Inflammation seems to be a buzzword attached to almost everything we eat these days, whether it’s about avoiding a food that causes it or eating a food that reduces it. Why? Inflammation has a bit of reputation as the “bad guy” when it comes to your health. In part, that’s totally true: chronic inflammation can lead to bigger—sometimes deadlier—chronic conditions down the road, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia.
Think of inflammation like a war going on within your body. Whenever your body takes in food or experiences some kind of ‘invasion,’ your immune system carries out an inflammatory response to tamp down that invasion. Then, a second process called anti-inflammation begins, which is fueled by the nutrients and minerals already existing within your body (which are provided by the foods you eat). This process is completely normal and ultimately brings your body back to its natural, equalized, pre-invasion state, says Zhaoping Li, MD, director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.
Inflammation becomes a bad thing, however, when that second response—the anti-inflammatory one—doesn’t do its job of bringing your body back to center. “This very low-grade inflammation on a persistent basis is believed to be the platform for chronic diseases,” says Dr. Li.
But despite the stigma attached to the word itself, inflammation is still a natural process our bodies have to go through whenever we eat, get injured, or experience something in or on our system that we’re not used to. “Inflammation’s good for fighting any invasions to the body,” says Dr. Li.
So, what can you do to avoid the chronic (aka, bad) form of inflammation? First, avoid overeating. “To deal with the excess is always an extra burden for the body,” says Dr. Li. Then, make sure you fill up on the following anti-inflammatory foods.