Mediterranean Diet Can Reduce Inflammation Related Disease
Updated September 19th 2023
Extra Virgin Olive Oil has been listed in the top nine foods to reduce inflammation, according to top dieticians.
- What Is Inflammation?
- The Top Nine Foods To Reduce Inflammation
- Inflammation And Chronic Disease
- The Importance Of A Healthy Diet
- What Is Inflammation And How Can Polyphenols Help?
- Inflammation And Diet: Where Does Extra Virgin Olive Oil Fit In?
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Part Of An Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
It’s widely known that an anti-inflammatory diet is important for overall health. But did you know that adding extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) to your meals can be a simple and tasty way to reduce inflammation in the body?
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is full of antioxidants and essential fatty acids like omega-3s that can help protect your cells from damage and reduce swelling. In this post, we’ll explore why Extra Virgin Olive Oil is one of the most beneficial foods when it comes to reducing inflammation in the body, as well as looking at the other top anti-inflammatory food choices.
What Is Inflammation And Why Can Extra Virgin Olive Oil Help?
Inflammation is a natural process that plays a vital role in the body’s immune system. When there is an injury, infection, or irritation, inflammation helps to protect the affected area by sending white blood cells to fight off any foreign invaders. While acute inflammation is necessary for healing, chronic inflammation can cause long-term damage to the body and lead to several health issues such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. Luckily, there are many anti-inflammatory foods you can incorporate into your diet to help combat chronic inflammation. Eating a balanced diet rich in these foods can help improve your overall health and reduce the risk of inflammation-related diseases.
“Inflammation is a natural response by the body’s immune system to injury or infection.”Mary Sabat, MS, RDN
Acute inflammation actually helps to heal wounds and fight off pathogens. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, persists over a long period of time and can be harmful, potentially damaging tissue and stopping your organs from functioning properly, registered dietitian Catherine Gervacio of Living.Fit tells SheKnows. Chronic inflammation is ultimately associated with a number of health issues, like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders.
The good news: certain foods can help you fight inflammation, essentially “help[ing] modulate your body’s inflammatory response and reduc[ing] the risk of developing … chronic conditions” related to inflammation, Gervacio says.
So, according to Sabat and Gervacio, just what are the best foods to include in your diet to reduce inflammation?
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is known for being rich in monosaturated fats and containing oleocanthal, an anti-inflammatory compound, Sabat explains. When a recipe calls for cooking oil, this is a healthy one to choose. (Extra virgin olive oil is also a staple in the super-healthy, anti-inflammatory Mediterranean diet.)
Gervacio says berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, are “on top of my list” when it comes to anti-inflammatory foods. They’re a rich source of potent antioxidants like anthocyanins and quercetin, she explains, with anthocyanins serving to “scavenge free radicals in the body” and quercetin helping to protect cells from oxidative damage that can lead to inflammation. (Note: free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells, which leads to illness and aging.)
Berries also contain vitamin C, “a well-known antioxidant that helps neutralize free radicals,” Gervacio says.
Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are “are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants like quercetin and beta-carotene, which have anti-inflammatory effects,” Sabat says. They’re also high in fiber, which helps keep your gut microbiome healthy, and “a balanced gut microbiome is associated with reduced inflammation,” Gervacio explains.
“Green tea is considered a good anti-inflammatory food due to its rich content of bioactive compounds, particularly catechins, which have been studied for their anti-inflammatory effects,” Gervacio says. She explains that the most abundant catechin in green tea, Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), works to inhibit certain enzymes and pathways that are involved in inflammation.
Nuts and Seeds
Craving an anti-inflammatory snack? Grab a handful of mixed nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds, says Sabat. They’re “excellent sources of healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants,” helping reduce inflammation and improve your health overall.
Need a little spice in your life? Turmeric contains curcumin, which Sabat describes as a “potent anti-inflammatory compound.” Curcumin, she explains, “has been shown to reduce inflammation and may help alleviate symptoms of inflammatory conditions like arthritis.”
Ginger is known for having many health benefits, from easing nausea and cramps to improving digestion, so no surprise that this do-it-all food can also help ease inflammation. “Ginger has gingerol, a bioactive compound with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties,” Sabat confirms. She recommends adding it to dishes or consuming it as ginger tea to help with inflammation.
Garlic doesn’t just taste great — it can also help fight inflammation thanks to its sulfur compounds with anti-inflammatory properties, Sabat explains.
Swap your white bread for whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa and old-fashioned oats. These foods are high in fiber and antioxidants, says Sabat, which can help lower inflammation levels in your body.
