Heart-healthy diets focus on foods that target blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose. However, an effective plan should also include anti-inflammatory foods to reduce the risk of heart diseases. Cholesterol is an essential lipid that performs various functions in our body. For example, it helps build cell membranes. In addition, it aids hormones, bile and vitamin D. The current perception is that cholesterol causes plaques in the arteries, leading to heart attacks and strokes. However, recent studies suggest that high levels of inflammation are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, inflammation can ignite various disorders such as arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
A lack of antioxidant-rich foods can lead to inflammation. In addition, an improper diet or imbalances in cortisol, insulin, and glucose can also lead to inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet consists of plenty of prebiotics, fibre, antioxidants, and omega-3-fatty acids. They help improve well being and increase longevity.
Relationship Between Cholesterol and Inflammation
Inflammation is your body’s immune response to an illness or injury that helps fight off germs and facilitates healing. Nevertheless, long-term inflammation causes a buildup of LDL cholesterol in our arterial walls. So our body attempts to resolve this problem by producing more cholesterol, leading to high cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart diseases. In addition, chronic inflammation promotes the growth of plaques. It triggers blood clots which are the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes.
Therefore, the key to keeping inflammation to a minimum is by following a diet rich in vegetables, whole fruit, whole grains, legumes, and fatty fish.
Foods that are Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Fruits are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds known as polyphenols, which protect our bodies from heart disease. There is evidence that fruits such as berries have an anti-inflammatory effect on humans. Other fruits like apples, grapes, pomegranates and oranges are high in soluble fibre and low in sugar which also helps lower LDL cholesterol. Consuming two cups of mixed fruits every day can provide various health benefits, such as boosting antioxidant activity and reducing total and LDL cholesterol levels.
Nutritional values of some fruits(per 100 gm) are:
Energy: 32 kcalProtein: 0.67 gTotal fat: 0.3 gCarbohydrate: 7.68 gTotal dietary fibre: 2 gCholesterol: 0 mg
Energy: 69 kcalProtein: 0.72 gTotal fat: 0.16 gCarbohydrate: 18.1 gTotal dietary fibre: 0.9 gCholesterol: 0 mg
An anti-inflammatory diet must include peppers, celery, carrots, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and collards. They have fewer calories, are high in fibre and contain protein.
According to a study, stress can lead to high cholesterol by initiating chronic inflammation and plaque formation. Still, these vegetables can help excrete the cholesterol in the body through the stool. Therefore, you may consume five or more servings per day of vegetables to promote beneficial cardiovascular health.
Easy to find vegetables you can eat and their nutritional values (per 100 gm) are:
Energy: 18 kcalProtein: 0.88 gTotal fat: 0.2 gCarbohydrate: 3.89 gTotal dietary fibre: 1.2 gCholesterol: 0 mg
Energy: 35 kcalProtein: 2.92 gTotal fat: 1.49 gCarbohydrate: 4.42 gTotal dietary fibre: 4.1 gCholesterol: 142 mg
3. Olive Oil
Olive oil has various health benefits and is effective in combating inflammation. The antioxidants mediate the anti-inflammatory effects. In addition, these antioxidants offer protection from high cholesterol risks such as cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, stroke, brain dysfunction, and cancer. Olive oil also reduces the risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease and helps prevent inflammation, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance.
The nutritional contents of extra virgin olive oil per 100 ml is:
Energy: 800 kcalProtein: 0 gTotal fat: 93.33 gCarbohydrate: 0 gTotal dietary fibre: 0 gCholesterol: 0 mg
Nuts are nutrient-dense, rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acids, high-quality plant protein, dietary fibre, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. The nutritional composition of nuts is associated with reducing diabetes risk, promoting weight loss and fighting inflammation.
A study revealed that consuming nuts frequently decreases inflammatory markers. Hence, nuts can cut the risk for coronary heart disease and various other heart conditions linked to cholesterol.
