In most cases, inflammation is an essential part of your body's healing process. Inflammation helps your body combat illness and can even help protect your body from damage.
That being said, some individuals suffer from medical conditions in which the immune system isn't working as it should be — which can lead to dangerously high or low levels of inflammation in the body.
We all know that what we eat affects our health and how we feel.
Some foods give us energy, help build muscles and reduce inflammation, while other foods can make us feel bloated, sluggish and promote inflammation.
How inflammation relates to our health and how we can reduce chronic inflammation and oxidative stress through dietary and lifestyle choices are vital for optimizing health and living a long and happy life.
And, as it turns out, having matcha be a part of your daily routine is one of the best things you can do to reduce inflammation! Keep reading to find out exactly what the anti-inflammatory diet is and what foods to should eat & avoid to support optimum wellness.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is the body's response to something harmful, such as a germ, a cut, or exposure to a chemical. Acute inflammation can be a good thing -- it can indicate that your body's immune system is functioning properly. The four classic signs of acute inflammation are heat, redness, swelling, and pain. For example, if you get a paper cut on your finger, a series of responses in your body will trigger more blood flow to your finger. Because of that, you may notice your thumb is red and hot. That's inflammation at work! Different immune cells will fight off any germs on the paper, your cut will heal, and that inflammatory response will go away.
What happens when that inflammatory response doesn't go away?
Chronic inflammation is when that heightened inflammatory response doesn't go away as it should. Chronic inflammation can result from various causes, such as constant exposure to a low-level irritant, failure of your immune system to remove a harmful irritant, auto-immune diseases, or untreated causes of acute inflammation.
Many lifestyle factors can also lead to chronic inflammation. A few of these are smoking or second-hand smoke, lack of exercise, obesity, alcohol, and stress. Common symptoms of chronic inflammation include fatigue, aches, pains, weight gain, weight loss, diarrhea, and constipation. Because chronic inflammation leaves your immune system constantly unregulated, it can harm your tissues, organs, and overall health.
Why is chronic inflammation problematic?
An astounding 3 out of 5 people will die from a chronic inflammatory disease. Stroke, respiratory diseases, heart disease, cancer, dementia, obesity, and diabetes are all related to inflammation. This heightened inflammatory response can eventually damage tissues, organs, and DNA over time. Most of the major diseases humans deal with are linked to unchecked inflammation. Because of this, it is of the utmost importance to do everything in our power to live and eat in a way that promotes an anti-inflammatory response in the body.
What does anti-inflammatory mean?
We know that being in a state of chronic inflammation is highly problematic. But what does anti-inflammatory even mean? It's a buzzword that has become increasingly popular to push different supplements, diets, and even skincare. Just because it's become a hot marketing term, however, doesn't mean that it's a meaningless term. Anything that helps to reduce inflammation in your body is considered anti-inflammatory. Such as NSAIDs like ibuprofen, which we've probably all taken at one point or another. While anti-inflammatory medications may be helpful when used appropriately, as it turns out, the best way to fight inflammation is through food and lifestyle choices. The food we eat can either be anti-inflammatory or inflammatory.
Foods like red meat, refined carbohydrates, seed oils, fried foods, and margarine can all cause inflammation. Whereas fruits, vegetables, teas, spices, olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish can all decrease inflammation.
What is an anti-inflammatory diet?
The anti-inflammatory diet, made popular by Dr. Weil, is not a diet in the way many of us think of diets. It is not intended as a way to lose weight quickly, something you can fall "on" or "off," or intended as a short-term way of eating. Instead, it is a lifestyle that emphasizes eating anti-inflammatory foods based on the science of how those foods can help you achieve and maintain optimum health. It is clear (and becoming clearer) that inflammation is highly problematic regarding our health, especially long-term health. Learning how specific foods influence inflammation in our bodies is key to optimizing health.
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet not only helps you reduce chronic inflammation but also gives you long-lasting energy and ensures you meet all your nutritional requirements through food first (rather than relying on supplements).
A few pillars of the anti-inflammatory diet are:
- Drink tea instead of coffee.
- Aim for a variety of foods
- Eat fresh foods as often as possible.
- Minimize consumption of processed foods
- Eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables- aiming for as many colors in your day as possible.
- Try to include protein, fat, and carbohydrates at each meal.
- Carbohydrates should be in the form of less-refined foods with a lower glycemic index, such as brown rice, winter squashes, beans, sweet potatoes, etc.
- Aim for 40 grams of fiber a day
How does matcha fit into the anti-inflammatory diet?
As mentioned above, the anti-inflammatory diet emphasizes eating fruits, vegetables, herbs, teas, and spices. Foods that are high in antioxidants and polyphenols, which are the protective compounds in plants, play a huge role in fighting inflammation in the body.
Free radicals are released in a given compromised area of the body when you fight off an infection or, more generally, when your inflammatory response is triggered. Free radicals are unstable molecules that have an unbalanced number of electrons. Because of this, they try to "steal" other molecules' electrons, which causes those molecules to become unstable, ultimately damaging those cells at the DNA level.
This damage, called oxidative stress, is the main reason so many deadly diseases are linked to inflammation. DNA and cell damage leads to diseases like strokes, cancer, dementia, diabetes, etc.
Antioxidants are the body's response to free radicals. Antioxidants are also unstable molecules, but instead of stealing other molecules' electrons, they give away their extra electron to stabilize. Antioxidants stabilize free radicals and prevent and reduce oxidative stress and inflammation-related diseases.
Matcha, which is an incredible source of both antioxidants and polyphenols, contains about three times the number of antioxidants of other teas.
Matcha is shaded for most of its growing season, which allows for high amounts of bioactive compounds to form, such as L-theanine and chlorophyll. As a result, matcha has potent antioxidant, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to help reduce the risk of many chronic conditions and diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
The bottom line: Reduce your risk of chronic disease and unlock your full wellness potential by following an anti-inflammatory diet
Overall, the anti-inflammatory diet is meant to reduce our disease risk and help us live up to our full potential. Adding matcha to your day is an easy and effective way to adhere to an anti-inflammatory diet. Dr. Weil recommends drinking tea over coffee, and, as it turns out, matcha is the best option for tea from an antioxidant perspective. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is one of the best ways to look after your health in the short and long term. Matcha fits perfectly within the anti-inflammatory diet and is a delicious way to add color and nutrients to your day.
Arulselvan P, Fard MT, Tan WS, Gothai S, Fakurazi S, Norhaizan ME, Kumar SS. Role of Antioxidants and Natural Products in Inflammation. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016;2016:5276130. doi: 10.1155/2016/5276130. Epub 2016 Oct 10. PMID: 27803762; PMCID: PMC5075620.
InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. What is an inflammation? 2010 Nov 23 [Updated 2018 Feb 22]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279298/
Jakubczyk K, Kochman J, Kwiatkowska A, Kałduńska J, Dec K, Kawczuga D, Janda K. Antioxidant Properties and Nutritional Composition of Matcha Green Tea. Foods. 2020 Apr 12;9(4):483. doi: 10.3390/foods9040483. PMID: 32290537; PMCID: PMC7231151.
Lobo V, Patil A, Phatak A, Chandra N. Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacogn Rev. 2010 Jul;4(8):118-26. doi: 10.4103/0973-7847.70902. PMID: 22228951; PMCID: PMC3249911.
Pahwa R, Goyal A, Jialal I. Chronic Inflammation. [Updated 2022 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/