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Brandy Strub, MS, RD/LD, Dietitian at Veterans Memorial Hospital

Nutrition for Inflammation

Inflammation is a normal response to injury in the body. It may be acute and happen after an infection or injury, and you may see swelling, redness, and feel warmth, or it may be chronic. Chronic inflammation can affect different tissues and organs of the body, may not always be obvious, and can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and cognitive decline.

The American diet is high in refined grains, sugar, sodium, processed meats, high-fat dairy, food additives (e.g., emulsifiers and sweeteners), saturated fat, and excessive alcohol, all of which are thought to promote inflammation.

There are a variety of different anti-inflammatory diets (e.g., Mediterranean Diet, DASH diet, etc.) and specific foods (eg., dark chocolate, red wine, green tea, turmeric and ginger) being promoted, but researchers are still trying to figure out exactly how what we eat may affect inflammation. What we do know for sure is that adopting a healthier eating style, which incorporates more fruits, veggies, whole grains, and healthier fats may help protect against inflammation. Therefore, try to:

  1. Make ½ of your plate fruits and veggies and choose a variety of bright colors,
  2. Watch portion sizes of meats (3oz=size of deck of cards or 4-5oz for fish) and choose leaner sources such as fish, skinless chicken or turkey, legumes (e.g., beans, peas, lentils), low fat dairy products, nuts/nut butters, seeds, lean cuts of beef or pork (e.g., loins),
  3. Eat more monounsaturated fats such as olive, safflower, sunflower, canola, peanut and avocado oils, and less saturated fats like full fat dairy, butter, red meats, processed and fried foods,
  4. Increase omega 3 rich foods such as fish, salmon, walnuts, flaxseed, chia and hemp seeds,
  5. Choose whole grains such as multigrain breads, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, bran cereals, etc.,
  6. Season foods with herbs and spices vs. salt,
  7. Limit added sugars,
  8. Drink more plain water, coffee or unsweetened tea and drink alcohol in moderation (1 drink/day for women, 2 drinks/day for men).

Adopting a healthier eating style is just one of the things that you can do to help decrease inflammation. Getting adequate sleep (~ 7-8 hours/night), at least 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days/week and maintaining a healthy weight can also help.

For more information, please contact Brandy Strub, Dietitian at Veterans Memorial Hospital at 563-568-3411.