Some of the best nuts you can eat nad their nutritional values (per 100 gm) are:
Energy: 553 kcalProtein: 18.2 gTotal fat: 43.8 gCarbohydrate: 30 gTotal dietary fibre: 3.3 gCholesterol: 0 mg
Energy: 579 kcalProtein: 29.3 gTotal fat: 50 gCarbohydrate: 20 gTotal dietary fibre: 21.6 gCholesterol: 0 mg
Please note that the nutritional values given are 100 grams of these nuts. However, you should consume only one serving of nuts, approximately 30 grams.
5. Whole Grains
Whole grains are a complete package of vitamins and minerals because of their fibre-rich bran, starchy endosperm, and germ, packed with nutrients. Also, Whole grains is rich in phytonutrients that fight inflammation in many ways. According to research, increased consumption of whole-grain foods can decrease inflammation.
Some of the best whole grains to have are:
Brown rice is an unrefined whole grain containing various essential nutrients in the bran. Studies show that replacing white rice with brown rice can help decrease inflammation, especially in overweight individuals. Moreover, it helps to nourish blood vessels, regulate insulin secretion, enhance kidney and liver function and prevent chronic alcohol disease.
The nutritional contents of brown rice per 100 g of serving are:
Energy: 360 kcalProtein: 8 gTotal fat: 3 gCarbohydrate: 78 gTotal dietary fibre: 4 gCholesterol: 0 mg
Quinoa is a valuable dietary choice for vegans and vegetarians. It is a gluten-free grain that has a high fibre and protein content. Studies show that adding quinoa to your diet significantly lowers cholesterol in your body. It is due to an abundance of anti-inflammatory phytochemicals with potentially protective effects against inflammation. In addition, it provides iron, copper, thiamin, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and folate. It also acts as a prebiotic that supplies beneficial gut bacteria, thriving and improving gut health.
The nutritional contents of quinoa per 100 g of serving are:
Energy: 120 kcalProtein: 4.4 gTotal fat: 1.92 gCarbohydrate: 21.3 gTotal dietary fibre: 2.8 gCholesterol: 0 mg
Whole Grain Oats
Whole grain oats have an anti-inflammatory effect that helps protect the blood vessels from the damage of LDL cholesterol. In addition, whole grain oats contain high antioxidants that improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. It is also a prebiotic food that increases the growth rate of gut bacteria and can contribute to a healthy gut.
A study concluded that whole grain oats are the most effective whole grain for lowering cholesterol. The combination of nutrients and phytochemicals aid in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. A type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan found in oats facilitates the excretion of cholesterol-rich bile acids from the body, lowering LDL.
The nutritional contents of oats per 100 g of serving are:
Energy: 375 kcalProtein: 12.5 gTotal fat: 6.24 gCarbohydrate: 67.5 gTotal dietary fibre: 10 gCholesterol: 0 mg
Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Foods to Avoid
Refined grains are devoid of nutrients as they do not contain bran, and fibre, unlike whole grains. Foods made from refined grains can trigger our bodies to generate inflammatory compounds such as free radicals and cytokines. It is due to the presence of allergens like gluten which can alter our gut bacteria and reduce the function of the gut barrier, leading to inflammatory responses. However, evidence suggests that whole grains have the reverse effect. Eating more whole grains may be directly correlated with reducing inflammation.
Sweet and Sugary Foods
Sugary foods such as cookies, cakes and doughnuts have butter, high in saturated fat and cholesterol. High sugar and saturated fatty acid content induce free radicals and cytokines, giving rise to inflammation. In addition, they increase blood triglycerides which can be a risk factor for coronary heart disease. You may consume fruits to enhance the taste and increase fibre content.
Processed meats are smoked, salted, canned, dried, or preserved to increase their shelf life and have very little nutritional value. Bacon, sausage and hot dogs are usually made from fatty cuts of beef or pork and have high levels of saturated fatty acids. Excess saturated fat intake can cause free radical formation in cells, eliciting an inflammatory immune response. In addition, excess processed meat consumption can correlate to colorectal and stomach cancer. Hence, nutritionists advise limiting the intake of processed meats.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet Plan for controlling Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol levels and heart disease are prevalent throughout the world. The first step people usually take towards rectifying this is cutting out all fats from their diet, without regard to the fact that heart-healthy fats also exist which are needed for basic functioning of the body. However current research points more in the direction of an anti-inflammatory diet rather than a low fat diet. An example of this would be the Mediterranean and Paleo diets which are rich in natural foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables. With more focus on fresh foods, rather than fried and processed ones, heart disease is preventable and controllable through diet in combination with an active lifestyle.
