How can vegans eat to beat inflammation?

If you are a follower of this blog (thank you!), you will have read several times that I believe inflammation underlies many degenerative diseases including arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and cancer as well as accelerating aging.

Inflammation serves a useful purpose in your body in that it is there to defend your body against invading micro-organisms but sometimes the inflammatory response can be triggered inappropriately and this is when damage occurs.

What you eat can greatly influence the inflammatory response.  For instance refined sugars and carbs can trigger the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines because of their effect on blood sugar and the release of insulin.  So ditch the sugar along with alcohol and sweeteners such as aspartame.  Include slow release carbs such as wholegrain bread, brown rice, wholemeal pasta etc.

The problem in the western diet is that we tend to consume far more omega 6s (corn oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, palm oil etc) than omega 3 (for vegans this means flaxseed oils, hemp oil) whereas we should eat similar amounts of each.  It is really important to get your omega 3s if you want to dampen down the inflammatory response.  Olives, olive oil, walnuts and almonds are a source of omega 9 which will help break down any plaques built up by the inflammatory response. At the same time it is also important to limit saturated fat and avoid trans fats completely.  Please see 'Where do vegans get their Omega 3s from?'-

Don't forget to include plenty of antioxidants in your diet.  These fight the free radicals that damage cells and cause your body to mount the inflammatory response. This happens because your body no longer recognises the cell as 'you' and goes into attack.  Antioxidants include vitamin A found in orange coloured fruit and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, melon and carrots and also spinach and other dark, leafy green vegetables.  Vitamin C is also antioxidant - find it in citrus fruits, kiwi, peppers, berries and leafy green.  Include vitamin E foods in your diet for their antioxidant effect too.  These include nuts and seeds and their oils.

Other vitamins that should be included in an anti-inflammatory diet are vitamin D (please see 'Bring on the sun- Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin'-  Also the B vitamins which lower homocysteine and C-reactive protein, the biomarkers of inflammation, damping down the inflammatory response.  Find your B vitamins in leafy green vegetables,  brown rice, wholemeal bread, peas, beans etc. Vegans need to supplement their diet with vitamin B12.

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