Anti-inflammatory foods are your friends

A proper diet and regular exercise are the surest ways to reduce your risks for cancer and chronic diseases.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are great for fighting inflammation. (For Spectrum Health Beat)
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are great for fighting inflammation. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Inflammation is the body’s initial reaction to infection and injury.

It can be classified as acute or chronic.

Acute inflammation is a short-term, physiologic response that can occur for minutes or days. It is caused by injury, infection or irritation.

Chronic inflammation is a long-term physiologic response that can occur over weeks, months or years. It’s caused by poor nutrition, obesity, viruses and chronic infection. This prolonged, continuous or chronic inflammation state is what can generate hormones and proteins that can damage your body’s healthy tissues and cells and increase your risk for cancer.

Follow these anti-inflammatory nutrition tips to help lower your risks:

  • Fill your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables: Five servings of fruits and 2.5 servings of vegetables per day can provide anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and fiber. Fiber can lower levels of C-reactive protein, which is a protein in the blood that signals inflammation. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends adding plant foods to at least two-thirds of your plate. Make one-quarter of your plate whole grains and starchy vegetables, then make the other half non-starchy vegetables and fruits.
  • Limit red meat and processed meats: Keep pork, beef and lamb consumption to less than 18 ounces of cooked meat per week, and avoid processed meats, to decrease your cancer risk. Substitute these with other healthy sources of protein, such as beans, lentils, tofu, fish, poultry, low-fat dairy products, high-protein grains and non-processed soy protein.
  • Consume foods rich with omega-3 fatty acids: Eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid from fish and alpha-linolenic acid from plant sources help protect your body from inflammation. Tuna, salmon, flaxseed, walnuts and avocado are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Promote probiotics in your diet: Add a daily serving of cultured dairy foods like kefir, Greek yogurt and yogurt.
  • Eat fewer foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients: Foods with added sugars and fats can cause weight gain and prevent the intake of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

 How does body weight influence inflammation? 

  • Stay physically active: Studies suggest that physical activity reduces inflammation and also helps you lose weight. The American Institute for Cancer Research suggests adding 30 minutes of daily activity, then slowly increasing it to 60 minutes or more of moderate activity or 30 minutes of vigorous activity.
  • Aim for a healthy BMI and waist circumference: Being overweight or obese can cause chronic inflammation. Fat cells release a variety of hormones, proteins, cytokines and growth factors that increase inflammation. Obesity increases the risk of numerous cancers—pancreatic, kidney, postmenopausal breast, colon, esophageal and endometrial. A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. As BMI increases, cancer risk increases. A waist measurement of 31.5 inches or more for women and 37 inches or more for men can also increase your cancer risk.

To meet with a registered dietitian who specializes in oncology nutrition, call Jennifer Ford, MA, RDN, CSO, at 616.486.6315, or Stephanie Patterson, RDN, CSO, at 616.486.6316.

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