1. Vegetarian Diet: Food Options
A carefully planned anti-inflammatory vegetarian diet is good for reducing cholesterol levels and improving overall health. Fresh vegetarian foods are low in total fat and saturated fat and high in fibre, significantly lowering your cholesterol.
Natural peanut/almond butter on whole-grain toastOvernight oats with yoghurt and berriesGreen smoothieOvernight oats with blueberries and almondsTurmeric milk oatmealSugarless mango milkshake with walnutsWhole wheat vegetable sandwichSpinach moong cheela
Plain yoghurt with nuts and berriesApple slices with almond butterHalf a cup of fresh fruitsA pear/guava
Brown rice with spinach dalHummus, and vegetable sandwichKale and quinoa salad with lemon dressingQuinoa and sprouts saladVegetable and chickpea stew Creamy spinach whole grain pastaOven-roasted cauliflower with beans and tomatoesLentil, beetroot, and quinoa salad
Sprouts (raw or cooked) Green tea with assorted nutsRoasted channa/chickpeasFruit bowl with chia seeds
Roasted vegetables with kidney beans in olive oilSweet potato cauliflower soup with beansBrown rice veg and mushroom pulaoSpinach and mushroom quicheChickpea and kale buddha bowlGarlic sautéed kale and curdVegetable dal brown rich khichdi
2. Vegan Diet: Food Options
Plant-based diets include olive oil, giving vegans the fatty acids they need and anti-inflammatory properties without the cholesterol. Following a vegan diet can reduce the risk of inflammation, thus reducing heart diseases.
Tofu scramble with whole-grain toastMaple Granola with plain almond milkBanana and oatmeal Overnight oats with blueberries and almondsVegan smoothie bowlAvocado toast with a blueberry smoothie
Apple energy ballsCarrot sticks with hummusChia seed puddingChopped walnutsDark chocolate and chia energy balls
Roasted vegetables and greens over spiced lentilsChopped salad with chickpeas, olives and fetaWhite Bean and Vegetable SaladThai carrot soupKale and quinoa salad with lemon dressingVegetable and chickpea stew Oven-roasted cauliflower with beans and tomatoesLentil, beetroot, and hazelnut saladChickpea salad with roasted peppers and hummus
Mango and date energy bitesTurmeric ginger teaSprouts with lemon juiceOne whole appleGreen teaFistful of nuts
Hummus, sprouts and avocado with whole-wheat breadRoasted vegetables with black beans in olive oilSweet potato black bean burgerQuinoa Chickpea Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Hummus DressingChickpea and kale buddha bowlGreek quinoa salad stuffed baked sweet potatoesStuffed potato and beansSlow cooker vegetable soupKale salad with smoked avocado
3. Non-Vegetarian Diet: Food Options
An effective non-vegetarian diet combines various fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Moreover, non-vegetarians can derive their omega-3-fatty acids mainly from fatty fish such as tuna. Such fish help fight inflammation and improve symptoms of some common health conditions.
Scrambled eggs with spinach and whole grain toastAvocado egg toast Whole wheat sandwich with boiled eggs and tomatoesMango and kale smoothieEgg and chicken omelette
Apple/pear with nut butterChia seed puddingBoiled eggs Dark chocolate and chia energy balls
Chickpea and tuna saladLemon fish and grilled broccoliBaked chicken and veggiesEgg and vegetable saladFried rice with brown rice, eggs and veggiesChicken and veggie steamed riceWhole wheat rotis with palak chicken
Turmeric ginger tea with nutsSprouts with lemon juiceFruit bowl with chia seedsBoiled eggsChicken Omelette
Oats spinach rotis with chicken stir fryWhole wheat chicken and zucchini pastaQuinoa capcium chicken biryaniGrilled chicken with braised veggiesGrilled fish with veggiesSpinach roti with fish curryTuna and vegetable salad
Lifestyle Modification to combine with an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
You can manage inflammation by avoiding factors that activate your body’s inflammatory response. You may be able to treat inflammation on your own by adopting a healthy lifestyle and staying consistent with it. Not only does it help decrease inflammation, but it also reduces bad cholesterol and high blood sugar and lower blood pressure.
