Foods that Combat Inflammation
Aging Matters

A Harvard Health publication proclaims that doctors have learned one of the best remedies for fighting inflammation does reside in a medicine cabinet but the refrigerator.

It's interesting to learn the purpose of the immune system, and according to the Harvard article, it's designed to attack anything foreign in a physical body such as an invading plant pollen, or chemical. The process (of its attack) is inflammation, and intermittent bouts of it will stomp out the invaders to protect one's health. But if inflammation is constant, it remains in fight mode even if a foreign invader doesn't exist, that's what causes a big problem--it becomes the enemy. Many major diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer's link to chronic inflammation.

What's refreshing to learn is one of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from medications, but from your grocery store. "Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects," says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

That's a relief for so many individuals because the price of drugs are outrageously costly. So instead of spending high dollars to fight inflammation, choose the right foods instead. You may be able to reduce the risk of illness. And like everything else, there are "good" foods that help reduce inflammation, and there are those that are "bad" and make matters worse. So stay away from the wrong ones that accelerate the inflammatory disease process.

Foods that inflame

  • Try to avoid or at least limit the following as much as possible:
  • White bread and pastries -- the refined carbohydrates
  • Fried foods and even french fries
  • Carbonated sodas and sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Processed meat like hot dogs and sausage and even red meat
  • Shortening and margarine

Foods that fight inflammation

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
  • Nuts like almonds and walnuts
  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
  • Fruits like strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges

Eat foods rich in anti-inflammatory compounds -- this list also boosts the brain

  • Pineapples keeps blood platelets from sticking together and forming clots
  • Celery has luteolin which calms a type of immune cell in the brain, and spinal cord Cucumbers has lots of potassium which plays a key role in helping brain cells -- low potassium levels relate to mood problems and depression
  • Eat foods with boron which helps boost mental alertness like raisins, chickpeas, almonds

Focus on foods that improve brain health because substances secreted by certain immune-system cells spill into the bloodstream and enter the brain and can damage the brain's nerve cells, affecting memory and thinking skills. (Caroline Apovian, an endocrinologist at Boston University School of Medicine.)

Carol Marak, aging advocate, and editor at Seniorcare.com. She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.



Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

Learn More



More on Foods and Nutrition