Inflammation, which is part of the body’s defense mechanism, plays a huge role in the body’s healing process. While it is a good thing, inflammation may contribute to number of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. One of the best ways to reduce inflammation is by following an anti-inflammatory diet.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to harm, which could be a foreign body such as a thorn, an irritant or a pathogen (bacteria, virus and other infection causing organisms.) There are two types of inflammation - namely acute and chronic inflammation. The former refers to responses such as when you knock your knee or cut your finger. In such incidences, the body will release an army of white blood cells to protect the area and this manifests in visible redness and swelling.

When you suffer from infections such as pneumonia, the body releases a similar response to fight off the infection. Simply put, without such a response, wounds could fester and infections would become deadly.

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Chronic inflammation happens when the immune response happens when it shouldn’t. For example, it can be triggered when you are exposed to toxins and by other causes such as chronic stress, obesity, and autoimmune disorders. In these cases, instead of moving in, healing the problem, and then returning to normal, the inflammation persists over time. This could lead to a number of health problems such as heart disease, arthritis, depression and even cancer.

To combat chronic inflammation, experts recommend choosing the right diet while avoiding foods that can trigger chronic inflammation including refined carbohydrates (think white bread and muffins), fried foods, sugary drinks and red meat. Exercising enough, getting enough sleep and keeping stress under control are also recommended.

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Aim for an overall healthy diet to not only reduce levels of inflammation and thereby reduce the risk of chronic diseases, but also to improve your mood and overall quality of life. Foods that fight inflammation include:

Fruits and vegetables: The rule of the thumb here is to go for lots of colour and variety. Studies show that green leafy vegetables rich in vitamin K such as kales and spinach reduce inflammation. Brocolli is also an excellent anti-inflammatory vegetable as it is rich in antioxidants.

When it comes to fruits, berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries) lead the pack. Berries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins that have anti-inflammatory effects that may reduce your risk of disease.

Avocados: Packed with potassium, fibre, magnesium and heart-healthy fats, avocados are truly a superfood. Avocados offer various beneficial compounds that protect against inflammation and may reduce your cancer risk.

Green tea: It isn’t for naught that green tea is considered as one of the healthiest beverages to drink. Besides reducing your risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and cancer, it has a compound that reduces inflammation and safeguards your cells from damage.

Mushrooms: Rich in selenium and all the B vitamins, mushrooms also contain antioxidants that provide anti-inflammatory protection.

Turmeric: Turmeric contains a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin. Eating black pepper with turmeric can significantly enhance the absorption of curcumin. Turmeric reduces inflammation related to arthritis, diabetes, and other diseases.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, which may reduce inflammation and protect against cancer. Note that cooking tomatoes in olive oil can maximise the amount of lycopene you absorb.

Dark chocolate and cocoa: Yes, you read that right and one more reason to chomp on your dark chocolate, which is packed with antioxidants that reduce inflammation. This is due to compounds known as flavanols, which are present in cocoa and dark chocolate.