Foods that are high in sugar and refined carbs can cause inflammation, and in some cases, even death. Medical experts says one of the best ways to reduce inflammation lies not in the medicine cabinet, but in the refrigerator. While there is no such thing as an inflammation diet, there are foods that can help fight off inflammation.
Currently working as a nurse in the United Kingdom, Tembi Henisi (38) – originally from Cape Town – has learned that even though food might be delicious, it can also be harmful and even cause death.
Henisi says snacks like doughnuts and koeksisters, which have a lot of sugar, should only be eaten in small amounts and only on rare occasions when people need to raise their blood sugar levels.
“Sugary foods shouldn’t be our main source of nutrition because they are bad for our bodies. The same goes for foods that are too fatty or not cooked well, and even a can of cold drink with gas, which may cause inflammation in the long run.”
She explains that poor nutrition makes inflammation more likely because eating too many refined carbs and sugary foods can cause the immune system to react.
“I never go a day without using ginger or cinnamon, whether it’s in a drink, a meal, or a salad, because they are good sources of anti-inflammatory foods.”
Henisi adds that sometimes we do not pay attention to the harmful foods we eat due to purchasing prepared foods and nibbling between meals, eating on the run, and grabbing unhealthy snacks with so many unhealthy ingredients.
Treasure found in trash
Xolelwa Katikati (22), from Emfuleni in Cape Town, says it is difficult for her to keep to healthy meals, despite knowing how detrimental food can be to one’s health. She focuses on healthy oils, spices, and vegetables during the week and indulges in junk food on the weekends.
According to Katikati, she discovered that corn silk tea can help with bladder infections, high blood pressure, stomach bloating, kidney stones, inflammation and many other benefits.
To consume corn silk, simply boil it in water, cool it, and drink it as is, adds Katikati.
Meanwhile, Nosiviwe Vuyelele from KwaLanga in Cape Town, says her weakness is white bread, which she consumes regularly. She is aware of the unhealthy effects of eating white bread.
“To counteract this, I drink a lot of water and consume a lot of fibre-rich meals. I also eat spinach and prunes virtually every day because they help prevent constipation as well as inflammation.”
How does health and inflammation intertwine?
Andiswa Ngqaka, registered dietitian and spokesperson for ADSA, says that chronic inflammation can trigger the immune system to attack healthy cells, tissues, and organs in our bodies.
Ngqaka adds that when left untreated, it can increase the risk of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis.
“The top five foods that set the stage for inflammation are sugars, trans fats, red meat, processed meats, alcohol, and refined grains.”
She explains that an anti-inflammatory diet should include tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables (like spinach, kale, and collards), nuts (like almonds and walnuts), fatty fish (like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines) and fruits (like strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges).
Furthermore, Ngqaka says that we can notice foods that cause inflammation when these foods cause discomfort, bloating, pain, tumors, or loss of function in the body.
“A person with inflammatory conditions might restrict foods that cause inflammatory responses, hence may consider calling it an anti-inflammatory.”
An anti-inflammatory diet favors fruits and vegetables, foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats, and spices, says Ngqaka.
She notes that an anti-inflammatory diet is not a one-size-fits-all for people suffering from various conditions that cause inflammation.