Certain foods are harmful to long-term health because they promote inflammation. These foods can favor the development of a good number of diseases.
Chronic or persistent inflammation favors a good number of diseases, such as cancer, heart disorders, diabetes, arthritis, depression or Alzheimer’s. The best way to prevent these problems is to follow an anti-inflammatory diet, according to Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
THE MOST INFLAMMATORY FOODS
“Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages can have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Hu. In contrast, other foods promote inflammation:
- Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, and pastries.
- French fries and other fried foods.
- Sodas and other sugary drinks.
- Red meat (hamburgers, steaks), processed meat (sausages, etc.) and organ meats.
- Margarines and lard.
Not surprisingly, the same foods that promote inflammation are linked to an increased risk of chronic disease. These same unhealthy foods also contribute to weight gain, which in itself is a risk factor for inflammation.
However, in several studies, the link between food and inflammation remained even when there is no obesity.” Some of the components of food may have independent effects on inflammation beyond caloric intake,” explains Dr. Hu.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) examined whether pro-inflammatory diets are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The researchers evaluated the diets of more than 200,000 women and men. The results showed that those who consumed the most pro-inflammatory diets had a 38% higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to those who consumed the most anti-inflammatory diets.
The associations were consistent in men and women, and remained significant even when other lifestyle factors and other potential contributors to inflammation were taken into account, such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
This study also showed that pro-inflammatory diets were associated with a poor cholesterol profile. This finding was also noted in another study, also published in JACC, which found that pro-inflammatory foods had a harmful effect on cholesterol levels, while some anti-inflammatory foods had favorable effects.
WHAT DOES AN ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET LOOK LIKE?
According to the Harvard University expert, an anti-inflammatory diet should include these foods:
- Olive oil.
- Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and cabbages.
- Nuts, such as almonds and walnuts.
- Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines (the anti-inflammatory effect is due to omega-3 fatty acids, which can also be obtained from plant sources).
- Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries and oranges.
In addition to reducing inflammation, a more natural, less processed diet can have noticeable effects on physical and emotional health. “A healthy diet is beneficial not only for reducing the risk of chronic disease, but also for improving mood and overall quality of life,” says Dr. Hu.