You can do the following to reduce inflammation:
1. Quit Smoking
Cigarette smoking promotes chronic inflammation and is associated with increased inflammatory markers. As a result, smoking decreases HDL cholesterol levels and increases the risk of coronary heart disease. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing the markers of inflammation. It can also help protect their arteries and decrease the chances of cardiovascular and lung disorders.
2. Maintain Healthy Body Weight
Being overweight increases immune response which causes the body to generate inflammation. In addition, excess fat in the body, promotes inflammation due to proinflammatory cytokines. Therefore, it becomes a necessity to maintain a healthy weight. A study suggests that weight loss reduces inflammation by activating a reduction in the plasma level of inflammatory markers due to increased metabolism.
3. Keep Stress at Bay
Chronic psychological stress is associated with losing the body’s ability to regulate the inflammatory response. As a result, stress can disturb the immune system by inducing inflammation. Immune cells become insensitive to the regulatory effect of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn promotes the development and progression of many diseases. Consistent, regular exercise can reduce stress and, thereby, inflammation.
4. Increase Physical Activity
Regular exercise can reduce adipose tissue inflammation, which contributes to systemic inflammation. Research shows that even a 20-minute walk can have anti-inflammatory effects and lower the body’s inflammatory response. Moreover, doing hatha yoga or cycling at least thrice a week can also lower levels of inflammatory markers.
Chronic inflammation can contribute to many chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. There is no targeted anti-inflammatory diet, but a diet that includes a combination of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats help combat inflammation. You can also manage inflammation through various lifestyle habits. These are maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and quitting smoking
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the best natural cholesterol reducer?
A. There is no single best way of reducing cholesterol. You can reduce it by including various healthy ingredients in your meals, such as colourful vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains and fresh fruits. Foods such as berries and turmeric offer inflammatory properties which aid in lowering cholesterol by reducing systemic inflammation in the body. Coupling a healthy meal plan with habits such as exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and avoiding refined carbs and processed foods can reduce cholesterol naturally.
Q. What is the safest anti-inflammatory medication?
A. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are generally prescribed for inflammation. However, you need to visit your doctor before taking any medication. In addition, you can manage inflammation by following a heart-healthy diet, including anti-inflammatory foods.
Q. What is the strongest natural anti-inflammatory?
A. Foods rich in omega-3-fatty acids have a substantial impact on managing inflammation. In addition, Omega-3 fatty acids inhibit an enzyme that produces the prostaglandin hormones that spark inflammation. These fats are abundant in fatty fish, nuts and seeds.
Q. How can I reduce inflammation in my body?
A. You can reduce inflammation through various lifestyle habits such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and quitting smoking. However, most importantly, eating a meal with more anti-inflammatory foods make a massive difference. An anti-inflammatory meal consists of plenty of prebiotics, fibre, antioxidants, and omega-3-fatty acids.
Q. Can inflammation cause bleeding?
A. Inflammation is your body’s immune response to an illness or injury that helps fight germs and facilitates healing. However, long-term inflammation causes a buildup of LDL cholesterol in our arterial walls. It leads to the growth of plaques, triggers blood clots and even causes internal bleeding. Therefore, it is necessary to keep inflammation under control by following an anti-inflammatory diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Q. Can an anti-inflammatory diet help weight loss?
A. Yes, an anti-inflammatory diet may help in weight loss. Being overweight and having excess fat promotes inflammation. The foods included in the anti-inflammatory diet promote healthy weight loss and help maintain a healthy weight. Weight loss further reduces inflammation due to increased metabolism.
Q. Does an anti-inflammatory diet raise blood pressure?
A. No, an anti-inflammatory diet does not raise blood pressure. On the contrary, it may help lower blood pressure due to decreased bad cholesterol levels, which are crucial to high blood pressure. Inflammation is responsible for increased blood pressure, and blood pressure, in turn, increases inflammation. But you can break this cycle by managing the factors that cause inflammation and following a healthy and balanced diet.
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