Old wisdom says that food is your best medicine – and science is confirming that every day.
While there’s no conclusive evidence to support one way of eating over another, we do know which foods tend to reduce inflammation – and the joint problems they cause – and which can increase it.
The lists won’t surprise you – on the ‘good’ side, are fresh, unprocessed fruit, vegetables, proteins and grains. On the ‘bad’ side are fried, processed, salted or sweetened foods.
Many common diets already follow anti-inflammatory principles – the Mediterranean diet is a good example.
If following a prescribe diet would make things easier for you, look for one that peddles moderation – steer clear of any diets that ask you to cut out whole food groups (like fat or carbohydrates) or buy processed, packaged food.
A wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables of all kinds should feature heavily in an anti-inflammatory diet – some nutritionists recommend that at least half your plate at every meal should be vegetables.
In short, all produce is good produce, but you’ll notice the list below particularly mentions fruit and veggies that are highly coloured – darker colours tend to indicate that the food is more nutritious, and packs a more powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory punch.
You’ll also notice that the ‘good’ list makes no mention of eggs, dairy, or meat other than fish – some research suggests that a vegan, vegetarian or pescatarian diet could be beneficial for inflammation.
Another study supports this by showing that animal products increase systemic inflammation.
Here’s what to eat more of, to reduce inflammation and improve the health of your joints and connective tissue:
- Dark leafy greens, like kale, silverbeet or spinach
- Dark berries like dark red grapes, blueberries, blackberries, and cherries
- Fresh, nutrition-dense veggies like garlic, onions, green beans, broccoli and cauliflower
- Legumes (pulses) like peas, beans and lentils
- Green tea
- Small portions of whole grains such as oatmeal, barley, quinoa and brown rice
- Healthy fats from fresh avocado, whole coconuts, seeds, nuts and olives
- Small amounts of extra virgin olive oil
- Cold water fish and shellfish, including green-lipped mussels, wild salmon and sardines
- Cacao, and small amounts of dark chocolate
- Freshly ground spices and herbs, especially ginger, turmeric and cinnamon
The ‘avoid’ foods are those old party favourites we could all do with less of:
- Processed meats
- High-sugar foods like fizzy drinks, flavoured yoghurts, cookies, lollies, ice cream and cake
- Fried food like hot chips and donuts
- Refined grains including white rice, white bread and pasta
- Seed and vegetable oils like soybean, canola and palm
- Processed foods