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Four anti-inflammatory foods you should be eating

While inflammation is the body's natural response to injury, chronic inflammation can lead to health problems -- but here are four anti-inflammatory foods that can help minimize the damaging effects.

"The inflammation process has one goal: to respond immediately to detect and destroy the toxic material in damaged tissues before it can spread throughout the body," said Dr. Lauren Whitt of the University of Alabama in a March 22 release from the university. "The trouble with inflammation occurs when the defense system gets out-of-control and begins to destroy healthy tissue, causing more damage than the original issue."

Being overweight is known to increase inflammation in the body, which researchers say can lead to increased risks of heart attack or stroke. Prior research from Johns Hopkins University (November 2012) in the US has found that low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets can reduce inflammation.

Whitt added that the right anti-inflammatory foods are one way of targeting the problem. Here are a few items to consider adding to your shopping list:

- Citrus fruits -- vitamin C and vitamin E are essential antioxidants
- Dark, leafy greens --high in vitamin K
- Tomatoes -- the fruit's red pigment, lycopene, is a potent antioxidant
- Wild-caught salmon -- contains a rich concentration of omega-3 fatty acids

"Eating to minimize inflammation doesn't have to be an overwhelming task," she said. "Take baby steps by incorporating leafy greens into a salad at lunch, or add a piece of whole fruit to your breakfast."

In addition, Whitt recommended eating more foods straight from the farm, as well as fewer processed and fried foods. Doing so may reduce the need for some medications, she said.

People "are constantly on the lookout for a quick-fix, so when our immune systems kick into overdrive, we would generally prefer to pop a pill and keep moving," Whitt added. "But if we focus on our diets, we can alleviate the need for the anti-inflammatory medications in many cases."

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