild salmon and some seafood. Try to avoid bigger fish such as tuna or swordfish, as these contain higher amounts of toxic metals (like mercury). Also avoid fish with suspicious origins such as the ones that come from Southeast Asia, which are frequently full of all kinds of chemicals (from industry and heavy farming). Our verdict: consuming fish is great for human health, as long as you make sure it’s not contaminated.

Eggs: After human breast milk, the most complete food out there. A free range egg contains huge amounts of vitamin A, D, minerals, healthy fats and cholesterol, which is very important for many body functions. Eggs are probably the food in which there’s the biggest difference between a conventionally produced product and an organic one. Believe us when we say that, in this case, it’s worth spending more money on a much better product. Our verdict: consume as many eggs as you want, preferably high-quality eggs. And keep calm, eggs won’t give you a stroke or “bad” cholesterol. Apart from allergic reactions, eggs are very beneficious for human health.

Meat: Two years ago the World Health Organization told us that red meat caused cancer. This was deduced from studies where people who ate more read meat also tended to consume more fast food, sugar, smoke, exercise less and drink more alcohol. Correlation doesn’t mean causation and we don’t believe in these results. Apart from speculations, there’s data that supports that processed meats is bad for human health (you don’t need to be a genius to realise that sausages that contain glutamate and sugar cannot be great for you). It also should be noted that people with arthritis may have problems with red meat due to it’s content in arachidonic acid. Finally, always choose free range organic meat as it doesn’t contain antibiotics nor hormones. Still, fish is a healthier protein source. Due to all of this, we classify meat as neutral for human health.

Nuts: Nuts have phytic acid, which can complicate the absortion of nutrients. On the other hand, they contains lectins that damage the intestinal barrier. It also should be noted that most nuts contain huge amount of Omega 6 fatty acids which, together with a poor diet may contribute to an increase in inflammation. It’s possible to reduce the content of phytic acid by soaking the nuts for 24 hours. Still, nuts may cause problems for people with intestinal disorders. Because of all this, we consider nuts as neutral for human health.

Dairy: A very controversial group. For more than 50 years we’ve been told that we must consume dairy in order to get more calcium. It should be said that, as an example, other much healthier food choices like sardines or spinach have bigger amounts of calcium than dairy. Dairy allergy is very common nowadays, as human beings haven’t really consumed dairy throughout their evolutionary history. There are two typical culprits of problems caused by dairy: lactose and casein. Lactose is the sugar that can be poorly absorbed, causing bloating, eczema and diarrheas. Casein is a  protein that can cause an inflammatory cascade and an increase in intestinal permeability in predisposed subjects. In our opinion, dairy products with low lactose and casein amounts like butter, kefir or cream can still be healthy. On the other hand, milk and yoghurts can’t really be called healthy as they are more harmful than beneficious. As for now, dairy products should be considered harmful.

Legumes: Same as nuts. They contain lectins and phytic acid, worsening digestion and difficulting mineral absortion. Legumes aren’t as bad as cereals but they also don’t provide anything that can’t be found in other foods. We don’t recommend regular legume consumption but, if you still want to get some in your diet, try soaking them in water for 24 hours before cooking in order to reduce the antinutrient content. Remember that soy (with its phytoestrogens) and peanuts (with alphatoxins) belong to this group and should also be also avoided. The problem with legumes is the same as with white rice: they substitute other healthier food choices in your plate therefore we consider legumes as harmful for your health.

Grains: The idea that a group of food that is very harmful and hasn’t been consumed during the vast majority of the human existence is now the basis of the food pyramid is ironic and worrying at the same time. Grains have nothing (especially those modified modern grains) that can’t be found in meat, eggs, fish or vegetables. The promotion of grain consumption is definitely not good for public health.

But, why are grains so harmful?

  • They contain high doses of phytates that inhibit the absortion of minerals.
  • Ever increasing amounts of gluten and other proinflammatory proteins: gluten is the main protein in wheat. Other types of grains have also dangerous proteins, for example corn has prolamins that produce an immune reponse similar to gluten. The successive selection and breeding of grains has left us with up to 80% of gluten content in wheat. Much has been written about gluten, but the fact is that removing it from the diet causes spectacular results in many cases.
  • They contain lectins: small particles that accumulate in our body, causing an increase in intestinal permeability.

It’s true that we cannot put white rice in the same group as all the other grains. Its husk has been removed along with the antinutrients (lectins and proteins) leaving us with a good source of pure glucose that can be sporadically used by athletes as a good source of carbohydrates. Take care as rice can substitute foods that are far more nutritive.

It’s ridiculous that a food group that hasn’t been consumed for 97% of human existence on this planet is now the basis of human nutrition. Its benefits (carbohydrates, proteins and some minerals) can’t justify the fact that grains are far more harmful than most people believe. It’s true that grains are probably the best source of nutrition for big populations in catastrophes and exceptional periods, it’s no coincidence they are cheap and easy to preserve. Food industry keeps saying that we can’t feed all human beings in the world without resorting to grains, something that is quite ironic taking into account that only the food that is thrown (yes, dumped, not given away to the poor) away in the EU every year would be enough to feed the entire world. Our veredict about grains: very harmful.

Sugar, vegetable oils and processed food: Without any doubt these are the culprits of the chronic disease epidemic the world is suffering in this century. Added sugar (no matter whether it’s cane or white) produces insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, both associated with type 2 diabetes and obesity. Vegetable oils such as palm, sunflower and soy are very responsible for the thousands of deaths caused by strokes and hypertension: they lower the “good” cholesterol, and increase both the LDL and triglycerides. Processed food combines sugar and vegetable oils therefore its consumption produces chronic inflammation and even death. For all these reasons, processed food, sugar and vegetable oils should never be consumed and their advertising is definitely jeopardizing public health.

Summary of our article:

Less inflammation

Vegetables
Fruit
Fish
Eggs
Grass fed meat and white rice
Nuts and some dairy products
Legumes
Dairy 
Grains and processed meat
Sugar, vegetable oils and processed food

More inflammation

 

Other strategies that can help us reducing inflammation in our body:

  • Sleep at least 8 hours per day.
  • Do as much exercise as you can, combining moderate intensity cardio and strength. Don’t overdo yourself.
  • Sunbathe at least 15 minutes per day and supplement with moderate doses of high quality vitamin D.
  • Quite a few natural herbs are effective for fighting inflammation. Our favourite natural herbs are Boswellia, Curcumin, Ginger and Omega 3. For specific arthritic conditions you can use Devil’s Claw, which is considered as effective as conventional NSAIDS.
  • Correct your nutritional deficiencies, being Zinc and Magnesium the most common ones.

Take a look at our article about the best natural anti-inflammatories:

 

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