In terms of your health, inflammation can play both a beneficial and detrimental role. When you sustain an injury or contract an infection, your body sends signals to your immune system to dispatch white blood cells to the affected areas in order to heal the injury or combat the infection.
Following the resolution of the injury or infection, the inflammation typically subsides as well. However, there are instances in which the immune system remains active beyond the “crisis” period.
As time progresses, this can result in damage to healthy cells and organs, leading to persistent pain in muscles, tissues, and joints. Moreover, chronic inflammation can heighten the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, specific types of cancer, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Your diet can support your immune system by regulating its activity appropriately. Conversely, a poor diet can disturb the immune system, causing it to behave abnormally and contributing to chronic low-grade inflammation.
Research has discovered that an unhealthy diet can trigger an immune system response akin to that of a bacterial infection. The exact way in which a healthy diet boosts the immune system remains unclear, although there is some indication that a deficiency in specific micronutrients such as zinc, selenium, iron, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E can impede immune function.
Scientific evidence supports the idea that polyphenols, a group of antioxidants, can help alleviate and prevent painful flare-ups by reducing inflammation. The Mediterranean diet’s staples, including dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole fruits (especially berries), are high in polyphenols.
“Additionally, these foods are often abundant in the micronutrients necessary for optimal immune system function.” Furthermore, some studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids, present in olive oil, flaxseed oil, and fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, may help regulate inflammation.
The most effective dietary strategy for reducing chronic inflammation and supporting the immune system involves eliminating inflammatory foods and increasing the consumption of anti-inflammatory foods.
Processed junk food with little nutritional value, such as soda and foods containing high-fructose corn syrup, as well as processed meats and refined carbohydrates like white bread and pasta, are among the harmful foods that should be eliminated for both health and inflammation-related reasons.
It is advised against concentrating on a few favorite anti-inflammatory foods, as this approach may overlook essential immune system nutrients. Instead, aim for variety and break down regular meals into the following:
- Half of your plate should consist of whole grains like whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and whole-grain pasta, combined with healthy proteins like fish, poultry, beans, and nuts.
- The other half of your plate should consist mainly of vegetables with some fruit.
- Choose healthy oils like olive and canola oil instead of butter or other flavorings.
- It’s essential to make long-term changes for your diet to work for you.
Source: Harvard health