Beat inflammation: Change your diet

Beat inflammation: Change your diet

If you suffer from chronic inflammation, take a long, hard look at your diet and see if this may be one of the culprits giving your body those ongoing aches and pains.

Short-term inflammation protects the body – if you pull a muscle, for example, the pain and swelling are a warning sign to rest. However, lingering or chronic inflammation is a condition where the body’s immune system turns on itself and it therefore can lead to more serious conditions.

Chronic inflammation is associated with heart disease, for one, as well as osteoarthritis, some autoimmune diseases, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

So, if your whole body is sore and stiff and this doesn’t ease up after a few days of rest and care, ask your doctor about the possibility of chronic inflammation. There is a simple blood test to check levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which may flag chronic inflammation.

Apart from anti-inflammatory medication there are many natural solutions which centre on living a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating a nutritous diet, getting enough exercise and sleep, watching stress and cholesterol levels and not smoking. Diet, however, is your most potent natural weapon in the anti-inflammatory arsenal. It’s good to know that any food high in antioxidants or containing polyphenols may also help to lower inflammation levels. Here is what to avoid – and eat more of – to ease those aches and pains.


  1. Refined sugar: Cakes, biscuits, sweets, desserts and fizzy, sugary cool drinks.
  2. Highly processed foods: Frozen ready meals, chips, foods containing a lot of MSG, processed meats and even microwave popcorn.
  3. Saturated fats: Fried foods as well as red meat, cream, cheese, butter and margarine.
  4. Refined flour: White bread, pizza, pasta, tortillas and bagels.


  1. Fruits and vegetables: At least five servings of fresh produce a day and preferably more. Apples, blueberries, grapes, tomatoes, pineapple, spinach, onions, mushrooms and beetroot are all great choices. There aren’t that many fruit and veg, in fact, which are not good for you!
  2. Healthy fats: Virgin and extra-virgin olive oil. Avocado, almonds, walnuts, pecan nuts and anchovies also provide “good” fats. Eat oily fish regularly to get in much-needed Omega-3, and if you are a vegan, you can try ground chia or flaxseeds for healthy oils.
  3. Fibre: Beans, quinoia and lentils (all high in protein), as well as oats, sweet potato, barley, brown and wild rice. Many fresh fruits and vegetables are also rich in fibre.
  4. Spices, herbs and teas: Turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and cumin are anti-inflammatory spices, and basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme also are anti-inflammatory. International authorities have long recommended a freshly brewed pot of green tea but South Africa’s old favourite of rooibos also has antioxidant properties.

BONUS: There’s also good news if you love your coffee, dark chocolate and red wine. These also contain polyphenols, so enjoy in moderation.

Even though chronic inflammation is unpleasant and uncomfortable, there is a lot that you can do by taking your health into your own hands. Start by paying attention to your diet. Next time you are feeling aches and pains creep up, brew some ginger tea and snack on a few berries or a square or two of dark chocolate. Listen to your body, it may just be trying to tell you what you need to eat!

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