You are what you eat. We’ve all heard that before, and it’s true. What we put inside our bodies directly affects our health. For those who experience muscle and joint aches and pain due to inflammation, a change in diet can help reduce inflammation.
You don’t necessarily have to do a significant diet overhaul; sometimes, a few simple swaps can make a difference. These food swaps below may help you feel better as you eat more nutritiously. Always talk with your doctor or nutritionist when you make significant changes to your diet. Then, dig in!
1. Dark Chocolate Instead of Milk Chocolate
This one is a swap your sweet tooth can get behind. When you choose dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate, you may help reduce inflammation while giving your body a boost of antioxidants. Remember that most dark chocolate you’ll find at stores still contains lots of calories from sugar and fat, so moderation is key. And a cocoa content of 70% or higher is what you should aim for. For all those “chocoholics” out there, dark chocolate is a better go-to when you have a craving.
2. Whole Grain Bread Instead of White Bread
Whether you are fixing a sandwich, cooking a plate of pasta, pouring a bowl of cereal, or grabbing a handful of pretzels or crackers, whole grains will be healthier than “white” refined grains. Whole grain foods have anti-inflammatory benefits due to their rich fiber content. Check the nutrition labels when you are grocery shopping for whole-grain ingredients. You may notice that your whole grain choices are heartier and keep you feeling fuller longer. They tend to taste more enjoyable too.
Remember, although wheat, rye, and barley are whole grains, those with celiac disease or other gluten sensitivities may need to avoid these whole grains if they follow a gluten-free diet.
3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil Instead of Corn Oil
Studies published by the NIH National Library of Medicine (National Center for Biotechnology Information) share findings of the benefits of consuming extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). “The presence of phenolic compounds (in EVOO) has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties.” EVOO contains oleocanthal, a compound that aids in the reduction of inflammation.
Use EVOO in your favorite recipes instead of other popular cooking oils, such as corn oil, which is high in omega-6 fats. When consumed in excess, omega-6s have been linked to heart disease and obesity. On the other hand, foods rich in omega-3s (including EVOO) can reduce inflammation.
4. Kale Instead of Iceberg Lettuce
You're on the right track if you are already eating your veggies. But some vegetables, such as leafy greens, help reduce inflammation. Leafy greens like kale, spinach, arugula, and cabbage, along with vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower, are known to reduce joint swelling.
The antioxidants in kale, including the flavonoids kaempferol and quercetin, have been proven to reduce inflammation.
While iceberg lettuce isn’t unhealthy, you will reap far more health benefits from eating kale, including vitamins and nutrients you won’t find in iceberg lettuce.
If you need time to adjust to the switch, try swapping out half of your iceberg lettuce for kale the next time you make a salad. Kale cooked down tender and seasoned with spices is also delicious.
5. Green Tea Instead of Alcohol
OK, this one is a bit of a stretch, but once you’ve incorporated green tea into your diet, your body will feel it. No, green tea won’t give you the effects alcohol can, but keep the “Dry January” thing going all year long by eliminating or reducing your alcohol consumption. “The body often swells as a reaction to the potential damage that occurs when drinking an abundance of alcohol,” according to Alcoholism.org.
There are many reasons to say goodbye to booze and swapping in green tea can help reduce inflammation. According to NIH, green tea and its major component, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), have been studied to have anti-inflammatory effects.”
More accessible, tasty swaps to help with inflammation:
6. Avocado mash instead of margarine on your toast
7. Broiled or baked food instead of food fried in oil
8. Plain seltzer or water with lemon or ginger instead of sugar-sweetened soda
9. Nuts and seeds or beans instead of processed croutons for your salad
10. Salmon or mackerel instead of red meat
11. Baked sweet potato “fries” instead of processed potato chips
12. Cinnamon instead of sugar in your coffee or oatmeal
Pain relief can come from your dietary choices and habits. As you start making these food swaps, you may still need relief from your pain from inflammation. An all-natural, organic topical pain relief cream like Ultimate RepairX works quickly where you need it most. The combination of a topical cream and dietary changes can be a game-changer.
Keep a log of your food swaps and mark down how you feel after eating. Change won’t come overnight, but your body will respond positively if you keep it up.