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Anti-inflammatory Diet – How To Fight Inflammation And Diseases

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Cheryl Mussatto , MS, RD, LD
by
ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition
Anti-inflammatory Diet – How To Fight Inflammation And Diseases April 12, 2019

Inflammation. Swelling. Pain. Not really a pleasant sensation. But what if it persists and becomes a chronic condition? Chronic inflammation increases the risk of cancer, diabetes, obesity, and osteoarthritis and leads to weak immunity (1), (2), (3). Sometimes, stress can also cause inflammation without the regular, visible symptoms. Like inflammation-induced obesity!

An unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle are the main reasons for chronic inflammation. So, the first line of defense against inflammation and inflammation-induced diseases is to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. Read on to know what inflammation is, how the anti-inflammatory diet will help, foods to eat and avoid, diet chart, benefits, and tips. Let’s begin!

Highlights Of The Article

What Is Inflammation?

What Is Inflammation Pinit

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Inflammation is your body’s natural process of healing (surprise!) (4). It is the body’s immune response to a stimulus. The stimulus can bean infection, wound, radiation, or chemical reaction.The signs and symptoms of inflammation are swelling, pain, redness, heat, loss of function, fever, increase in the number of defense cells, and sepsis.

During an inflammatory response, the immune cells in your body secrete the hormones histamine and bradykinin, which cause the blood vessels to expand and increase blood vessel permeability, allowing more blood and immune cells to rush toward the inflamed site. This causes redness, swelling, and heat.

Sometimes, the body mistakenly fights against body cells and causes an inflammatory response to flare up. Diseases like arthritis, psoriasis, and ulcerative colitis are a few examples (5).

As I mentioned before, inflammation doesn’t always occur with a visible set of symptoms. Your body can be under constant stress and inflammation if you are on an unhealthy diet and lead a sedentary lifestyle (6).

Here’s where the anti-inflammatory diet comes into the picture. Scroll down to see how an anti-inflammatory diet helps.

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How Does The Anti-Inflammatory Diet Help?

How Does The Anti-Inflammatory Diet Help Pinit

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The anti-inflammatory diet helps by limiting the intake of inflammation-causing foods.

It consists of foods loaded with omega-3 fatty acids to balance the omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio. The ideal ratio should be 1:1. But the diet that we follow has a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio (15:1 or 17:1). So, by consuming omega-3 containing foods, you will be able to balance the omega-3 and omega-6 ratio (7).

The anti-inflammatory diet also excludes foods like sugars and high corn fructose syrup – which helps lower the risk of diabetes and obesity and reduce insulin resistance (8), (9), (10).

In this diet, you will also be avoiding or limiting your intake of refined carbs. Consuming too many refined carbs can cause obesity and insulin resistance, which, in turn, increase the inflammation levels in the body (11).

You must also stay away from trans fats. These are partially hydrogenated oils found in most processed foods (12). They cause obesity and heart disease (13), (14).

When you are on the anti-inflammatory diet, you must avoid or limit your intake of alcohol and processed meat as these also increase inflammation in the body (15), (16).

You must also lead an active lifestyle as it will help lower stress and inflammation in the body (17).

In the following section, you will find a list of foods that you must eat and avoid to lower the inflammation levels in your body. Make sure you talk to your doctor before consuming any of these. Avoid certain foods if you are allergic to them.

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Foods To Eat

Foods To Eat Pinit

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  • Fruits And Veggies – Fruits and veggies are loaded with dietary fiber, vitamins, fruit sugar, water, minerals, and antioxidants. These nutrients help scavenge the harmful free oxygen radicals that increase inflammation in the body (18).

Consume dark leafy greens, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, sweet potato, apple, banana, peach, grapes, dates, and dried apricots.

  • Whole Grains – Whole grains are nutritious and contain a truckload of dietary fiber. The dietary fiber adds bulk to the stool and improves bowel movement. It also increases the number and variety of gut bacteria, which aid good digestion. This, in turn, frees your body from free oxygen radicals and lowers stress and the risk of various diseases (19).

Consume brown rice, barley, buckwheat, and oats regularly. Avoid consuming these if you have stomach ulcer.

  • Beans – Beans are a great source of protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The dietary fiber and phenolic compounds present in beans help lower inflammation biomarkers and reduce colonic inflammation (20).

