You see the word “inflammation” thrown around a lot in health news, but what exactly is it? The answer: It’s your body’s complex response to fight off harmful pathogens, irritants, and even damaged cells, and kick-start the healing process, explains Erin Palinski-Wade, R.D., the author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies.
And now a new study in PLoS ONE reveals a way to fight the chronic kind of inflammation that leads to disease: Improve the number and function of your infection-fighting white blood cells so your body’s better prepared for battle. Start by eating these three foods.
Strawberries: The fruit is rich in vitamin C, which research shows helps stimulate the production of white blood cells. One cup offers almost 150 percent of your daily value of C.
Purple cabbage: “The cabbage contains polyphenols, superstar antioxidants that decrease inflammation,” says L.A.-based registered dietitian Lisa DeFazio. Fill up on other polyphenol-packed purple foods like grapes, red wine, and blueberries, too. One study in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that eating nearly 2 cups of blueberries daily increased the activity of protective natural killer cells.
Mushrooms: White button mushrooms have been found to trigger the production of white blood cells called macrophages, found one study in BMC Immunology. DeFazio loves shiitake mushrooms. “They are antimicrobial and have been incorporated in cancer treatments,” she says. Eating a serving 5 days a week is a good goal. (One cup of shiitakes, for example, contains only 81 calories.)
To learn more, visit MensHealth.com.
By Jessica Girdwain