One of the most common problems friends and family complain about is that although they work out, they don’t get the results they expect. And in those situations, I ask them whether they’re on a good diet plan, or do they eat anything they find. Inflammation is the second biggest enemy to weight loss. No matter how hard you work out, if you are not sticking to a proper diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, the results will be poor. That being said, the word “inflammation” usually has a negative connotation. But the truth is, inflammation is just our body’s way of reacting and protecting itself from other problems.
What is the link between inflammation and weight gain?
Inflammation is an immune response that helps your body heal and recover. However, in some cases, inflammation causes the immune system to overreact, and it attacks healthy cells. When that happens, you suffer from autoimmune disorders like inflammation and leaky gut. In some cases, inflammation can be lethal. For example, inflammation linked with diabetes can affect your insulin resistance.
With respect to weight gain, inflammation causes your body to store fat in areas like the abdomen, thighs, butt, and other parts of your body.
But don’t worry, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. As I said at the beginning, there are foods that can help you battle inflammation. All of these foods are rich in minerals and vitamins that keep inflammation at bay and help you lose weight. Here are some that I definitely recommend you include in your daily diet.
I know pineapple is an exotic fruit, one that’s not always available throughout the year. But whenever you can get your hands on fresh pineapple, go for it. This vitamin-rich fruit contains bromelain, a digestive enzyme that reduces inflammation and fights blood clotting. In addition, this enzyme regulates your immune system response. In other words, pineapple solves the root of the problem: the way your body responds to inflammation.
But that’s not all. Pineapple, thanks to bromelain, serves as a preventive food for health diseases because it helps to prevent blood clotting. Think of it as an aspirin, something you can consume on a daily basis to lower the risk of heart and cardiovascular diseases. And on top of that all, pineapple is rich in vitamins B1 and C, as well as minerals like potassium and manganese.
The good news is that you can consume beets every day of the week. You can find beets in the grocery store at all times, and they’re not expensive. Even better, you can consume beets in a smoothie. Now for the healthy aspect: beets are extremely rich in antioxidants that repair cell damage. What you get with beets is betalain, an antioxidant that’s known for its anti-inflammatory properties and gives beets their vibrant color. In addition, beets are rich in magnesium, a mineral rarely found naturally in foods.
For those of you who don’t know, inflammation is one of the first symptoms of magnesium deficiency. Due to its high amount of magnesium, beets also help your body absorb calcium easily. Without magnesium, your body can’t process calcium, and your bones suffer.
Celery is another vegetable that you can add to smoothies and soups, or eat fresh and raw. As with other foods on this list, celery is extremely rich in antioxidants. Celery helps you lose weight in several ways. First of all, celery fights inflammation. But just as important, celery can improve your cholesterol levels. And we all know cholesterol is weight loss’ biggest enemy.
Celery is also rich in potassium, a mineral needed for flushing toxins. And that’s the third way celery helps you lose weight. The more toxins you flush out of your body, the more weight you lose.
You can consume any fatty fish you like, just as long as you stay away from mercury-rich fish. We all know that fish are the biggest and best source of omega-3 fatty acids. As I’ve mentioned a few times, omega-3 acids are the best way to fight inflammation. Salmon, especially wild salmon, is the best fish option you can get. However, if you want to get a cheaper alternative, sardines are also a great way to get some omega-3 fatty acids. Just remember, stay away from farmed fish.
There’s a reason why kale and spinach are considered two of the healthiest foods you can find on the market. Kale, for example, is one of the superfoods. Dark, leafy, green vegetables are extremely rich in vitamins and minerals like calcium and iron. In addition, they contain high amounts of fiber that regulates your sugar and blood levels and fights inflammation.
Now, for all of you who don’t like to eat leafy greens, a smoothie is the answer. You can add spinach and kale to any smoothie recipe, and it will be great. If you want additional benefits, combine leafy greens with some other green vegetables or fruits (like cucumbers and apples).
Spinach and kale are not the only leafy greens you need to consume; Swiss chard is one of the most underrated veggies. People often forget about its nutritional value. You can source almost the entire daily recommended dose of vitamin K, A, and C from a cup of Swiss chard. And that means no oxidative stress or brain damage.
While we are on the subject of greens and vegetables, we cannot ignore the benefits of broccoli. We all know that broccoli is the poster child for healthy eating and a healthy diet. There’s a reason why all parents try to make their children eat broccoli!
No matter the diet, whether it is anti-inflammatory, weight loss, or muscle gain, broccoli is a welcome and valuable addition. When it comes to fighting inflammation, broccoli provides more than enough potassium and magnesium, two of the most important minerals in the battle. And to top it off, broccoli is also high in antioxidants like carotenoids and flavonoids.
For years, cuisines like Indian, Chinese and other Asian cuisines kept turmeric a secret. But in the past few years, Western society discovered turmeric, one of the most powerful and potent spices, and we have to love it. Turmeric is one of the best anti-inflammatory foods, and one of the spices richest in antioxidants. And it all comes down to curcumin, the antioxidant giving turmeric its rich color. Some studies suggest that curcumin is more potent and effective than aspirin and ibuprofen.
Aside from green tea, there is no food that contains more antioxidants than blueberries. For years, blueberries were considered the gold standard for antioxidants. But once our society discovered green tea, blueberries were no longer at the top of the list. Nonetheless, they are still very potent and effective against inflammation. Blueberries are the best source of quercetin, a flavonoid that has been found to be extremely effective against inflammation. You can source quercetin from olive oil and citrus fruits as well, but nothing beats blueberries.
In addition to reducing inflammation, blueberries also slow down cognitive decline, improve motor function, and improve memory. All because they contain high doses of antioxidants that fight free radicals.
Truth be told, any type of nuts will help with inflammation. However, walnuts are at the top of that list thanks to their richness of omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts have the highest concentration of plant-based fatty acids, something that is more than welcome in the battle against inflammation. And to top it all, walnuts are rich in antioxidant phytonutrients and polyphenols. The nutritional value of walnuts shows that one cup contains more than 110% of the daily value of omega-3 fatty acids, and more than 50% of the daily value of manganese. In addition to helping with inflammation, walnuts help the fight against type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and metabolic syndrome.
As with walnuts, any type of tea that is rich in antioxidants will help. However, in that group, green tea is vastly better than any other type of tea. For even more benefits, prepare your tea using matcha green tea powder. Green tea is among the top antioxidant foods, mostly thanks to its richness of EGCG, a polyphenol known for protecting against cellular damage. If you want to try some other tea, I recommend black tea, Oolong tea, or any other herbal tea high in antioxidants.
Foods to avoid
Just as there are foods you want to include in your daily diet, there are foods you definitely need to avoid. Some foods fight inflammation, others cause inflammation. That being said, here are some food groups you should avoid:
- Refined carbs (pastries and white bread)
- Soda and other carbonated and sugar-sweetened drinks
- Red meat and processed meat (hot dogs, sausages, burgers)
- French fries
All of these foods are associated with inflammation, type 2 diabetes, and chronic diseases like heart and cardiovascular diseases. In addition to being bad for your health, these foods contribute to weight gain.