When I began my career as a beauty editor I wanted to learn as much as I could about the science of skin. I remember one day-long conference, organized by a major beauty company, where we watched PowerPoint presentations on the dramatic aging effects of sun damage, smoking, and tanning. For years, I learned how to counteract those external agers with cutting-edge skincare. In those days UV rays and smoke were probably the biggest beauty dangers on my radar.
I had a lot to learn.
All the while I was looking for the solution to my skin issues, not knowing that my acne, allergic rashes, persistent redness and fine lines shared a common origin: they were rooted in the inflammation that was burning out of control in my body. It took me years of searching to uncover the truth that inflammation was a threat as serious— if not more serious— to the current and future state of my skin than anything else out there. It's been called 'Inflamm-aging,' and could be the biggest factor that's currently speeding up the aging you see in the mirror!
Inflammation is a word you hear referenced quite often these days. It comes across as big and scary— and out of your control. But it's really not. Inflammation is a natural, and healthy immune response. The problem arises when inflammation levels increase, unchecked, as a result of, among other things, inflammatory habits in your day to day life. There are so many easy steps that you can take to lower inflammation in your body, inflammation that could be contributing to beauty issues, or even serious health issues that could crop up later in life.
This is a short list of some of the anti-inflammatory foods that I keep in regular circulation in my diet. It's by no means an exhaustive list, but these anti-inflammatories are effective. In general, just avoiding processed foods (especially sugary ones) is one of the best things you can do to lower your day-to-day inflammation. Processed foods are pro-inflammatory, whereas fresh foods support lowered inflammation. Just one more reason that fresh is best.
- Ginger. This is one of my go-to anti-inflammatory foods; it's warming powers cool off inflammation in the body. A phytochemical in ginger also relaxes the muscles of the digestive tract to relieve indigestion. Get your ginger in fresh ginger root form.
- Garlic. This classic cold-fighter is off the charts for its anti-inflammatory value, as I explain in Eat Pretty. A phytochemical in garlic is also a powerful protector of collagen.
- Turmeric. Turmeric (combine with black pepper for superior absorption) stops the action of an inflammatory protein in the body that's responsible for speeding up the aging process.
- Tulsi/Holy Basil. This adaptogenic (stress-fighting, immune-boosting) herb helps lower inflammation naturally. I love to drink it in tea form.
- Omega-3s. Get them from fatty fish like salmon and sardines, from flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts, or from a fish oil supplement. Combined with a diet of fresh foods, omega-3s are an anti-inflammatory powerhouse.
- Probiotics. Hidden inflammation can come from food allergies, a leaky gut and an imbalance of bacteria in your digestive tract. Probiotics support a healthy, happy digestive tract that keeps inflammation low! Get them from raw sauerkraut, brined pickles, tempeh and the like.
Other ways to reduce inflammation include getting adequate beauty sleep, cutting out toxic products in your home and personal care, and finding real ways to help yourself de-stress. For even more info on creating an anti-inflammatory diet, check out my earlier post on the Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid from Dr. Andrew Weil, as well as my book Eat Pretty, which follows an anti-inflammatory beauty diet through the seasons.
What's your go-to anti-inflammatory food?
Ginger image courtesy Crystal