Nutrition expert explains how to avoid diabetes and heart disease by eating these foods

A health expert has revealed the foods that should be included in your diet to ward off chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. Professor Philip Calder, speaking on the latest episode of ZOE Health's podcast show, detailed the foods that can combat these inflammation-caused conditions.

Inflammation plays a crucial role in fighting infections and healing injuries in the short term. However excessive inflammation can trigger chronic diseases like heart disease, type two diabetes, autoimmune disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, and obesity, reports WalesOnline.

Our dietary choices can affect our inflammatory responses and contribute to chronic low-grade inflammation. In the podcast episode Calder delves into the science of inflammation, its impact on health, and the role food plays in it.

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Calder is head of the school of human development and health and a professor of nutritional immunology in the faculty of medicine at the University of Southampton. He's also an internationally-recognised researcher on the metabolism and functionality of fatty acids. His work focuses on the roles of omega-3 fatty acids and the influence of diet and nutrients on immune and inflammatory responses.

What is inflammation?

Calder begins by explaining that inflammation is the first part of your immune response. If you cut yourself, get bitten by an insect, or develop an infection the surrounding tissues become inflamed. This inflammatory response is what causes the pain, redness, and swelling.

Inflammation helps prevent further injury by protecting your body – it's a crucial defence mechanism. However if the duration of inflammation persists excessively or occurs in an unnecessary location it can lead to complications in the future.

Why doesn't inflammation stop?

According to ZOE some medical conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, cause long-term inflammation. In this case the immune system mistakes healthy tissue in the joints for an enemy.

Another example is type one diabetes, which is sometimes triggered by a viral infection. The body misreads what's going on and attacks the pancreas' cells creating long-term inflammation.

In conditions like arthritis inflammation is high-grade and it causes pain. When inflammation is low-grade people generally don't feel it.

How can you avoid the response?

Your metabolism is supposed to respond to the food you eat. Damage only builds up if problematic responses go on for a long time or happen too often.

However Calder shares some tips that can help manage your body's response including swapping saturated fats with extra-virgin olive oil. Other foods he says can lower your body's inflammatory response are:

  • Nuts

  • Fibre: Fruits and veggies are excellent sources

  • Vitamin C: There are particularly high levels in citrus fruits and tomatoes

  • Omega-3s: These are found in oily fish, walnuts, and some seeds

Calder said: "There's lots of things in the diet that are anti-inflammatory. They include omega-3s, which I'll come back to shortly, but also some of the vitamins – vitamin C, vitamin E – are anti-inflammatory.

"Lots of the polyphenols from plants – so the things that give fruits, vegetables, berries and so on their colours – they're also anti-inflammatory. Things in nuts are anti-inflammatory. Gut microbiome is also a driver of inflammation but also could be anti-inflammatory if you get it right."

Omega-3s from oily fish, called EPA and DHA, in particular can play a huge role in reducing inflammation. According to Calder studies have shown "very strong" evidence for this. He adds that high levels of EPA and DHA can help reduce arthritis pain too.

And regularly consuming omega-3s may also reduce your risk of heart disease and dementia. This is partly because your body uses EPA and DHA to manufacture compounds that dial down inflammation.