Nutritionist Kaye Osborne shares five simple dietary swaps to help reduce chronic inflammation…
Whenever we suffer an injury, such as a cut to our skin or an infection, our amazing body begins the job of making us better and creating inflammation is one part of that process. This is all well and good when the inflammation lasts only a matter of hours or days. However, when we’re exposed to inflammation for a long time, the impact on the body is quite the opposite and is, in fact, very detrimental to our health and wellbeing. This prolonged inflammation is known as chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation prevents our body’s tissues from properly repairing, as well as having a detrimental effect on the healthy cells in our arteries, vital organs, joints and many other parts of the body. Shockingly, this prolonged, chronic inflammation is directly linked to most long-term health conditions, such as heart disease, autoimmune conditions and cancers.
So why does out body’s immune system sometimes go into overdrive, causing chronic inflammation and destruction? It may not come as a surprise to hear that chronic inflammation is directly linked to both our nutrition and our lifestyle choices. The obvious culprits for increasing inflammation are smoking, alcohol and inflammatory foods, especially sugar and refined carbohydrates. In addition, a lack of activity, high stress levels and interrupted sleep patterns also contribute to an individual’s overall inflammatory burden.
A Mediterranean diet is probably the most researched anti-inflammatory diet and one that most people could certainly benefit from adopting. Mainly plant-based, although not exclusively so, the Mediterranean diet has been extensively studied and shown to protect against many chronic health conditions including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and some cancers.
So, what makes the Mediterranean diet the gold standard for anti-inflammatory eating? The foundations of a Mediterranean diet are vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, seeds legumes, olive oil and whole grains. There’s also a moderate amount of dairy, poultry, fish, seafood and eggs. Red meat and sweets, on the other hand, are eaten much more rarely.
I’ve created five simple swaps to help you incorporate the benefits of the Mediterranean diet into your everyday cooking! These small changes will go some way to help reduce any chronic inflammation you may be experiencing.
- Stop using seed oils, such as sunflower oil, and start using extra virgin olive oil in your cooking
Olive oil contains around 75 percent oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fatty acid known for its anti-inflammatory properties. As well as this, olive oil contains oleocanthal, an antioxidant that works at reducing inflammation in a similar way to the anti-inflammatory drug Ibuprofen. Isn’t it incredible to think that what you eat can be as effective at reducing inflammation as medication, and, of course, without any of the possible side effects associated with some medication. What could be better!
- Swap red meat for oily fish two or three times each week
Oily fish are rich in the essential omega-3 fatty acids; this anti-inflammatory fat cleverly reduces the production of molecules and other substances in the body, which are responsible for increasing inflammation. If you don’t eat oily fish, omega-3 can be found in chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds and walnuts. Alternatively, vegan omega-3 supplements derived from algae are now readily available.
- Limit refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta, and eat more fibre-rich vegetables, fruit and legumes
Vegetables are packed full of both soluble and insoluble fibre. It’s when these vegetable fibres find their way to the large intestine that the magic begins! The bacteria in your gut, known as the gut microbiome, break down and ferments fibre, and in doing so produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These play a number of vital roles in the body and are responsible for maintaining good health. One specific role is that SCFAs inhibit chronic inflammation in the body. Make sure you include fibre in each of your meals and aim for a total daily intake of 30g.
- Switch artificial flavours and colourings for natural herbs and spices
There are certain herbs and spices that are specifically renowned for their anti-inflammatory properties, whereas processed artificial flavours and colours will further add inflammation. Garlic, ginger and turmeric are all fabulously anti-inflammatory so try using them regularly in your cooking.
- Reduce processed food intake and start cooking meals from scratch
The combination of sugar, inflammatory fats, refined carbohydrates, additives and preservatives make processed food particularly inflammatory. Where possible, try cooking from scratch. It really doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or time consuming. A simple vegetable omelette would be a lot better for you than a pizza, for example.
I hope you find these simple swaps helpful – even small changes can make a world of difference!
About Kaye Osborne
Kaye Osborne is a registered nurse and nutritional therapist with over 35 years clinical experience under her belt!
Specialising in gut health, weight loss, metabolic and auto-immune conditions, Kaye runs a private practice near Winchester in Hampshire.