By Mitzi Dulan for U.S. News Health
Inflammation is the body's natural response to infection and injury. It is an important defense mechanism that helps our body to heal by bringing nutrients and immune cells to the affected area.
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Whole-body inflammation, on the other hand, is damaging rather than helpful. This chronic form of inflammation is associated with a host of problems such as the painful swelling associated with arthritis, heart disease, and some kinds of cancer. Eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help to keep pain at bay.
Below are some top choices for anti-inflammatory foods.
One cause of inflammation throughout the body is an imbalance in the consumption of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The average western diet includes up to 10 times more omega-6 fatty acids -- found in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils -- than omega-3s, so it's a good idea to get more of the anti-inflammatory omega-3s into the diet on a daily basis. Some great sources include salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, trout, flaxseeds and walnuts. You may also consider taking a fish oil supplement, but make sure you choose one that contains omega-3s, and not omega-6s, and comes from a reputable brand.
Olive oil contains a natural anti-inflammatory agent and may be partly responsible for the low levels of heart disease among those following a Mediterranean diet. Use it for cooking instead of butter or vegetable oil.
These include fruits (non-citrus) and vegetables. The more colors you eat, the better; each color represents the presence of different health-promoting phytochemicals. Some great fruits to start eating regularly are strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, papaya, cantaloupe, apricots, cherries, plums and watermelon. Some antioxidant-rich vegetables include kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, pumpkin, bell peppers, sweet potato and turnip greens.
Check your pantry for ginger, garlic, cinnamon and turmeric. These seasonings appear to have anti-inflammatory properties, so they are a great choice to use when cooking. If you have a high-powered blender or juicer, start the day with a green juice by combining fresh ginger, leafy greens like kale or spinach, and any fruits you like. Apple, carrot and ginger make for a great combination as well.
Green tea contains certain phytochemicals that appear to help fight inflammation and preserve joints longer. Studies suggest that 3 to 4 cups per day would be needed to see the benefits.