Consume navy beans, black beans, kidney beans, mung beans, garbanzo beans, Bengal gram, green Bengal gram, and black-eyed peas.

  • Nuts – Nuts are powerhouses of antioxidants, healthy fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, phytosterols, and dietary fiber (21). Frequent nut consumption has been positively associated with lowering inflammatory biomarkers (22).

Consume almonds, walnuts, macadamia, pine nuts, pistachio, cashew, and hazelnuts.

  • Fatty Fish – Fatty fish are great sources of omega-3-fatty acids. Consuming fatty fish regularly can help balance omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acid ratio, thereby lowering inflammation (23).

Consume tuna, haddock, sardines, mackerel, salmon, carp, and hilsa.

  • Healthy FatsHealthy fats are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. The more sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats you include in your diet, the better the chances of reduced inflammation in your body (24).

Consume avocado, olive oil, avocado oil, ghee, rice bran oil, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish.

  • Natural Remedies – Natural remedies like green tea, turmeric, maritime pine bark, white willow bark, and boswellia serrata resin can help lower inflammation (25). Talk to your doctor before taking any of these.

[ Read: 30 Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods ]

These are the foods that you may include in your diet to reduce inflammation, especially the chronic one. Now, unless you avoid and/limit intake of certain foods, you will not see good results. Here’s a list of foods to avoid.

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Foods To Avoid

Foods To Avoid Pinit

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  • Refined Carbs – Flour, white bread, and white pasta.
  • Sugar And Sugary Beverages – Refined sugar, candies, sweetened drinks, packaged fruit juices, energy drinks, cookies, pastry, and ice cream.
  • Processed Foods – Sausage, salami, frozen food, ready-to-eat foods, hotdogs, and pretzels.
  • Trans Fats – Avoid all deep-fried foods like chips, fried chicken, and fries.
  • Oils – Avoid unhealthy oils like vegetable oil, hemp seed oil, canola oil, and soybean oil.
  • Alcohol – Avoid all kinds of alcohol.

You have to be on a low-calorie, Mediterranean diet to reduce inflammation in your body. Here’s a sample anti-inflammatory diet plan.

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Anti-Inflammatory Diet Plan

MealsWhat To Eat
Early Morning (7:00 a.m.)1 cup water with ½ teaspoon honey and 2 tablespoons ginger juice
Breakfast
(8:00 a.m.)
1 avocado toast + 1 cup freshly pressed orange juice (without sugar) + 4 almonds
Snack
(10:30 a.m.)
1 cucumber
Lunch
(12:30 p.m.)
Tuna, lettuce, spinach, and black bean salad with light dressing
Snack
(3:30 p.m.)
1 cup green tea + 10 in-shell pistachios
Dinner
(6:30 p.m.)
1 medium bowl mushroom clear soup

What else can you consume apart from the foods mentioned in the diet chart? Here’s a list.

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Anti-Inflammatory Diet Shopping List

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Shopping List Pinit

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Veggies – Broccoli, cauliflower, beetroot, carrot, spinach, cabbage, bell pepper, scallion, cucumber, zucchini, eggplant, bok choy, and green beans.
Fruits – Apple, banana, pineapple, papaya, peach, orange, grapefruit, and berries.
Protein – Skinless chicken breast, fatty fish, mushroom, eggs, edamame, beans and lentils, soy, and tofu.
Dairy – Yogurt, buttermilk, and milk (avoid milk if you are not lactose tolerant).
Grains – Brown rice, red rice, black rice, broken wheat, and barley.
Fats And Oils – Olive oil, avocado oil, rice bran oil, avocado, and ghee.
Nuts And Seeds – Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, macadamia, pepita, melon seeds, flax seeds, and chia seeds.
Beverages – Water, lime water, detox water, buttermilk, fresh fruit juice, and green tea.
Herbs And Spices – Cilantro, dill, fennel, thyme, rosemary, mint, turmeric, ginger powder, nutmeg, and oregano.

Note: This diet is not for everyone. You can be on this diet after consulting your physician. An anti-inflammatory diet will help you in the following conditions.

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What Conditions Can The Anti-Inflammatory Diet Help With?

