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Foods That Fight Inflammation and Help Support the Immune System

Foods That Fight Inflammation and Help Support the Immune System

Many people have rushed to stock up on Emergen C, Elderberry syrup, and Vitamin C gummies in an attempt to boost their immune systems and keep their family healthy.

While you have likely heard of inflammation and its link to serious health issues like diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, stroke and cancer, chances are you haven’t looked into what you can change in your diet to boost your immune system and fight inflammation.

The immune system is responsible for fighting foreign invaders in the body, like viruses and bacteria and can also destroy cells within the body when they become cancerous. Poor nutrition can result in increased infections, slow healing from injury and infections, and an increase susceptibility to symptoms and complications from immune system dysfunction.

Inflammation is your immune system’s reaction to injury, irritation, and infection and is your body’s way of healing cell damage. Chronic inflammation happens when your body goes into overdrive and cannot resolve acute inflammation and damage to the body. Lack of exercise, stress and smoking can trigger inflammation, but dietary choices play a huge role.

Foods that fight inflammation:

Nuts. Walnuts and almonds are a great source of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that is key to a healthy immune system. They are also a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids which plays a role in regulating your body’s inflammatory process and helps regulate pain related to inflammation.

Dark leafy greens. Broccoli, one of the healthiest vegetables you can add to your plate, is packed full of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as fiber. Spinach and Kale are rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, and beta carotene, which may increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems.

Berries. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are packed with fiber, minerals, vitamins, and an antioxidant called anthocyanins. These compounds reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Green tea. Both green and black teas are loaded with flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Green tea is also packed with epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), another powerful antioxidant. EGCG has been shown to enhance immune function. Green tea is also a good source of an amino acid called L-theanine which may aid in the production of germ-fighting compounds in your T cells.

Fish. Salmon, mackerel, and tuna are a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. All types of fish contain some omega-3 fatty acids, but those are among the best sources. Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids are essential for the body’s growth and development. Diets low in omega-3 fatty acids are associated with chronic inflammatory conditions and autoimmune disease.

Extra virgin olive oil. A staple in the Mediterranean diet, extra virgin olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and contains the antioxidant, oleocanthal. E.V.O.O. has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, brain cancer and other serious health conditions.

Dark Chocolate. Not only is it rich and satisfying, it is packed with antioxidants that reduce inflammation, reducing your risk of disease and leading to healthier aging. Dark chocolate contains flavanols that are responsible for its anti-inflammatory effects and keeps the lining of your arteries healthy.

There is no suggestion that diet alone can cure chronic or serious health conditions. Regular visits to your doctor are important, as preventative care can catch potential issues before they start to cause problems. While adding fresh, whole foods to your plate is key to fueling your body, it is also important to limit the consumption of foods that can promote inflammation and suppress the body’s immune response.

Foods that cause inflammation:

Trans Fats. Known to trigger systemic inflammation, trans fats are found in fast food, processed snacks, cookies, donuts, crackers, margarine, and frozen breakfast products. This also includes fried foods like french fries, fried chicken, mozzarella sticks, and egg rolls.

Refined Carbohydrates. These are products that contain white flour like bread, pastries, pasta, crackers, and cereal, and include white rice and white potatoes. Processed carbohydrates are one of the main contributors to obesity and many chronic conditions.

MSG. Mono-sodium glutamate (MSG) is a chemical included in a lot of prepared food we eat. It is a flavor-enhancing food additive in Asian food and soy sauce but can also be found in fast foods, canned soups, salad dressings, deli meats, and hot dogs. MSG can trigger chronic inflammation and affect liver health.

Sugar-sweetened beverages. Limit your intake of soda, energy or sports drinks, and sweet tea. The sugar contained in these drinks are one of the leading causes of obesity, diabetes, and increased risk of heart disease.

Opt for a diet rich in colorful, antioxidant rich foods to keep inflammation in check and promote overall general health and healing. If you need help developing a meal plan or determining what changes should be made with your current diet, reach out to a dietitian for guidance. You can reach our dietitians at Baton Rouge General at 225-819-1175 to schedule an appointment.

Kristin West, RD, LDN
Baton Rouge General Health & Wellness Center 
(225) 819-1175