Food Rx: Nature's Inflammation Fighters
Inflammation can be good and bad. On the one hand, acute inflammation helps the body defend itself from infection and injury. But chronic inflammation can lead to diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and allergies. More than 60 percent of Americans have physical symptoms related to ongoing inflammation — such as digestive problems, joint pain, wheezing, and watery or itchy eyes. And seasonal changes in air pressure can be major triggers of these symptoms.
But a few key nutrients can help restore balance: Antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, and E, neutralize the free radicals that can cause inflammation in the body and illness. In a study with more than 500 people, vitamin C intake of 107 mg. per day was associated with a significant decrease in risk of cataracts in adults 65 years and older. Phytonutrients from plants also protect our health by interrupting free radicals before they have a chance to cause bodily damage.
Many types of spring produce provide plenty of these good-for-us nutrients. Strawberries and mangoes are rich in vitamin C — one of the most effective antioxidants for lowering inflammation and protecting eye health. A cup of sliced fresh strawberries provides 98 mg. (about 160 percent of the recommended daily value). Other good spring sources of vitamin C include peas, collard greens, and Swiss chard. Worth noting: High heat destroys this water-soluble vitamin, so cook these vibrant veggies briefly and gently to help preserve it.
For seasonal sniffles, try working in more quercetin-rich foods, like spring-fresh asparagus and broccoli. Quercetin, a flavonoid found in plant foods, shows promise for treating seasonal allergies. It blocks histamines, the chemical that causes sneezing or a runny nose.
This article originally appeared in the April/May 2021 issue of Allrecipes Magazine.