Inflammation is a natural process that occurs in your body as a response to damaged cells, invading pathogens, irritating chemicals, and other negative factors. It is a normal part of your immune system’s reaction to these stimuli. However, when inflammation occurs chronically, that is for long periods of time, it can do significant damage to your body.
In fact, modern medicine is just beginning to understand that this bad type of inflammation is at the root of many diseases. By eating more of certain foods, many of which are perfect in smoothie recipes, and avoiding bad foods, you can lower your overall inflammation and reduce your risk of developing some of these diseases.
What is Inflammation and why is it Bad?
Inflammation is a normal part of your immune system’s response to infection, disease, injuries, pathogens, and irritants. For instance, if you scrape your knee, the skin around that area gets red, warm, and a little puffy. This is acute inflammation and is a healthy response to the damage you suffered. When the flu virus infects you, a fever is another sign of the acute inflammation caused by the infection and your immune response. Blood and immune cells race to the sites of trauma or infection and begin to work healing you, causing redness, pain, heat, and other symptoms.
Acute inflammation is not only normal, it is necessary. Without it you would not be able to heal from infections, injuries, and other bad illnesses and traumas. Inflammation only becomes a problem when it occurs over a long period of time. This is called chronic inflammation and it is this form of the immune response that causes harm and damage to your body.
Over time, chronic inflammation can cause heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and other devastating illnesses. Several factors can lead to chronic inflammation, including your personal genetics, a lack of exercise, stress, and exposure to toxins. But, one of the most important causes is diet. Many of the foods common in most American diets cause chronic inflammation and resulting illnesses.
Foods that Cause Chronic Inflammation
Although times are changing and people are getting wise to nutrition and health, the typical American diet is still packed with inflammatory foods. Trans fats, which are common in processed foods, sugar, and alcohol all cause inflammation. Fats from factory farmed animal sources are another important culprit. This includes dairy and meat.
Most of us also consume an inappropriate ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Many vegetable oils are responsible for the imbalance, as they are high in omega-6, but not omega-3 fats. To rebalance, you do not necessarily need to cut out vegetable oils, but you should add many more foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Smoothie Ingredients that Reduce Inflammation
To reduce your overall amount of chronic inflammation, it is important to eliminate, or at least limit, the foods that cause it, and increase foods that inhibit inflammation. You can do this by using your smoothies as vehicles for anti-inflammatory foods. Here are some that go particularly well in many smoothie recipes.
- Turmeric. This spice from Asia is one of the best ingredients for reducing chronic inflammation in your body, and it can give you a vibrant, yellow-colored smoothie. The yellow pigment in turmeric is called curcumin. This compound has been shown in research to block chemicals in your body that produce inflammation.
- Ginger. Ginger is another spice that reduces inflammation and is found in a lot of Asian dishes. You can find ginger root at nearly any grocery store. Peel the skin off and put small pieces of the root into your smoothies. The flavor is powerful, so experiment with different amounts and with combining it with other ingredients. Ginger tastes great with most fruits and with chocolate. As an added bonus, ginger can soothe an upset stomach.
- Berries. Any berry is a great ingredient in a smoothie. They taste great, add a natural sweetness and a beautiful color, and they reduce inflammation. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, as well as similar fruits like pomegranates and cherries are packed with flavonoids, compounds that are known to reduce inflammation.
- Chia Seeds. These nutritious little seeds are high in omega-three fatty acids, which most of us need to increase in our daily diets. Many Americans consume an incorrect ratio of omega-three to omega-six fatty acids, and this leads to inflammation. By increasing the amount of omega-three fatty acids in your diet, you can reduce it.
- Kiwi and Pineapple. What could be tastier in a fruity smoothie than pineapple and kiwi? These two flavorful tropical fruits are not just sweet and delicious, they can also reduce inflammation. Both are high in natural enzymes that, when consumed raw, enter your bloodstream and break down the proteins and other molecules involved in the inflammation pathway.
- Greens. Greens, like kale, spinach, or chard can help reduce inflammation because they are high in the mineral magnesium. Research shows that people with a lot of chronic inflammation tend to have low levels of magnesium. If you consider greens a chore to eat, a smoothie is the perfect place for them. Add a cup of greens to your next recipe and you will get all the nutrition without the flavor.
- Tea. Green, white, and oolong tea are full of antioxidants, and these are compounds that can limit inflammation. The antioxidants destroy free radicals in your body. These are compounds that cause a type of damage called oxidative stress, which in turn can cause inflammation. Use tea as the liquid in your next smoothie for an antioxidant boost.
You can find a plethora of smoothie recipes throughout my site featuring these ingredients. Use the search box or browse smoothie recipes by ingredient by clicking here. Or create your own unique inflammation fighting smoothie.
One of my most popular smoothie recipes of all-time just happens to be one that address inflammation head on. It’s a little spicy, but I bet you’ll like it – Spicy Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie
Other Ways to Reduce Inflammation
Diet plays a very important role in the level of chronic inflammation in your body. Most Americans consume far too many foods that promote inflammation, and too few that reduce it. By adding in more anti-inflammatory foods to your smoothies, you are taking a big step towards reducing your own chronic inflammation, but there are other steps you can take as well. Here are some lifestyle factors that will complement your anti-inflammatory diet:
- Reduce Stress. Research has shown that people who have good stress-management strategies have lower levels of chronic inflammation. Both regular yoga and meditation are excellent ways to lower stress and reduce your inflammation.
- Get a Massage. It may seem like the ultimate indulgence, but a massage is actually good for your health. It can reduce your stress, but it also seems to play its own separate role in lowering chronic inflammation. Studies have shown that after just one 45-minute session of massage, the levels of hormones that promote inflammation are significantly reduced in the body.
- Get Plenty of Sleep. Adults need a minimum of six hours of sleep every night for maximum health. It is even better to get seven or eight hours each night. Research indicates that if you get fewer than six hours of sleep, your body will begin to produce more of the compounds that promote inflammation.
- Get More Exercise. Exercise is very important for lowering inflammation in your body. One reason is that it can help you lose weight, and being at a healthy weight will automatically reduce inflammation. Even if you are already at a healthy weight, vigorous exercise lowers inflammation every time you do it.
As medical research continues to unravel the mysteries of human health and wellness, we get to learn better ways to care for our bodies and minds. We now know that inflammation, that necessary aspect of your immune system can also harm us. If you take steps to lower your chronic inflammation, you can reduce your risk of contracting heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and a number of other chronic conditions.
Put the right foods into your smoothies, avoid the bad foods, and make some lifestyle changes, and you will be on the road to excellent health with less inflammation.
Sources for this blog post include: