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Foods and inflammation

Share your experiences with foods and inflammation, what you've have tried in the past, who you have received information from and what foods you eat.
SIMONE GIBSON: Foods can to affect inflammation in a positive way and a negative way, so it’s really important to have a look at your whole diet to see what sort of foods that you’re eating. There are a number of styles of eating or different dietary patterns that are healthier than others. So all around the world, people have different types of eating patterns. So, for example, we have over here the Mediterranean eating pattern, and that’s been shown to reduce inflammation. Other dietary patterns that are high in refined or processed foods, such as these ones here, aren’t so healthy and they might promote inflammation. Another thing to be careful of is your weight.
Being obese or overweight or obese can increase inflammation as well, even if you are having a lot of anti-inflammatory foods. So let’s explore the Mediterranean diet a little bit further. As you can see, it’s very high in fruits and vegetables, which are high in antioxidants. Also, there’s a lot of unrefined grains that are eaten and a lot of olive oil, which has its own antioxidant properties. The olive fruit is particularly interesting. It contains over 230 antioxidant compounds. And of course, olive oil is made from the olive fruit. So olive oil also contains a lot of those compounds. The best olive oil is the extra virgin olive oil, which comes from the first press of processing of the olive fruit.
So therefore, it contains a lot more of those delicate compounds, which have those really beneficial health properties. The Mediterranean diet also has really good sources of protein, in addition to lots of healthy fats. The protein sources aren’t only from meat, but they also come from legumes and nuts and seeds. So it’s important to realize that the Mediterranean diet has a synergistic effect of all these foods working together. So almonds– yes, they’re very healthy, but having them by themselves is probably not going to do you as much good as having the combination of all the foods that are represented in the Mediterranean diet. In comparison, there’s diets that are high in refined foods and processed foods.
You can see here that there’s not really that much color to them, as opposed to the Mediterranean diet with all those beautiful, rich colors of the fruit and vegetables. The reason is the refinement and processing has removed a lot of those valuable nutrients and antioxidants. Not only do they lack the antioxidant properties of an unrefined diet, they’re also high in pro-inflammatory properties, such as refined sugar, saturated fat, and salt. The other thing about these foods is they’re high in kilojoules while lacking those nutrients. So having a lot of foods that are high in kilojoules can contribute to weight gain. And being overweight is a really strong risk factor for putting your body in an inflammatory state.
It’s not only really important to eat lots of those healthy foods, but how we eat them is important as well. So most of those antioxidant properties sit just below the skin of the fruit or vegetable or within the skin, which is what gives it its beautiful color. So making sure that you eat the whole food and not peel it and throw all of that goodness away. OK, so let’s have a look at the color of a strawberry, for example. So you can see here that the really rich part of the strawberry color is right around the very edges of it. Now, it’s not as though you usually peel strawberries, but that represents other fruits as well.
The best way to get the most out of these nutrient rich foods is to add them to the unrefined diet that has a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, and lean choices of meats and other healthy fats. That way you’re going to be doing the best for your body and getting a whole plethora of nutrients and antioxidant properties. If you choose to use specific foods to assist you in reducing your inflammation, then that’s fantastic. But really make sure that you’re doing it on a baseline diet that’s unrefined with lots of fruit and vegetables. A diet high in antioxidants can help prevent chronic disease.
But if you already have an inflammatory condition, a diet high in antioxidants is a really good basis as part of your overall health management. But just remember it’s just one piece of the puzzle. So avoiding the pro-inflammatory foods that are likely to heighten your inflammatory condition is a really good start and maximizing your intake of the foods high in antioxidant properties is going to give you the best health benefits. So that means having fruit and vegetables every day, trying to have the skin whenever you can, and legumes, whole grains, and lean meat, chicken and fish.
Some of the high antioxidant foods you might like to choose are things like cherries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, all kinds of nuts are fantastic, lots of leafy green vegetables, having eggplant or aubergine with the skin on. And there’s other new, novel foods that you can have a try of as well, things like cacao, which actually chocolate is made from. But it’s the dark chocolate that has the highest level of antioxidants and white chocolate has none of those antioxidant properties at all. So really try for the darkest ones. And they actually taste pretty good, too. Salmon is one of the great oily fishes that you can try, but there are other ones as well, such as sardines.
And most of the anti- inflammatory omege-3 fats are found just under the skin, so make sure that you eat the skin. Don’t forget the humble apple. Apples are really high in antioxidants. And a lot of studies have shown that apple can actually reduce inflammation. In summary, eat real food, not too much, and mostly plants.

Using foods to reduce inflammation is an area of nutrition that many are interested in; public, nutrition researchers and healthcare professionals alike.

We invite you to share your experiences regarding foods and inflammation by taking part in a survey. Please share with us:

  • what you have tried in the past
  • who you have received information from
  • what foods you commonly eat.

This gives us the opportunity to feedback to the group all your experiences and help give everyone the opportunity to share and discuss information about this exciting area of nutrition.

Share your experiences with foods and inflammation

Taking part in this survey is optional. All the information collected will be stored and handled according to Monash University’s Privacy Policy / T&C. Your participation has no effect on your course progress, marks or FutureLearn profile.

We now have a better understanding of what people know about nutrition, health, chronic disease and inflammation

We’re thrilled to share with you the published open access research paper that was informed by learner responses throughout previous runs of this course.

The paper is titled, Inflaming Public Interest: A Qualitative Study of Adult Learners’ Perceptions on Nutrition and Inflammation and it qualitatively explores learner perceptions and experiences of following diets believed to help manage inflammation.

Talking point

Now you know more about foods and inflammation are there any changes you’re planning to make?

Within the Comments, consider sharing with other learners your thoughts on the changes you’re planning to make to your diet.

We’ve compiled a list of foods with anti-inflammatory properties, that you can access from the Downloads section of this step. We hope you find it useful.

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Food as Medicine

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