Free radicals are atoms or molecules that have unpaired electrons in their outer shell and cause oxidative stress to the body. Meanwhile, antioxidants donate electrons to free radicals repairing the damage caused by them. Harmful free radicals come from UV radiation, smoking, air pollution, smog, as well as normal metabolic processes. Too much inflammation in the body can cause a number of health conditions including diabetes, cancer, arthritis, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s, cirrhosis of the liver, cataracts and macular degeneration, etc.
Fortunately, consuming an anti-inflammatory diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals will help to quench the free radicals and help protect yourself from health conditions in the future. Vitamins A (beta-carotene), C, and E, minerals including zinc, selenium, copper, iron, and manganese, along with glutathione, cysteine, methionine, lipoic acid, and Coenzyme Q10 are powerful antioxidants, which help to eliminate free radicals in the body.
As you can see, the food you eat is important to how you feel, as some foods can promote inflammation, while others can help to alleviate it. For example, a poor diet of excess sugar, alcohol, chemicals, and pesticides, as well as a lack of physical activity, stress, and smoking all contribute to increased inflammation. Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is a great place to start, as they contribute many of the vitamins and minerals mentioned above. Essential fatty acids (omega 3) must be included in the diet, as the body cannot produce them, and are found in flaxseeds, walnuts, soy, and seafood (wild salmon, sardines). Other herbs and spices are excellent for reducing inflammation including turmeric, ginger, garlic, and cinnamon. It’s also important to limit fried, fatty foods, refined and processed foods, excess sugar, and to eat organic foods when possible.
Dr. Weil has a wonderful anti-inflammatory food pyramid if you wish to learn about more foods that are beneficial in reducing inflammation.
Here’s a great anti-inflammatory meal I love to cook using wild salmon… crush walnuts with a spice blend of your choice, coat the salmon with them and bake it in the oven until the salmon is cooked. The salmon can then be served over a bed of quinoa (cooked with vegetable, chicken, or bone broth, turmeric, onions and red peppers), and steamed broccoli. Enjoy!