4 Anti-Inflammatory Proteins You Should Be Eating, According to a Dietitian


The Power of Anti-Inflammatory Proteins: A Dietitian’s Perspective

In the realm of health and wellness, the buzzword “inflammation” often takes center stage. However, it’s not merely a passing trend; adopting an anti-inflammatory diet can significantly contribute to a healthier and more resilient life as you age. Renowned dietitian Nancy Mazarin, M.S., RD, CDN, emphasizes the pivotal role of an anti-inflammatory eating style in preventing chronic medical conditions.

Understanding Inflammation: The Culprit Behind Chronic Diseases

Before delving into the anti-inflammatory proteins, it’s crucial to distinguish between acute and chronic inflammation. While short-term inflammation is a natural response to injuries or illnesses, chronic inflammation poses a more insidious threat. Mazarin points out that diseases like arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes are intricately linked to chronic inflammation—an ongoing process where inflammatory cells are active even in the absence of injury or illness.

Embracing Anti-Inflammatory Eating Patterns

To combat chronic inflammation, aligning your diet with patterns associated with lower disease risk is key. The Mediterranean diet, DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), and MIND diet stand out as prime examples. Although not entirely plant-based, these diets emphasize the consumption of plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Importantly, they don’t exclude animal-based protein sources, showcasing the versatility of anti-inflammatory eating.

The Four Anti-Inflammatory Proteins You Should Prioritize

1. Beans: A Diverse and Nutrient-Rich Protein Source

Whether you’re a fan of black, kidney, white, cannellini, lima, or pinto beans, incorporating them into your diet can work wonders. Colored beans, such as pinto or black beans, contain pigments with anti-inflammatory antioxidant compounds. These compounds play a pivotal role in preventing diseases like cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, as highlighted in a 2018 review in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.

Moreover, beans are a powerhouse of fiber, including resistant starch that supports gut health. A 2022 study in the journal Nutrients emphasizes how this specific starch provides nourishment for beneficial gut bacteria, fostering a healthy microbiome and, consequently, reducing inflammation. For a delectable immune-boosting dish, consider trying our recipe for Slow-Cooker Baked Beans.

2. Fatty Fish: Omega-3 Rich Delicacies for Heart Health

Incorporating fatty fish like salmon, tuna, or mackerel into your diet brings a wealth of anti-inflammatory benefits. These fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat renowned for its inflammation-fighting properties. A meta-analysis published in the journal Nutrients in 2020 reinforced the connection between fish consumption and a reduced risk of heart disease. The authors suggested that a mere 20 grams of fish per day correlated with a 4% lower risk of developing or dying from heart disease.

Fish isn’t only an omega-3 source; it also packs a punch with vitamin D and selenium, additional nutrients with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory prowess. Opt for fattier fish, as advised by Mazarin, for maximum benefits. For those not keen on fish, plant alternatives like flaxseeds and chia seeds offer a plant-powered omega-3 boost. Explore the culinary delight of our easy-to-make Salmon Tacos with Pineapple Salsa for a flavoursome anti-inflammatory treat.

3. Lentils: The Unsung Heroes of Anti-Inflammatory Eating

Often grouped with beans under the legume umbrella, lentils deserve a spotlight of their own. Packed with polyphenols—plant compounds with antioxidant properties—lentils contribute to inflammation reduction. A 2021 review in the Pharmaceuticals highlights their potential in decreasing the risk of diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease.

Lentils share similarities with beans, boasting prebiotic fiber that fosters a healthy gut. Research in Advances in Nutrition in 2023 underscores the direct role of fiber in reducing chronic inflammation and promoting a healthy weight. Dive into the goodness of lentils with our delectable recipe for Braised Black Lentil & Quinoa Bowls.

4. Nuts: A Nutty Affair with Anti-Inflammatory Goodness

Give yourself permission to go a little nuts—literally. Nuts, including almonds and walnuts, are not only delightful snacks but also potent anti-inflammatory agents. A 2023 review in the journal Nutrients reveals that nuts contribute to inflammation reduction due to compounds like unsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, selenium, copper, fiber, and antioxidants. Surprisingly, nuts match the protein content of fish, eggs, or meat, making them a versatile protein source.

Incorporate nuts into your daily routine by sprinkling them on salads, oatmeal, or yogurt bowls. Grab a handful as a snack to infuse your diet with extra protein. An ounce of almonds, for instance, provides six grams of protein—equivalent to a large egg. Embrace the anti-inflammatory benefits with this simple dietary addition.

The Bottom Line: Crafting Your Anti-Inflammatory Plate

While numerous anti-inflammatory foods exist, focusing on beans, fatty fish, lentils, and nuts can elevate your protein intake. These foods not only offer versatility but also seamlessly integrate into a balanced and nutritious diet. Prioritize these choices to quell the fire of chronic inflammation and embark on a journey towards a healthier, more vibrant life.

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