You may have heard of an anti-inflammatory food plan or diet and wondered what exactly it entails. Does it work? What benefits might you gain from following this path? Also, why is it so popular?
Before we talk about specifics, it’s important to cover some basics. Let’s watch a short video on the anti-inflammatory diet for a brief introduction. We’ll cover it in more detail afterward so you can understand your health better and how you can take control of your health with the right foods.
- 1 A Brief Intro to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- 2 What is Inflammation?
- 3 Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- 4 What is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
- 5 What Foods Make Up an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
- 6 Foods That Can Cause Inflammation
- 7 Food as Medicine
A Brief Intro to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet
What is Inflammation?
The inflammatory process is an important part of the body’s repair mechanism. It includes a complex and interdependent cascade of events, like biological dominos. It is the immune system’s natural response to injury or infection and helps ward off viruses.
However, if this process goes on for longer than necessary or begins to occur in parts of the body where it isn’t needed, it can become a problem and lead to chronic inflammation.
As reported in the article Nutrients, Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases,
a “persistent and excessive inflammatory response is a significant risk factor for developing various chronic inflammatory conditions, and increases the risk of succumbing to infectious diseases…”
Chronic inflammation in the body can lead to conditions such as osteoarthritis and even cardiovascular disease. Many people are advised to take medications and/or to learn to live with pain caused by inflammatory conditions like arthritis. However, an anti-inflammatory diet might be helpful to control some of the symptoms.
Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
An anti-inflammatory diet consists of specific foods that help fight chronic inflammation in the body.
This diet is a perfect example of a holistic approach to pain management and utilizing food as medicine. For conditions like arthritis, reducing inflammation is crucial for reducing the symptoms and pain associated with this disease.
Celebrity athletes are also jumping on board the anti-inflammatory diet bandwagon. Athletes such as Rob Gronkowski, or Gronk, follows an anti-inflammatory diet to reduce some of his inflammatory symptoms. Gronk also reports feeling healthier and overall more energized. To learn more about his diet plan, check out the Rob Gronkowski Diet.
What is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
Before we dive into which foods make up an anti-inflammatory diet, it’s important to understand a few key terms:
Free radicals: Free radicals occur naturally in the body as a result of your metabolism. They are unstable atoms that your body neutralizes, but if too many exist, your body can’t fight them which can lead to cell damage.
Oxidative stress: The term used to describe when your body contains too many free radicals that it cannot neutralize.
Antioxidants: You have probably heard that foods containing antioxidants are “superfoods.” This is because they can help neutralize the excess free radicals in your body.
Why is this important to understand? Because an anti-inflammatory diet cuts down or cuts out foods that can cause oxidative stress and focuses on foods high in antioxidants, which reduces inflammation. Other food groups that help reduce inflammation and are part of this diet include foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and healthy fats.
What Foods Make Up an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
If you’re ready to make a change, having an anti-inflammatory foods list on hand will help.
Here are our 6 top anti-inflammatory food picks
Berries. With a variety of choice, berries are packed with anti-inflammatory goodness. Blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and strawberries are delicious. Eat them raw, create a berry smoothie, or add them to your morning oatmeal.
Bok choy, kale, or any leafy greens. Chinese cabbage contains beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin C. It can be thrown into a delicious stir fry or sautéd with other anti-inflammatory ingredients like garlic and ginger.
Ginger and turmeric. An ancient herb with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, ginger can be used in many ways. Slice it and pour hot water over it your favorite mug to create a fresh tea, grate onto salads, or add it to your bok choy stir fry. Turmeric, also helps support the body’s natural anti-inflammatory responses with the active compound, curcumin, as well as antioxidants. This ginger-looking root pairs quite well with ginger. Use them together in your favorite Indian curry or add a few slices to your favorite nut-milk and heat it up for a nightcap.
Hot peppers. If like a little kick in your food, you’ll love that hot peppers contain the active compound, capsaicinoids, which help give the body support both internally and externally.
Nuts and seeds. Certain nuts and seeds contain high levels of alpha-linoleic acid, an anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid. Walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds make ideal choices. Roast and add them to a trail mix, craft your own dukkah, or simply eat them as they come.
Healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, and salmon. Well-loved in the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is a wonderful, anti-inflammatory option that has been shown to reduce inflammation. Drizzle on salads, use in marinades or add to soup. Avocado is an excellent source of good fat that happens to be great in sushi and on your gluten-free version of avocado toast, like fresh spelt or buckwheat bread. Salmon is jam-packed with omega-3’s and is proven to reduce inflammatory symptoms.
Foods That Can Cause Inflammation
As with all things, there is a yin to every yang. You now know what to consume, so what foods should you avoid?
Fried foods. Chicken strips, cheese sticks, and french fries are not only pro-inflammatory, they also increase your risk for diabetes and heart disease.
Red and processed meats. As the authors of one study found, “Increased red meat consumption is… associated with a greater risk of metabolic syndrome and inflammation.”
Refined carbohydrates. Whether in the form of white bread or pies, pastries or cakes, pizza dough or sweet desserts, foods that contain refined carbs are better left on their shelves.
Processed sugary foods and soda. Sugar-sweetened foods and beverages can increase inflammation and increase your chance of developing conditions like diabetes.
Food as Medicine
An anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce symptoms associated with conditions like osteoarthritis and may help reduce fatigue, help you feel more energized, and provide a sense of overall wellbeing. It’s important to realize that what you put in your body greatly affects your overall health, both mentally and physically.