Your body is equipped with its own internal protective mechanism: the immune system . It fights colds, insect bites, and dangerous diseases, and strives to keep your body functioning properly. One side effect of kicking up the immune system is increased inflammation. While this is a completely natural process, the problem is when your body is in a constant state of inflammation, known as ‘chronic inflammation’. And when your body is fighting inflammation of any kind, an anti-inflammatory diet can help relieve symptoms and even reduce inflammation itself.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation can come from many sources and is usually the result of a response from the body’s immune system.
The role our immune system plays in our health is to protect the body from foreign invaders called antigens. These invaders can form in the form of pollen that triggers your allergy, bacteria in the nail that causes swelling and soreness, or food you may be sensitive to that causes hives and itching, Kristen Kirkpatrick , MS, RDN, board certified dietitian and lead dietitian In Wellness Nutrition Services at Cleveland Clinic Wellness & Preventive Medicine.
When your immune system responds to antigens, it attacks the antigens to bring your body back to normal.
The immune system does this by releasing cytokines that stimulate inflammation and respond to infection. Swelling, for example, is your body’s mechanism for isolating an injury and sparing other cells around it, says Kirkpatrick. So basically, during the inflammatory process, your body develops defense mechanisms. The injury and inflammation were eventually fixed.
What happens when your body is in a state of chronic inflammation?
“When we combat inflammation on a chronic basis, inflammation becomes the enemy,” says Angel Planells , MS, RDN, a registered dietitian dietitian in Seattle and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics .
Inflammation can manifest itself in different ways throughout the body, from tiredness to fatigue to abdominal pain. Most notably, many chronic diseases are linked to chronic inflammation:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure and cardiovascular disease
“We can help manage some of this inflammation by focusing on the contents of our pantry,” says Planells. This is where the anti-inflammatory diet comes in.
What is an anti-inflammatory diet?
Diet can play a big role in reducing inflammation throughout the body. An anti-inflammatory diet is rich in foods that reduce inflammation levels, but perhaps most importantly it avoids common foods that increase inflammation. There are several studies that have shown a reduction in inflammatory factors with certain dietary approaches. For example, a 2018 study showed evidence that anti-inflammatory diets can help prevent early death, while a recent 2019 study showed that an anti-inflammatory diet can help prevent some types of cancer.
What foods to eat in an anti-inflammatory diet?
“We look for foods with certain protective factors,” says Planells. According to a 2015 study , many foods that reduce inflammation are rich in antioxidant polyphenols. As such, the anti-inflammatory diet is rich in colorful foods. Kirkpatrick says the color represents “high levels of phytonutrients/antioxidants.” These anti-inflammatory foods include:
- olive oil
- green leafy vegetables
- Various types of nuts and seeds (almonds, pistachios)
- Fatty fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel).
- Variety of fruits and vegetables in many colors
“These foods contain beneficial and bodily antioxidants,” says Planells. The lycopene in cooked tomatoes is beneficial for prostate health. Dark green leafy vegetables contain beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which are beneficial for age-related macular degeneration. We are able to absorb more of these anti-inflammatory nutrients if some fat is added, sprinkle a little olive oil on top of the greens.
Inflammatory foods to skip.
“At a basic level, any food that provides little or no nutrient density in an anti-inflammatory diet should be avoided,” says Kirkpatrick.
Foods that you should limit on an anti-inflammatory diet are inflammatory foods , such as:
- refined carbohydrates
- Soda (and other sugar-sweetened beverages)
- Fried foods (french fries and other fried foods)
- Red and processed meat
“Reduce the number of these foods, and increase the number of beneficial foods if possible,” says Planells.
see also: What foods do you eat on keto diet?
Anti-inflammatory diet plan for a day.
Here are two examples of an anti-inflammatory one-day meal plan that you can follow.
Meal Plan #1
- Breakfast : steel-cut oats with blueberries and chopped almonds
- A.m. Snack : apple with peanut butter (no added sugar)
- Lunch: green salad with carrots, tomatoes and radishes with a side of grilled wild salmon
- Evening snack : sweet potato with pecans
- Dinner: Lentil soup with kale and whole grain bread
- Dessert : beetroot chips or mixed fruit with goji berries
Meal Plan #2
- Breakfast : Greek yogurt with some walnuts, sprinkled with blueberries
- A.m. Snack : baby carrots with hummus
- Lunch : Kale Caesar salad with salmon
- Evening snack : chips with sauce
- Dinner : Kalbe (Korean steak), quinoa, kimchi
- Evening snack : Peanut butter with apple slices
Who Should Try an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
Good news: The anti-inflammatory diet is safe for everyone.
“If we eat a nutrient-rich diet, and combine that with stress management, adequate sleep, and good relationships — we are following an anti-inflammatory lifestyle,” says Kirkpatrick.
Plannels adds, ‘I think there is always room for improvement for most of us. When we look at the Dietary Guidelines for Americans , the typical American consumes one serving of fruits and vegetables per day. The goal will be to improve our overall diet, and this includes making intentional changes in the way we eat and shop so that we can be successful. Because the anti-inflammatory diet focuses on eating more whole foods and avoiding processed foods that cause inflammation, this diet is a good way for anyone to improve their health.
How to start an anti-inflammatory diet.
Trying an anti-inflammatory diet may seem intimidating, but it’s all about making small changes.
“I know that throughout my years of working with clients, a common thinking has been that recommendations (i.e. 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day) feel out of reach for some people who are throwing in the towel,” Planells said. Behavior change does not happen overnight. If you only consume one serving of fruit per day, make it a goal to try to get 2 or 3 inches tall, and gradually switch from there.
While the anti-inflammatory diet may require more food processing for the week , there are plenty of resources to help you plan.
Go watch some YouTube videos or check out a number of sites for help with some ideas, and don’t be afraid to incorporate some quick and easy solutions to help get the nutrients, including preserves (like tomato sauce) and frozen products (like different berries and vegetables) to help. in time and cost. These products are not inferior in that they are freshly picked and can help you quickly put together a meal.