How to Combat Inflammation in the Body
Maintaining a healthy diet is a key aspect of keeping your inflammation low, but your whole lifestyle plays a part in it as well, Gervacio says. She recommends exercising regularly as another way to help avoid harmful levels of inflammation. And of course, while there’s a lot you can do on your own to avoid and lower chronic inflammation, make sure to talk to a doctor if the problem becomes persistent and doesn’t improve.
Inflammation And Chronic Disease
Inflammation is a key factor in many chronic diseases, including heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce inflammation, and as a result, may help to lower disease risk. The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. These nutrients are known to have anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, the Mediterranean diet limits red meat and processed foods, which are major sources of inflammation.
The Importance Of A Healthy Diet
From the earliest days of the COVID pandemic, evidence emerged to suggest a link between obesity and increased risk from COVID-19. Researchers were united at an early stage in the understanding that obesity (and advanced age) appeared to reduce the body’s ability to fight infection such as COVID-19. This has prompted many of us to take a long hard look at our dietary choices and consider adjusting our eating patterns to follow diets such as the Mediterranean Diet, which focus on a combination of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish and healthy fats, such as the best olive oil – known to help followers maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI).
But what do we know about inflammation, how it is linked to our immune system and what nutritional choices we can make to help us fight off infection?
According to a report this month in Scientific American, the Mediterranean Diet ‘provides people with a host of protective compounds, including omega- 3s and polyphenols, plant-based compounds with antioxidant properties.’
What Is Inflammation And How Can Polyphenols Help?
Inflammation is a critical response to potential danger signals and damage in organs in our body. In diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and others, the immune system turns against the bodies’ organs. These painful and, in some cases, progressively debilitating conditions can take a toll on people’s quality of life and create both societal and economic burdens.
But there are choices we can make regarding our diet and lifestyle that can help prevent and manage these associated diseases. A lot of these involve increasing our intake of antioxidant compounds called polyphenols – which are present in abundance in foods such as high quality extra virgin olive oil.
The inflammatory process in the body serves an important function in the control and repair of injury. Commonly referred to as the inflammatory cascade, or simply inflammation, it can take two basic forms, acute and chronic. Acute inflammation, part of the immune response, is the body’s immediate response to injury or assault due to physical trauma, infection, stress, or a combination of all three. Acute inflammation helps to prevent further injury and facilitates the healing and recovery process.
When inflammation becomes self-perpetuating however, it can result in chronic or long-term inflammation. This is known as chronic inflammation, and lasts beyond the actual injury, sometimes for months or even years. It can become a problem itself and require medical intervention to control or stop further inflammation-mediated damage.
Inflammation And Diet: Where Does Extra Virgin Olive Oil Fit In?
A healthy diet, like the Mediterranean diet, including extra virgin olive oil like Morocco Gold can help combat inflammatory diseases.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Part Of An Anti-Inflammatory Diet
To reduce levels of inflammation, aim for an overall healthy diet. If you’re looking for an eating plan that closely follows the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating, consider the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils like extra virgin olive oil.
In addition to lowering inflammation, a more natural, less processed diet can have noticeable effects on your physical and emotional health. “A healthy diet is beneficial not only for reducing the risk of chronic diseases, but also for improving mood and overall quality of life,” Dr. Hu says.
Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Phenols and polyphenols serve as the core substances that give Extra Virgin Olive Oil its unique anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers have determined that small amounts of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, as low as one tablespoon per day, can lower inflammatory signalling in our body, including levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha).
Interestingly, in Mediterranean-type diets that include daily intake of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, not only is there less production of signalling molecules like TNF-alpha, but there is also less activity by the cell receptors for these pro-inflammatory molecules. (This decreased receptor activity has been shown for tumour necrosis factor receptor 60 (TNFR 60) and tumour necrosis factor receptor 80 (TNFR 80). Levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) have also been show to decrease with daily intake of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
In addition, scientists have shown that individuals who regularly consume Olive Oil have reduced activity of their pro-inflammatory cyclo-oxygenase 1 (COX-1) and cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2) enzymes, as well as reduced levels of related molecules including thromboxane B2 and leukotriene B4. Two molecules that are known to increase during inflammatory disease processes, vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) and intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1), have also been shown to decrease in amount following intake of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
In this anti-inflammatory context, it is also worth noting that oxidative stress, a process that often parallels the process of chronic inflammation, is reduced by regular consumption of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. One common blood marker used to monitor oxidative stress is the formation of substances called F2-isoprostanes, and studies have shown 10-15% lower levels of this blood marker following Extra Virgin Olive Oil intake.
Importantly, the anti-inflammatory benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil do not depend on large levels of intake. In most studies, these benefits become statistically significant with as little as one tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil per day.
The anti-inflammatory benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil also appear to increase with daily intake above this level. An average daily Extra Virgin Olive Oil amount of 2 tablespoons per day is enough to provide strong anti-inflammatory benefits.