Inflammation has received a lot of attention in recent years. Acute and chronic inflammation is the body’s natural response to protect itself from injury; without it, injuries could fester and simple infections could be fatal.

According to a Harvard health study, inflammation causes the body’s immune system to send an army of white blood cells to surround and protect the injured area, causing visible redness and swelling. However, chronic, low-grade inflammation can become a silent killer, contributing to heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases.

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As a result, inflammation can be beneficial or harmful depending on the situation. It’s your body’s natural way of protecting itself when you’re injured or sick, and it can aid in disease defence and healing. Chronic, long-term inflammation, on the other hand, has been associated with an elevated risk of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Coffee, sugar, alcohol, and dairy are typically the culprits for producing inflammation. Simrun Chopra, Deep Health Coach, Nutritionist, and Founder of Nourish with Sim, in an interview with HT Lifestyle, gave insight on foods that play a major role in inflammation and recommend alternative foods or substitutes for an anti-inflammatory diet.

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1. Sugar

What to avoid – Sugary beverages, such as soft drinks and fruit juices, should be avoided. Corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, golden syrup, sucrose, and maltose are some of the names for sugars. Sweet snacks, chocolates, pastries, and candies are the main sources of added sugar.

Substitute -Natural sweeteners such as stevia, honey, blackstrap molasses, maple syrup, and others can be used as a substitute in small amounts. Apples, berries, and other fruits that are high in vitamins, antioxidants, and fibre are the best sources of sugar (such as blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)

2. Oil for Cooking

What to avoid -Polyunsaturated oils such as cottonseed, grape seed, safflower, corn, and sunflower oils should be avoided. These oils are also commonly found in processed meals.

Substitute – Include extra virgin olive oil, macadamia oil, almond oil, any nut oil, and certain seeds in your diet as a substitute.

3. Trans-fats 

What to avoid -Fast eats, deep-fried foods, professionally baked goods, and anything manufactured with partly hydrogenated oil or vegetable shortening should all be avoided. Partially hydrogenated oil can be found in commercially made peanut butter.

Substitute: homemade and natural peanut butter, as well as trans-fat-free foods. Read labels and choose products that are free of trans fats. Walnuts, almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts are all good nuts to eat.

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4. Dairy products

Dairy products are a good source of calcium and phosphorus.

What to avoid -Full-fat dairy products such as curd, butter, and cheese should be avoided. Milk is found in many pastries, crackers, cream sauces, boxed cereals, and chocolates. It’s a good idea to read the ingredients before purchasing any of these items.

Substitute -Coconut, almond, or soy milk can be used as a substitute. For people who are allergic to milk, kefir or unsweetened yoghurt can be used as a substitute.

5. Red meat and processed meat

What to avoid: Beef, lamb, and pork are common red meats, whereas ham, sausage, and salami are processed meats. It is beneficial to consume them in the appropriate portion sizes and from the appropriate sources. Processed meat, on the other hand, is strictly forbidden.

Substitute – There is no such thing as a safe amount of processed meat. Replace the majority of your red meat with organic dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, collard greens, poultry, and fish, and save red meat for special occasions. Choose grass-fed animals and lean cuts. Do not overcook; this will help to limit the amount of heat created by food pollutants.

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6. Alcohol

What to avoid -Beers, ciders, liquors, liqueurs, and wines should all be avoided.

Substitute -A delightful, thirst-quenching, pure, filtered water can be used as a substitute. Green tea is another option. Limit your alcohol usage to no more than one glass every day. Cravings can be satisfied with dark chocolate and cherries.

7. Refined grains

What to avoid -White rice, white flour, white bread, noodles, pasta, biscuits, and pastries are the most common foods to avoid. To improve the taste of these refined grains, they are further processed, which often includes a lot of salt, sugar, artificial flavours, and partially hydrogenated oil.

Substitute -Take lightly processed grains as a substitute. If you bake a lot of bread or pastries, you should invest in a grain mill. When purchasing grain-based items, don’t always believe what the packaging says. There’s no guarantee that the whole grains are still intact if they state “prepared with whole grains.” Don’t buy it if it isn’t organic or doesn’t appear to be in its natural state.

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Limit your intake of processed, pre-packaged foods as well. To add flavour to your dishes, use anti-inflammatory herbs and spices or natural sweeteners. Certain herbs and spices, such as ginger, turmeric, and garlic, have also been shown to help reduce inflammation.