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Food and Inflammation


Doctors have learned that one of the best ways to lower inflammation is not in your medicine cabinet, but in your refrigerator.

Your immune system becomes activated when your body recognizes anything that is foreign—such as an invading microbe, plant pollen, or chemical. This often triggers a process called inflammation. Intermittent bouts of inflammation directed at truly threatening invaders protect your health. However, sometimes inflammation persists, day in and day out, even when you are not threatened by a foreign invader. That is when inflammation can become your enemy. Many major diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer's—have been linked to chronic inflammation.

If you are not already doing so, start choosing the right foods - whole foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables rather than processed foods. Shop the perimeter of your grocery where you’ll find whole fresh foods and stay clear of the center aisles where all the processed foods are waiting to jump into your shopping cart. Here are a couple of lists that help my family:

Foods that inflame

Try to avoid or limit these foods as much as possible:

refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries

French fries and other fried foods

soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages

red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat

(hot dogs, sausage)

margarine, shortening and lard

Foods that combat inflammation

Include plenty of these anti-inflammatory foods

in your diet:


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

In addition to lowering inflammation, a more natural, less processed diet can have noticeable benefits to your physical and emotional health.

Portions reprinted from Harvard Health Publishing

Updated: August 13, 2017

Published: June 2014