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By Andrea Drever

Content and Editorial Director


First of all, what exactly is inflammation?  We hear that word bandied about quite a bit, but many of us aren’t sure exactly what it is.

Simply put, inflammation is the body's natural response in protecting itself against harm. And that, of course, can be a good thing. Like when you bang your knee or cut your finger. Your immune system dispatches an army of white blood cells to surround and protect the area, creating visible redness and swelling. Something similar happens when you have an infection like the flu or pneumonia. So in these instances, inflammation is essential. Without it, injuries could fester and simple infections could become deadly.

But what happens when your body's immune system triggers inflammation when there are no invaders to fight off? Since there’s nothing to heal, the immune system cells that normally protect us instead begin to destroy healthy arteries, organs and joints.

Left unchecked, inflammation can contribute to chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, arthritis, heart disease, blood vessel disorders, cancer and other conditions.

The good news is, you can control, and even reverse, inflammation through a healthful anti-inflammatory lifestyle and diet. If you lose weight, lower stress levels and exercise regularly, you can reduce unwanted inflammation. And what you eat can play a huge role as well. Because one of the most powerful tools used to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store.

Here’s how to reduce inflammation by changing up the food you eat.

Load up on Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Tomatoes

Olive oil

Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards

Nuts like almonds and walnuts

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines

Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges

Cut Back or Eliminate Inflammatory Foods

Fried foods

Processed meats

Red meat

Table sugar

High-fructose corn syrup

Refined carbs

Margarine

Sodas

Excessive alcohol

If you're looking for an eating plan that closely follows the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating, consider the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, veggies, nuts, fish and healthy oils. By changing up your diet, you can fight inflammation through food, not pharmaceuticals.

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