Inflammation doesn’t just affect the joints and cause arthritis; it can occur anywhere along the miles of blood vessels in the body. In fact, recent research shows that chronic inflammation of the blood vessels is an important factor in aging and age-related diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. A major contributor to that inflammation is the Standard American Diet (SAD).
That means you can begin to fight inflammation right now by making some dietary changes. You can also learn to what extent your blood vessels are affected by inflammation by asking your doctor to order a C-reactive protein test. The higher your value on this simple blood test, the greater your level of inflammation and your risk for these diseases.
You can slow down the aging process and reduce your risk for disease when you choose foods that fight, reduce, or prevent inflammation. Here are some tips.
Be sugar smart. Foods that raise blood glucose levels also promote inflammation. Choose complex carbohydrate foods—whole grains, beans, lentils, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds— and avoid or limit your intake of sugar and sugary foods, highly processed cereals and baked goods, white rice, white potatoes, white bread, and high fructose corn syrup (found in many processed foods).
Watch your protein. A high-protein diet can boost blood vessel inflammation, as high as 62% according to one study, and worsen coronary artery disease as well. Keep your protein intake to about 20 percent of your total caloric intake per day.
Eat cold-water fatty fish. Fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, and tuna contain a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which suppress the substances that cause inflammation in the body. Include these fish two or three times a week in your diet.
Include powerhouse anti-inflammatory foods daily. Many foods have been identified as possessing anti-inflammatory powers. Make sure to include as many of them as you can in your daily diet. They are as follows: members of the Allium family—onions, garlic (which also helps reduce cholesterol and blood pressure), chives, shallots; barley; beans and lentils; buckwheat; blueberries; yogurt and kefir (a fermented milk beverage); curry powder; acai fruit.
Turn down the heat. Foods that are prepared using high cooking temperatures contain advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, which trigger inflammation. When preparing meats, poultry, fish, and vegetables, healthy cooking techniques include steaming, poaching, boiling, slow-cooking (in a crockpot), and stir-frying. Limit the amounts of food that you fry, broil, grill, or bake.