An anti-inflammatory diet is a way of eating that focuses on foods that help to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is involved in many diseases, so by eating an anti-inflammatory diet you may be able to improve your health and reduce your risk of chronic disease.
There are many different styles of anti-inflammatory diets and the best way to go about safely following any diet is with the advice of a professional.
In this article, we'll discuss ways to reduce inflammation with foods, what the science says about anti-inflammatory diets, and resources to help guide you on this journey.
The best way to know if an anti-inflammatory diet is right for you is to talk with a healthcare professional. There are many different ways to follow an anti-inflammatory diet, so work with a professional to find out what would be best for you.
What Is Inflammation?
Most people have heard about inflammation before, but aren’t really familiar with exactly what it is and what’s involved.
Most of the time, they know that it's not good.
Inflammation is a vital part of the immune system designed to protect and repair us from injury and infection.
In these cases, inflammation is a good thing, but sometimes it can linger longer than it should (chronic inflammation) or react to everyday foods (particularly processed foods), getting out of control and causing all sorts of health problems.
When we get hurt or sick, our body releases inflammatory chemicals and white blood cells to the site of injury or infection. This causes the area to become red, hot, and swollen. While this response is important for protecting us from harm, chronic inflammation can lead to a host of health problems, including heart disease, arthritis, and even cancer.
The good news is that there are lifestyle changes we can make to reduce inflammation, such as eating an anti-inflammatory diet, getting regular exercise, and managing stress levels.
How Is Diet Related To Inflammation?
The immune system is extremely complex, and sometimes chronic inflammation can occur without any obvious triggers—like injuries or infection.
While there are countless anti-inflammatory drugs available, researchers are understanding that the most effective form of reducing inflammation throughout the body long-term is with mindful lifestyle changes including diet, exercise, and stress reduction.
Foods high in sugar or refined carbs can cause our blood sugar to spike, leading to inflammation.
Processed meats, cooked at high temperatures, contain chemicals that can also promote inflammation. On the other hand, fresh, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and omega-3-rich fish (and other healthy fats)—are less likely to cause inflammation.
So if you're looking to reduce inflammation in your body, it's worth considering what you're eating.
If you're interested in reducing inflammation, you might be wondering which foods to avoid.
Unfortunately, there's no definitive answer, as everyone reacts differently to different foods. However, there are some common inflammatory culprits that you might want to watch out for. Processed meats and refined carbs are both thought to promote inflammation, so you may want to limit your intake of these items.
Other inflammation promoters include sugary beverages, fried foods, and dairy products. Of course, everyone is different, so you'll need to do your own experimenting to see which foods work for you. But by paying attention to your body and limiting inflammatory offenders, you can help reduce inflammation and feel your best.
There are other lifestyle factors that can contribute to inflammation, including smoking, alcohol abuse, chronic infections, auto-immune diseases, and chronic stress.
What Are The Health Risks Of Inflammatory Foods?
Most people are familiar with the concept of "comfort food." These are the dishes that we turn to when we're feeling stressed or down in the dumps. They're usually high in fat and calories, and they often have little nutritional value. But what many people don't realize is that comfort foods can also be inflammatory.
When it comes to inflammatory foods, sugar is the public enemy number one. Processed foods are another major culprit, as they are often high in unhealthy fats and chemicals that can trigger inflammation.
That's because when we eat these foods, our blood sugar levels spike, and our body releases insulin to try to bring things back into balance. This whole process long-term can cause insulin resistance and a higher risk for weight gain, which is another contributor to inflammation.
Additionally, foods that are high in saturated and trans fats can also contribute to inflammation. These fats can promote the formation of inflammatory markers called cytokines.
So what does this mean for your health?
Well, chronic inflammation has been linked to a number of serious diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and even some forms of cancer. That's why it's so important to avoid these pro-inflammatory foods as much as possible.
Even when you're trying to avoid unhealthy foods, inflammatory ingredients could be lurking. When grocery shopping, be careful to read the ingredient list as there are often added sugar and unhealthy fats hiding in some of the most seemingly "healthy foods." For example, some grocery store oat milk will contain high fructose corn syrup to sweeten the flavor.
Instead, focus on eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods that will help keep your inflammation levels in check.
What Is An Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
Research shows that our food choices and stress levels directly influence the level of inflammation in our bodies .
An anti-inflammatory diet is a type of eating plan that is designed to reduce inflammation throughout the body. Some people will adopt anti-inflammatory principles to lose weight and reduce chronic disease symptoms.
Some chronic conditions, such as arthritis and Crohn's disease, are characterized by inflammation, and an anti-inflammatory diet can help to alleviate symptoms. The diet typically includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids, and limits sugar, saturated fat, and processed foods.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to an anti-inflammatory diet, making these changes to your eating habits can help to reduce inflammation throughout your body.
The Mediterranean diet is a popularized weight loss diet, but it’s also an anti-inflammatory diet. The Mediterranean diet is a healthy way of eating that draws on the traditional foods and recipes of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
The diet is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, and monounsaturated fats (like olive oil), and low in processed foods and saturated fats.
People who follow the Mediterranean diet tend to have lower rates of heart disease and other chronic illnesses than those who don't eat this way. This diet has shown impressive health benefits in people with type-2 diabetes.
After a year, the subjects who followed the Mediterranean diet had a 37% decrease in inflammatory markers .
The Mediterranean diet is only one type of diet that also happens to be anti-inflammatory, but there are many ways to go about reducing your inflammatory foods intake.
What Foods Are Anti-Inflammatory?
There are a lot of different foods that have anti-inflammatory properties.
Some of the most common ones include omega-3-rich foods like salmon and other oily fish, fruits like berries and cherries, and vegetables like kale and spinach. You can also try cooking with anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like ginger, black pepper, and turmeric.
Foods rich in antioxidants may have anti-inflammatory benefits too.
Antioxidants are substances that can help protect your cells from damage. Foods high in antioxidants include blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, dark chocolate, and green tea. Antioxidants work by scavenging harmful toxins called free radicals that can damage cells.
Free radicals are produced when the body breaks down food or is exposed to environmental pollutants.
In addition to providing protection from cell damage, antioxidants have also been shown to help with inflammation. Studies have found that people who consume a diet high in antioxidants have lower levels of inflammation markers in their blood.
This suggests that antioxidants may help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer .
The Takeaway: Anti-Inflammatory Foods & Reducing Inflammatory Proteins
Sugar, refined carbs, and processed foods are all inflammatory foods. When you eat these kinds of foods, your body releases chemicals that cause inflammation.
If left unchecked, it can lead to a host of health problems. These include heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and even cancer.
So if you're looking to reduce your risk of these diseases or to mitigate some of the symptoms of chronic disease, it's important to watch what you're eating.
This means eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, and avoiding sugary, refined carbs, and processed foods.
If you're not sure how to make this switch, reach out to me for more guidance. Together, we can find a way to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet for your lifestyle and wellness goals.
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Maiorino, M. I., Bellastella, G., Petrizzo, M., Scappaticcio, L., Giugliano, D., & Esposito, K. (2016). Mediterranean diet cools down the inflammatory milieu in type 2 diabetes: the MÉDITA randomized controlled trial. Endocrine, 54(3), 634-641.
Mangge, H., Summers, K., Almer, G., Prassl, R., Weghuber, D., Schnedl, W., & Fuchs, D. (2013). Antioxidant food supplements and obesity-related inflammation. Current medicinal chemistry, 20(18), 2330-2337.