Chronic inflammation: more reasons to eat smarter


Recently I reported on the findings of a No Targets Just Routine poll to gauge the reaction of the public to an extensive five-year French nutrition study in which researchers found that eating every day ultra-processed foods led to an increase in overall cancer events. Ubiquitous foods like bread, pastry, sodas and sweetened drinks, chicken nuggets, instant noodles, frozen ready meals and processed cheese. There was a clear-cut opinion on food labelling, with almost 60% of those surveyed wanting the government to add warnings to foods that are known to be harmful and lead to obesity and ill health. Today I’m looking at further reasons to reduce consumption of these increasingly contentious foods, with some tips on how to get onto a better path.

Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation is a natural defence mechanism in the body, its attempt at self-protection and part of the body’s immune response. Infections, wounds, and any damage to tissue would not be able to heal without an inflammatory response. However, chronic inflammation can eventually cause diseases and other problems, including some cancers, rheumatoid arthritis and hay fever. Now a Harvard study published in January by JAMA Oncology suggests that diets promoting chronic inflammation are associated with colorectal cancer.

120,000 people over 26 years

In this major piece of research covering the self-reported eating habits of more than 120,000 people, researchers analysed 26 years of surveys that were completed every four years during this period. They found those who reported eating the biggest quantities of red and processed meats, sugary drinks, and refined grains – foods that promote inflammation – had a higher rate of colorectal cancer. And the differences were significant when compared with people who ate less of these foods. In the case of men, the risk was 44% higher; for women, 22%.

Other things the higher risk groups had in common:

  • they ate fewer vegetables
  • they drank less tea, wine, and coffee

The first I found no surprise, the second I found much more intriguing. In any case, with a growing number of studies finding chronic inflammation is associated with cancer – and pro-inflammatory diets linked to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease – the biggest takeaway must be to make reducing the risk of chronic inflammation a priority, which means fixing our diets.

Smarter eating

The foods we eat can have the power to help us live a longer, healthier life. Some easy-win tips:

  1. Make your own pasta sauces. Ready meals and jarred sauces contain large amount of sugar. Make your own and become a cooking sensation.
  2. Drink water or unsweetened coffee or tea. Even diet drinks have been found to encourage us to eat the calories we don’t drink.
  3. Make fruit your go-to snack. Even ‘healthy’ snack bars typically contain a combination of processed starch and sugar. Keep it real!
  4. Avoid fruit-flavoured sweetened yogurts. Instead add a handful of fresh berries to Greek yogurt for an amazing boost of nutrition.
  5. To help boost your immune system add probiotics and prebiotics to your diet to promote a healthy gut. Good food sources include: homemade sauerkraut, kefir and kimchi.

If you like these tips and would welcome more, just sign up for Just Routine for a daily healthy eating tip. You’ll soon find out how easy it is to make eating more real food Just Routine, and in the process can reduce the risk of chronic inflammation.

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Iris is the founder of No Targets Just Routine. She has researched food since 2009 and believes “Happiness is real food shared with loved ones.”

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