Berries and watermelon in summer, kale and beets in winter. The recipe for anti-inflammatory foods to savor can change with the seasons.
Your heart, brain, and even your joints can benefit from a regular diet of these nutritious foods, and scientists believe their effects on inflammation may be one reason why.
Inflammation: How It Helps and Harms the Body
Inflammation is part of your body’s healing mechanism – the reason your knee swelled and turned red when you injured it. But sometimes this inflammatory repair process can go awry, take too long, and harm rather than help. When the inflammation is caused by a persistent problem, it can contribute to health problems. Over time, inflammation resulting from chronic stress, obesity, or an autoimmune disease can potentially trigger conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, or cancer. It can also harm the brain. Researchers have found a link between higher levels of inflammation inside the brain and a higher risk of cognitive decline and impairment. Regularly adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet can help stop this process.
Three diets that emphasize anti-inflammatory regimens
Research has not specifically looked at the anti-inflammatory benefits of consuming seasonal foods. “But it’s generally accepted that eating what’s in season is likely to be fresher and there are obviously other benefits, including those for the environment,” says Natalie McCormick, medical researcher at Harvard Medical. School. Eating foods that are in season can also help your grocery bill.
When it comes to anti-inflammatory foods, the goal should be to incorporate as much of them as possible into your overall diet. “Our focus is now on eating habits, because it seems that interactions between foods and their combinations have a greater effect than individual foods,” says McCormick.
Three diets in particular, she says, contain the right mix of elements: the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH Diet, and the Healthy Eating Alternative Index. These diets are similar in that they focus on foods that are also known to be anti-inflammatory, such as colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and healthy fats such as oil. olive and nut butters. But just as important, these diets also eliminate foods – such as highly processed snacks, red meat, and sugary drinks – that can increase the levels of inflammatory markers in the body, including a substance called C-reactive protein.
Mixing and matching different foods from these diets can help you tailor an anti-inflammatory approach that suits your personal taste, as can choosing the freshest seasonal offerings. Whole grains, legumes, and heart-healthy oils can be staples all year round, but mix and match your fruits and vegetables for more variety. Below are some great options per season.
Winter anti-inflammatory superstars
During the cold winter months, think green. Many green leafy vegetables are the stars of this season, including kale, collard greens, and Swiss chard. Root vegetables like beets are another great and hardy option for the winter. Reach for the sweet potatoes and turnips. Other options to try are kiwis, Brussels sprouts, lemons, oranges, and pineapples.
Spring anti-inflammatory superstars
When the spring months arrive, look for asparagus, apricots, avocados, rhubarb, carrots, mushrooms and celery, as well as some fresh herbs.
Anti-inflammatory summer superstars
Summer is the prime time for many types of products, and you will have plenty of choices. Berries are a great anti-inflammatory option. Try different varieties of blueberries, blackberries and strawberries. Go local with puppet berries, blueberries, gooseberries and cloud berries, which grow in different parts of the United States. Also reach for cherries, eggplants, zucchini, watermelon, green beans, honeydew melon, okra, peaches and plums.
Fall anti-inflammatory superstars
Nothing says fall like a crunchy, crisp apple. But there are also a host of other anti-inflammatory foods to try, such as cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, winter squash, parsnips, peas, ginger, and all types of lettuce. .
Whenever possible, when choosing an anti-inflammatory food, try to substitute it for a less healthy option. For example, swap a muffin for a fresh fruit salad or plate of fries for a baked sweet potato. Making small changes in your diet can provide big health benefits over time.
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