The anti-inflammatory diet can help with conditions like:

  • Arthritis
  • Pain and swelling
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Hair fall
  • Skin problems
  • PCOS
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Psoriasis

The next big question is – will this diet help you lose weight? Let’s find out.

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Will The Anti-Inflammatory Diet Help You Lose Weight?

Yes, the anti-inflammatory diet can help you lose weight.

The foods included in this diet are rich in antioxidants that help scavenge the harmful oxygen radicals. This, in turn, reduces the stress levels in the body and prevents the risk of inflammation-induced weight gain.

What if you don’t eat meat and are a vegetarian? Can you still follow the anti-inflammatory diet? Scroll down to know.

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Can A Vegetarian Diet Reduce Inflammation?

Yes, you may consume vegetarian foods that are allowed in the anti-inflammatory foods list to reduce inflammation.

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Tips On Following An Anti-Inflammatory Diet

  • Check the labels to see if there are any ingredient that is potentially an allergen or may cause inflammation.
  • Avoid packaged fruit juices.
  • Workout regularly.
  • If you have a desk job, get up and walk around every hour.
  • If possible, consume garden-fresh veggies.

Just a reminder – here’s why you may want to be on the anti-inflammatory diet.

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Benefits Of The Anti-Inflammatory Diet

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  • Reduces the risk of diabetes.
  • Reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Helps with chronic joint pain.
  • Helps reduce stress.
  • May help reduce belly flab.

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Conclusion

Choosing foods that help reduce inflammation could be one of your life’s best decisions. I also recommend working out at least 3-4 hours per week. You will see your health improving, and you’ll not go back to your unhealthy eating habits and lifestyle. Take your doctor’s opinion and start your journey to good health today.
Take care!

References

  1. Inflammation and cancer” Nature, US National Library of Medicine.
  2. Inflammation, stress, and diabetes” The Journal of Clinical Investigation, US National Library of Medicine.
  3. Inflammation in osteoarthritis” Current Opinion in Rheumatology, US National Library of Medicine.
  4. What is inflammation?” Harvard Health Publishing.
  5. What is an inflammation?” Informed Health Online, US National Library of Medicine.
  6. Low-grade inflammation, diet composition and health: current research evidence and its translation” The British Journal of Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
  7. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids.” Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, US National Library of Medicine.
  8. Effects of chronic sugar consumption on lipid accumulation and autophagy in the skeletal muscle.” European Journal of Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
  9. Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
  10. Consumption of Honey, Sucrose, and High-Fructose Corn Syrup Produces Similar Metabolic Effects in Glucose-Tolerant and -Intolerant Individuals.” The Journal of Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
  11. Excessive refined carbohydrates and scarce micronutrients intakes increase inflammatory mediators and insulin resistance in prepubertal and pubertal obese children independently of obesity.” Mediators of Inflammation, US National Library of Medicine.
  12. Trans Fats” American Heart Association.
  13. Dietary intake of trans fatty acids and systemic inflammation in women.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
  14. Consumption of Trans Fatty Acids Is Related to Plasma Biomarkers of Inflammation and Endothelial Dysfunction” The Journal of Nutrition, Oxford Academic.
  15. Alcohol intake and systemic markers of inflammation–shape of the association according to sex and body mass index.” Alcohol and alcoholism: International Journal of the Medical Council on Alcoholism, US National Library of Medicine.
  16. Consumption of Red/Processed Meat and Colorectal Carcinoma: Possible Mechanisms Underlying the Significant Association.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
  17. Targeting Inflammation Through a Physical Active Lifestyle and Pharmaceuticals for the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes.” Current diabetes reports, US National Library of Medicine.
  18. Effect of fruit and vegetable antioxidants on total antioxidant capacity of blood plasma.” Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
  19. Health benefits of dietary fiber.” Nutrition Reviews, US National Library of Medicine.
  20. Cooked navy and black bean diets improve biomarkers of colon health and reduce inflammation during colitis.” The British Journal of Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
  21. Nuts and Human Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review” Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine.
  22. Associations between nut consumption and inflammatory biomarkers1,2” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
  23. Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes: from molecules to man.” Biochemical Society Transactions, US National Library of Medicine.
  24. Polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory diseases.” Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, US National Library of Medicine.
  25. Natural anti-inflammatory agents for pain relief” Surgical Neurology International, US National Library of Medicine.