What Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

anti-inflammatory diet

Inflammation. Anti-inflammatory diet. Pro-inflammatory foods. Inflammation cure.

These buzz phrases are bandied about in reference to diet and health, but what do they really mean?

In a nutshell, inflammation is the body’s response to injury, irritation, or foreign invaders. Consider what happens when you get a bee sting. The site of the sting grows red and swollen as your body races to heal. Once healed, the immune system quiets down again. That’s acute inflammation and is a healthy and welcome response.

Not so welcome is chronic inflammation. That’s when the immune system is triggered and stays in a state of alert without the ebb and flow. This sort of inflammation is thought to be the common denominator in most chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and dementia, as well as arthritis and depression.

But what does chronic inflammation have to do with what we eat? Probably a lot.

How to have an anti-inflammatory diet and why that makes sense. Click To Tweet

Miso Ginger Salmon

Foods Can Trigger Inflammation

Research shows a positive relationship between what we put into our mouths and our body’s inflammatory response. Certain types of foods can trigger inflammation, and over time have a negative impact on our health. The biggest pro-inflammatory offenders include:

  • Sugar: candy, sweetened beverages, desserts/baked goods, syrups, and table sugar
  • Trans fats: foods prepared with or cooked in partially hydrogenated oils, notably fried foods, processed/packaged baked goods, and stick margarine
  • Refined carbohydrates: white flour, white bread, white rice, heavily processed carbohydrates
  • Saturated fat: fatty beef, lamb and pork, poultry with skin, lard, butter and palm kernel oil

That doesn’t mean abolishing these foods entirely from our plates (though I see no place for trans fats), but too much, too often may put your body in a state of chronic inflammation. The typical Western diet, therefore, looks like a recipe for inflammation, which does much to explain the incidence of chronic diseases in this country.

Other dietary factors linked to inflammation include excessive alcohol and foods to which you have an allergy or food sensitivity (think wheat bread for someone who is gluten-intolerant or milk for someone with a dairy allergy).

The simple truth is something your great grandmother could have told you long before the research did: you are what you eat.

But here’s the good news: You ARE what you eat. Making adjustments to the quality of your diet can go far in quieting inflammation. And just as eating some foods in excess can cause inflammation, plenty of other foods can mediate it.

Arugula Quinoa Avocado & Bacon Salad

Stocking Your Anti-Inflammatory Kitchen

Foods and nutrients commonly associated with calming inflammation include fruits and vegetables, foods rich in Omega-3 fats, fiber, vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta carotene. How does that translate to your everyday diet?

  1. Heavy up on fruits and vegetables of every color, shape and stripe. Those rich in carotenoids (carrots, tomatoes, cantaloupe) and vitamin C (citrus fruits, strawberries, potatoes) are of particular interest for mediating inflammation.
  2. Look to eat salmon, sardines, walnuts, and seeds such as flax and hemp, which are all sources of Omega-3 fats.
  3. Eat whole grains, beans, and legumes, which collectively are good sources of fiber
  4. Aim for healthy fats such as avocados, sunflower seeds, almonds, and peanuts, which are rich in vitamin E and other healthy fats.
  5. Use extra-virgin olive oil in place of pro-inflammatory trans and saturated fats.
  6. Incorporate other foods with potential anti-inflammatory benefits such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, onions, and rosemary.
  7. Know that when used in moderation, alcohol can have a positive benefit as well (which isn’t a prescription to start drinking, more an awareness that a glass or wine a day may have a positive upside).

The Bottom Line

Eat a varied diet made up mostly of whole, minimally processed foods with an emphasis on plant-based foods. Other key factors in keeping inflammation in check include moving your body on a consistent basis, managing stress, and maintaining a healthy weight.

So What is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Anyway? Here's your guide. #inflammation #antiinflammatorydiet Click To Tweet

Much gratitidue to my dietetic intern Leah Walton who helped research and write this post. Walnut photo credit: Leah Walton

anti-inflammatory diet

Comments

01.04.2017 at2:33 PM #

Shonna Thornberry

Thank you for providing this much needed information.

05.24.2017 at3:48 PM #

Melissa

Thank you. This is the most common sense prescription I have seen in a long time

08.06.2017 at9:18 AM #

Adonis

Awesomeness…this really put this inflamation thing into perspective.

08.14.2017 at6:50 AM #

Shannon

Having 32 lymph nodes removed I find I swell often, this anti inflamitory charts are very informative. Thank you. Specially like the cucumber for ,my soar stomach.

