The foods we eat have an impact on our weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
And a new study shows a strong association between long-term diets and chronic inflammation, which researchers say can be one of the underlying causes of many health problems.
Consumer Reports reveals which foods to avoid and how to jump-start an anti-inflammatory diet for better health.
Think of inflammation this way: When you cut your finger it bleeds, and almost immediately white blood cells rush to the area to help heal the cut.
You might notice swelling or reddening of the area.
This is an example of acute inflammation, which is temporary and promotes healing.
But in other cases, irritants and germs can cause low-level, persistent inflammation called chronic inflammation. It can lead to health problems like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and even dementia.
How do you avoid chronic inflammation?
Consumer Reports says to start with your diet.
Some foods, like colorful fruits, have antioxidants that can dampen inflammation.
Other foods, such as red and processed meats, refined carbohydrates, and sugar may promote inflammation.
In the new study, researchers followed more than 200,000 men and women for up to 32 years.
It found that those who consumed pro-inflammatory diets had a 46 percent increased risk of heart disease and a 28 percent increased risk of stroke compared with those who consumed anti-inflammatory diets.
CR has some tips to help get your anti-inflammatory regimen started.
First, focus on a healthy diet overall, and be sure to eat a variety of foods.
Try shredding a head of cabbage and toss with olive oil and fresh dill for a tasty slaw. Go for buckwheat soba noodles.
You can add them to a stir-fry with bok choy and chicken or shrimp.
And before you start buying new ingredients, check your pantry.
Coffee, tea, virgin olive oil, black beans, walnuts, and even a glass of wine all contain anti-inflammatory compounds.
How’s that for some good news?
CR says leafy greens like kale and yellow vegetables like butternut squash are also high in anti-inflammatory compounds.
Foods associated with inflammation include red and processed meats, white flour and sugar, and sugary beverages.
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