The words inflammatory and anti-inflammatory are thrown out there a lot, especially in the nutrition world.
“Those foods are pro-inflammatory … stay away!”
“These foods are anti-inflammatory … eat more of them!”
When we talk about inflammation, we can be talking about two different things — acute inflammation or low-grade, chronic inflammation.
What is inflammation?
In the nutrition realm, we are focusing on decreasing low-grade, chronic inflammation in the body.
Acute inflammation is your body’s immune system kicking into high gear to protect you!
Ever stub your toe? Cut your finger? Get a wooden sliver?
The resulting redness, swelling, throbbing, heat and pain are a result of the acute inflammatory response and it’s actually a GREAT thing. It means that your immune system is doing its job.
Once the trigger that started the inflammatory process is removed, your immune system backs off and everything returns back to the status quo.
Low-Grade, Chronic Inflammation
As with anything, you can have too much of a good thing.
When our immune system continues to ramp up and maintain inflammation in the body without any obvious cause, it can wreak havoc and cause mayhem! These once valuable inflammatory reactions in the body turn destructive and can actually damage our cells and prevent our body from functioning like it should.
Unlike acute inflammation, low-grade inflammation is good at flying under the radar, it’s “silent”, and if left uncontrolled for too long (chronic) it usually manifests itself as disease.
Low-grade inflammation has been linked to many chronic diseases — heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, eczema and cancer.
What fuels low-grade inflammation?
A diet that is primarily made of up of heavily processed foods with low nutritional value. Foods that are low in fibre, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, omega-3 fats (anti-inflammatory) and high in omega-6 fats (pro-inflammatory), trans fats and processed sugar. Some examples of omega-6 fats include soybean oil, corn oil and sunflower oil.
AKA, the Standard American Diet (SAD).
What foods help fight inflammation?
Nutrient dense plant foods can help combat low-grade inflammation in the body, hence why plant-based diets are associated with decreased risk of chronic disease!
Plant foods, including herbs and spices, are the sole sources of special vitamins, minerals, fibre and polyphenols with anti-inflammatory activity.