Food labels can tell you a lot. For instance, they can indicate how many calories, carbs, proteins and fats are found in foods. What they don’t tell you, however, is how your inflammation levels may be affected by that food.
Inflammation? You may be wondering what inflammation has to do with the foods we eat.
The answer? Plenty.
The truth is that some foods—such as foods high in omega-3s, antioxidants and other important nutrients—are better for your inflammation levels than others are. One expert in the area of foods and their inflammation-influencing abilities is Monica Reinagel, a well-known nutritional researcher.
Reinagel’s book The Inflammation Free Diet Plan provides helpful dietary guidelines for selecting foods that can support healthy inflammation levels in the body. In fact, Reinagel created the IF Rating™ system that is utilized to give an inflammation factor for various foods.
Simply put, foods with a positive rating can support healthy inflammation levels, while foods with a negative rating can foster unhealthy inflammation levels.
The foods we eat influence inflammation through chemicals called prostaglandins from the foods’ nutrients. Foods like wild fish, cruciferous vegetables, green, leafy vegetables and some spices like ginger and garlic may be especially healthy for supporting normal inflammation.
Other foods may not be particularly healthy for inflammation levels. Let’s say, for example, that a typical American breakfast includes a plain bagel (-186 on the inflammation scale), a cup of corn flakes cereal (-182), with maybe a glass of low-fat milk (-33)—perish the thought. According to Reinagel’s rating system, a breakfast like that comes in at about a -401.
If a person picks up a Caesar salad from a fast food joint (a -42 rating) and a small soda (ranging from -53 to -58 for a small order), the negative numbers begin to accumulate. Throw in chicken nuggets, french fries (a whopping -336 rating) or some pizza for dinner with a chocolate ice cream dessert and you have negative numbers that go way over the top!
Here’s a surprise. Even many “good inflammation” foods like salmon have ratings that have to do with whether they are farm raised or wild. According to Reinagel’s rating, three ounces of farm-raised Atlantic salmon weighs in at a -180, while three ounces of wild Atlantic salmon comes in at a +493.
Other foods that rank positively in supporting healthy inflammation levels include: extra virgin olive oil, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale, almonds, chia seeds, walnuts, pecans, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and onions.
So, if you’re looking to support healthy inflammation levels through your diet, then you might want to rethink your food selections, including that bagel for breakfast. Maybe you’d like some fresh berries instead?
Dr. Jordan Rubin