Natural Foods That Fight Inflammation
After I turned 40 I tried to lose some weight and get in shape but got increasingly frustrated as no matter how many times I hit the gym, some stubborn belly fat would simply not bugle. Except it wasn’t just fat!
Inflammation is often confused with ‘belly fat’ or visceral fat, because of its location. It occurs when there is a threat, like an excess of fat cells that keeps the body from properly processing insulin. Natural foods like dark leafy greens, fruits, nuts and some meats fight chronic inflammation and restore the body to its natural balance.
Dark green leafy vegetables like Kale and Spinach
If you’re anything like me, you’ve had that lower abdomen bulge for a while, tried diet after diet, exercise and some bloat-fighting pills, only to find that ‘the bulge’ would simply not budge, making you feel discouraged and at times – exhausted.
Trying to eliminate belly fat can be a good thing, both for looks and your health, but it can also be challenging, frustrating and just flat-out annoying. But it doesn’t have to be! Once you understand what is really going on with your body, and what that little – or big – bulge is trying to tell you, you can easily get rid of it by simply making some dietary changes that won’t make you feel you’re deprived of life’s goodies forever.
Understanding Chronic Inflammation
You’ve probably been focused on that lower abdomen fat that no jackknife crunch can touch, but you’re more than likely dealing with chronic inflammation around your visceral organs that, in addition to fat, won’t disappear unless you treat the source of the problem.
Inflammation is a positive natural healing response our bodies have to protect sensitive areas while we recover.
Think of a sprained ankle or hitting your toe, the area becomes ‘inflamed’ because it needs extra cushioning to fully recover. Once your body senses the threat has passed, the tissue has gotten better and you’re on your way to normal, it signals the appropriate systems that the swelling can go down, crisis averted, that sort of thing.
However, when your body doesn’t feel the situation is getting better, then it simply keeps the area inflamed – indefinitely. This means you’ll get chronic inflammation, and that’s not so great.
When an area of your body stays chronically inflamed for a long period of time your other systems stop responding appropriately and your body’s defense responses slowly start to collapse. After all, inflammation is supposed to be a temporary aid and not a perennial one.
One of the issues that leads to chronic inflammation is an excess of fat cells in the body
Think of it like this, when you eat a lot of processed sugar foods, fats and flours your body produces and releases insulin. Insulin is a hormone that has the key to unlock your liver, muscles and fat cells to properly handle glucose (what sugars become in the bloodstream)
in order to either produce energy or store some extra for another day. As the amount of sugar grows the body produces more insulin and decides to try to store as much of that sugar as possible in the form of fat, given that it simply doesn’t have enough time or resources to process all the sugar at once.
When neither liver, muscle nor fat cells respond properly to insulin, the body’s second form of defense kicks in and you get inflamed. Since humans are not designed to continuously be on high alert, this chronic inflammation leads to impoverished cellular health, degenerative diseases, Type 2 diabetes and even cancer.
Fortunately, humans have the next best thing to a factory reset button: plenty of natural foods and beverages to restore your health and get rid of both belly fat and inflammation!
Dark Leafy Greens That Fight Inflammation
Dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, arugula, chards, and collard greens contain high concentrations of vital vitamins and nutrients that fight chronic inflammation. In general, you want to make sure that you get a healthy regular dose of:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
In addition to vitamins, these leafy greens also provide alpha-linolenic acid, which helps with the alkalinisation of the body and together they boost the immune system. Vitamin supplements alone, while always good as a little extra help, do not generally have alpha-linolenic acid. They also pass quickly through your system (we pee most of the vitamin supplements out!), which is not good as the more it takes to digest and process nutrients, the longer your body is exposed to these positive substances.
Choose the darkest leaves possible as their nutrient concentration is higher and don’t be afraid to pair them with a little olive oil, which is also another inflammation fighting food and actually helps your body to better absorb the nutrients in leafy greens!
Berries, Apples and Pineapples
If dark leafy greens are making you turn your nose up and wish there was another way, good news – there is! I recommend having both the greens and the fruits, but there are three delicious fruit types that you can eat confidently to reduce inflammation and eliminate fat.
- Berries: contain a compound of antioxidants called anthocyanins which boost the immune system, reduce the risk of heart disease, and help produce what some people and scientists call “Natural Killer Cells” (NK) – a lymphocyte that can bind virus and cancer cells and kill them. That’s pretty amazing on its own, but berries also contain fiber, vitamins and minerals that help you neutralize those excess fat cells.
Choose from a variety of berries to snack on, add to your breakfast and power your smoothies: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are the most common ones and therefore super easy to find.
- Apples: an apple a day keeps the doctor, and the inflammation, away! Apples are rich in many nutrients and antioxidants, in fact, they are the second fruit with the highest percentage of antioxidants in our diets, and that alone makes them incredibly powerful against chronic inflammation. Additionally, apples have fiber, pectin and polyphenol content, all of which reduce inflammation significantly.
- Pineapples: my personal favorite, it is a fantastic anti-inflammatory fruit that is rich in Vitamin C and the bromelain enzyme which reduces bruising, swelling and pain in deep injuries. Avoid the canned kind or rinse out the sweetened liquid!
What about the sugar in fruits?
Humans need sugar, just not the amount of sugar we are eating nowadays. The sugar found in natural foods such as berries or even carrots, will not slow down your progress or add to the growth of new fat cells if you have significantly reduced or eliminated processed sugars!
Healthy Fats Like Avocado, Olive Oil and Nuts
The perfect excuse to indulge in some healthy fats! While you may want to control the portions of these foods to meet your exercise and dietary demands, rest assured your body is getting what it needs in the long run.
- Avocados: full of magnesium, potassium, fiber, monounsaturated fats (the good ones) and carotenoids, avocados bring down inflammation with a number of wonderful nutrients that in some studies were found to even lower the risk of cancer. Get on that homemade guacamole, you earned it!
- Olive Oil: contains oleocanthal, an antioxidant so powerful that it is often compared to ibuprofen for its anti-inflammatory properties. Make sure you pick extra virgin olive oil to reap its benefits. In general, avoid cooking with it, instead add it at the end to salads or as a finishing touch to any other meal.
- Nuts: like almonds, hazel and other dry fruits, are rich in Vitamin E and help lubricate joints. They also have alpha-linoleic acid and even omega-3 fatty acid (the good kind!).
Fish! Like Salmon and Other Omega 3 Foods
Fatty fish are a fantastic source of clean protein and fatty acids, that once processed by the body, become resolvins and protectins both with anti-inflammatory properties. Choose from the ones that have more Omega 3, such as salmon, herring, anchovies and sardines! You can mix them with a powerful salad of dark green leaves and season with just a touch of olive oil to get the best all in one meal.
All of these foods are available, affordable and effective. Try the Mediterranean diet if you’re looking to combine them all, or simply introduce one or more of these superfoods in your regular diet.
You can eliminate inflammation and belly fat, as they are both responding to the same thing, but do not get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. Remember that your body needs time to adjust, see the threat has passed and let your system know things can return to normal. Avoid or lower the risk of experiencing chronic heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases by eating healthy.