10.10.2017 at10:54 AM #

Peggy

This info is great ,! Thanks . I’m full of inflammation everywhere . All my joints and in my bones , muscles if any left.
I’ve been trying to change my diet for years . I agree it’s hard to do this . But the rewards are so much better than what you’ll turn out if you didn’t begin eating correctly . Leave those sugars behind. I’ve did . It’s helped me a lot !
But now ; I’m going a step further , I’m eating more and more foods to help me rid inflammation . Stay away from foods with sugar , and foods that bring on inflammation !, I garentee by eating properly , you’ll notice the first week or the end of a month , ‘ your pain will drop to very little pain . So everyone ; why wait for next spring — Start today. Check Pintrest to day . For foods that will help you ! And check the list of Shade foods and bright light grown foods . What they both can do to you . Cut out the sugar intake , and deserts too ! Eat more fruit , you can always dazzl it up with nuts and a whole lot of other yummy foods that won’t harm you ! Start looking and reading and trying different meals that give you more energy too!, !!!

10.10.2017 at10:54 AM #

Peggy

Also if anyone has tried this already , or ones who want to give it a go at this way of eating power to you ! Contact me let me know what’s troubling you , I have other ways of begging to help you out too ,To get more energy , I’ve found right here on Pintrest !
Yes it takes time looking Reading , and trying different diets too! That actually work . Our family tried a lot of different foods to remove pain , and give you more energy . It will surely help those who just want to loose weight too!
Text me ok,tell me who you are , you found my comments and is looking for some help in dieting , or foods to clear up inflammation . I’d love to help in anyway possible .

11.04.2017 at5:51 PM #

Aquezada

Helpful
🙂

12.04.2017 at12:36 AM #

Ultra Last XXL

I love the efforts you have put in this,
thanks for all the great blog posts.

12.19.2017 at5:06 PM #

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01.13.2019 at9:08 AM #

Tammy

A good thing to mention is to kill the inflammatory lectins and make beans, nuts, and grains more digestible and to absorb the nutrients better, beans and grains need to be soaked for at least 8 hours and then cooked on high in a pressure cooker. Nuts need to soaked for at least 8 hours in a (solution of warm water, sea salt, and 1/2 tsp vinegar) that covers the the nuts and then some, rinse, and then roast at 150 degrees for 2-3 hours. Beans and grains should be sprouted too (if they are sproutable), but if you don’t know what you are doing they will get bacteria which is not good.

01.13.2019 at9:08 AM #

katiemorford

Hi Tammy, While I have no issue with soaking beans and nuts if so desired, I don’t think the scientific evidence is adequate to make these claims. Here is an article from a respected dietitian in a respected journal that provides some insight. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/1017p10.shtml

I think we have to agree to disagree on this one!

03.30.2019 at11:08 PM #

Ria

Hi my husband has inflammation of the lining of the stomach. Have been reading lots of info on the best foods to eat which is making choosing what to eat more confusing. Would love some advice .Thanks in advance Ria

03.30.2019 at11:08 PM #

katiemorford

Hi Ria, This sounds like something that is very specific and might be worth seeking one-on-one advice from a registered dietitian. You could ask your MD for a referral or use this resource to find someone local https://www.eatright.org/find-an-expert. Best of luck to you and your husband!

04.04.2019 at1:49 AM #

Azra Saric Arikan

What nonsense is this
Since whensaturated fats are bad for us and alcochol is good?
You are deliberately misinforming the public!

04.04.2019 at1:49 AM #

katiemorford

Hi Azra, While the research is evolving, there continues to be near universal agreement among researchers and medical professionals that minimizing saturated fat is a good idea. And regarding wine, lots of research shows that consumed in moderation (a glass, as I mention in the post) can have a positive impact. That is not a reason to start drinking, it’s simply something to be aware of and to keep it in moderation.

04.08.2019 at8:16 AM #

Dr Sutherland

I found about 95% of this concept correct however when it comes to certain vegetables they cause extreme inflammation. Nightshades is the correct term. Thanks Dr Sutherland

10.30.2020 at5:57 AM #

Kathy Potts

After a injury on the job causing soft tissue damage, ligament & tendon tears, bursitis sacks x3 & the worst of it all threw me into severe arthritis which I never had before on my foot, ankle & lower calf. I have been out for 5 months (and it will be more). I can’t take most inflammation meds due to allergies (still have generalized itching from the last meds given). I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome with occasional bouts of diverticulitis. Other than that….healthy, healthy & healthy.
Decided to fix this & better myself by the Anti-inflammatory diet (with a bit of help with the autoimmune diet). What is the difference of the two?? Also, with the nuts & seeds in this diet, it worries me—I don’t want a colostomy bag. Any tips or clarification would be helpful.

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