Most of us can think of plenty of reasons to indulge in sweets while also devising a few excuses for skipping out on regular exercise—like if a co-worker brought cookies to the office or a late-night Netflix binge canceled out a morning run. And while we’ve all been there, we’ve also noticed the unwanted consequences.
Inflammation can occur when our bodies try to process certain foods, like those that are high in sugar or omega-six fatty acids, and it could lead to uncomfortable swelling or bloating. But the good news is that the best defense against inflammation is a solid offense, according to Vincent Pedre, MD, a board-certified internal medicine doctor and gut health specialist. “The right anti-inflammatory diet begins by eliminating foods that trigger or exacerbate inflammation,” Pedre writes in a recent article for MindBodyGreen. “The focus instead should be on whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods.”
So how can you make these doctor-approved eats more appealing than a thick slice of chocolate cake? First, make a plan. Pedre recommends foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids like wild-caught fish and grass-fed meats, as well as chia seeds, almonds, and walnuts. He also gives a thumbs up to whole foods that are low in sugar, like avocados and strawberries, and the likes of bone broth, coconut oil, and leafy greens. “My favorites include spinach, which is packed with anti-inflammatory compounds like quercetin,” he notes. Once you know what to keep in rotation, it’s easier to build healthy (and delicious) meals around them.
But Pedre also writes that anti-inflammatory actions depend on a thoughtful lifestyle, too. He remarks that getting enough sleep, meditating to keep stress in check, and eliminating toxic products from your home are also important factors in keeping inflammation to a minimum. Oh and so is a regular sweat session—to a degree. “Exercise, but never for more than an hour, at which point inflammation levels actually go up,” he says.