Inflammation is linked to just about every major health condition and is believed to play a role in triggering and advancing a wide variety of diseases. Conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, cancer, autoimmune diseases, digestive disorders, diabetes and obesity are marked by systemic, low grade inflammation as well as immune system dysfunction. These chronic inflammatory conditions have been shown to significantly increase one’s susceptibility and mortality from infections such as COVID-19.
Sleep, exercise, reducing toxin load, and stress modification can be powerful modifiers of chronic inflammation. Yet, perhaps the most important personal behavior choice that can impact your health is your diet. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, has been shown to be very protective against common diseases, whereas eating a pro-inflammatory diet or Western diet has been shown to negatively impact many aspects of health and significantly increase disease risk.
The Mediterranean diet is an eating style that is inspired by the traditional dietary pattern of some of the countries of the Mediterranean basin. It includes eating an abundance of plant foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and olive oil), herbs and spices, as well as a frequent and moderate intake of fermented dairy products, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, wine, and a low consumption of red meat and processed meats. This balanced eating approach is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, beneficial plant compounds, and healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Studies that have evaluated the effects of a Mediterranean eating style have consistently shown it to be protective against several diseases associated with chronic low-grade inflammation such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis, metabolic syndrome and cognition disorders. And, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to preserve DNA telomere length, which is associated with a reduction is age-related diseases.
If you are looking for some inspiration, here are a few delicious and healthy recipes for you to enjoy – and many, many more recipes are available for you to explore on our blog, as well!
- Quinoa Chickpea and Kale Salad
- Veggie and Lentil Salad
- Egg Toast with Kale and Avocado
- Blueberry Pomegranate Chia Pudding
- Chickpea and Mango Wraps
The Western diet – which includes a high consumption of processed foods such as refined grains, cured and red meats, desserts and sweets, and deep-fried foods – is a major driver of chronic inflammation. This dietary pattern is associated with an increase in hyperglycemia, type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, as well as other serious health conditions. Foods that are high in sugar, poor quality fats, and chemical additives can cause unhealthy changes in the microbiome and lead to a disruption of the gut-brain integrity, which induces inflammation, immune reactivity, as well as metabolic and epigenetic reprogramming.
Limiting your intake of foods that cause inflammation and incorporating a variety of nutritious, whole foods can transform your health. Even small and simple food swaps or alternatives can make a big impact. For example, the next time you are craving something salty, opt for nuts. When you want a sweet beverage, try sparkling water. Snack on a piece of whole fruit rather than drinking fruit juice. Enjoy sweet potato wedges over white potatoes and choose brown rice over white rice. And, make a homemade salad dressing rather than using a store-bought dressing.
If you would like more personalized guidance and support in making healthy dietary changes, Village Green’s nutrition experts are here to help. Book a consult today!
Photo from here, with thanks.