How Foods Could Help You Reduce Stress on Your Body
Inflammation, what is it and how does it affect our bodies overall health and potential risk of developing chronic diseases? Inflammation is our body’s natural response to acute injury. While some inflammation is normal, chronic inflammation can lead to an increased risk of chronic diseases, as research shows, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Inflammation may be hard to identify, so it is important to know your body. There are physical signs of inflammation that include bloating or abdominal distention, fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, puffiness or swelling in feet and hands. Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods as a way to help reduce the stress your body may be experiencing can lead to overall improvement in the way you feel!
Lifestyle modifications, including getting enough sleep, reducing stress, incorporating physical activity, and dietary changes all contribute to lowering inflammation. Focusing on foods themselves, there are many that can provide relieving effects. They are often also considered to be “nutrient dense” foods. Nutrient dense foods incorporate a lot of essential nutrition in a small serving, making them powerful foods. For example, foods rich in omega-3s like fatty fish and nuts/seeds, complex carbohydrates that contain fiber, lean proteins, and whole fruits and vegetables are all considered nutrient dense and help to lower inflammation. On the other hand, processed, pre-packaged foods high in sugar or fat, can be considered triggers of inflammation.
It is important to remember that the term “anti-inflammatory diet” refers to an overall style of eating, and not necessarily a “diet” itself.
Start by evaluating your current nutritional habits. Begin to eliminate the number of processed foods that might be in your diet. Those include pre-packaged snack foods (high in sugar, salt, and fat), processed meats and cheeses, and sugary beverages. Remember to check the ingredient lists on snack foods like granola bars or trail mix to ensure they do not have any hidden sugars or additives (i.e., high fructose corn syrup).
Focus on whole foods! Whole foods are not modified in any way. They only contain their natural ingredients. Choose whole fruits and vegetables such as berries, apples, broccoli, and asparagus. Research has shown that eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer. This may be related to the anti-inflammatory effects of the antioxidants they contain. Broccoli is rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that decreases inflammation by reducing your levels of cytokines. Other great whole foods include chicken and turkey breast, fish such as salmon and tuna, legumes, nuts and seeds are all considered whole foods.
Pre-packaged foods can also make the list. Those that are made up of whole foods, such as hummus and pasta sauce, that contain minimal ingredients, are also great at fighting inflammation. Remember to check the ingredient list! Choosing breads and pastas that are minimally processed and made with whole grains that can provide a great source of fiber, at least 3 gm or more per serving, and further help to reduce inflammation.
Remember to give yourself time to implement these changes and see results. Pay attention to the different ways your body may respond to help you identify your success and overall health transition. Some signs that your body is experiencing reduced inflammation can include clearer skin, decreased swelling, fewer gastrointestinal problems, less bloating, and even weight loss. Focus on making small changes over time that can add up to sustainable habits long-term!