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What Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

Updated on March 26, 2017
Images sourced from Pixabay. Created by Chin chin
Images sourced from Pixabay. Created by Chin chin

Health experts say that eating anti-inflammatory foods help fight aging as well as relieve certain health conditions like arthritis and cancer. Find out which foods are on this diet and how it can benefit your health.

Good and Bad of Inflammation

Why Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

Inflammation is the natural process that occurs when the immune system fights off foreign substances like germs, pollen or chemicals “threatening” the body. So, inflammation is not bad at all. It is the normal immune system response when you are injured or sick.

What “Good” Inflammation Does for You

When you’ve got fever or swollen glands due to sore throat; when your injury or infected cut swells, turns red and painful; it simply means that inflammation is jumpstarting the healing process. Your white blood cells are going to the site to protect your health.

When you’re emotionally stressed, you get a rush of C-reactive proteins, which are inflammatory markers, in your blood stream as an immune response.

When Inflammation Goes Bad

Inflammation should be temporary. When you’re no longer ill or injured, it should also go away. If it persists even without foreign invaders in the body, it becomes an enemy. When chronic inflammation gets out of hand, instead of healing it destroys. Thus, it has been linked to many diseases including cancer, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

When your joints are inflamed as in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, it can cause serious pain and damage.

When fatty plaque form in the arteries due to chronic inflammation, white blood cells can go to the site and form blood clots that can possibly lead to a heart attack.

Having inflammatory bowel disease (in the gastrointestinal tract) can affect bone health. It hampers the absorption of calcium and vitamin D – essential nutrients for bone health.

Experts also believe that chronic inflammation is linked to faster cell aging as observed in visible signs of aging like wrinkle formation.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods and Arthritis

What Can You Do to Avoid Inflammation?

Aside from foreign substances invading the body, autoimmune disorder, stress, exposure to UV rays and pollution, lack of sleep and poor nutrition contribute to inflammation and aging. If you want to do something about it, make efforts to address these factors.

  • Get enough sleep

For example, you need to sleep at least 7 hours every night because, according to a study, people who sleep less than 7 hours have more inflammation-related proteins in their blood.

  • Eat anti-inflammatory foods

You are also better off if you make changes to your diet and include anti-inflammatory foods.

An anti-inflammatory diet is beneficial for every person. Whether you have any inflammation-related health issue or not, you will be healthier with this diet. If you suffer from illness like rheumatoid arthritis, however, don’t expect it to miraculously cure your symptoms. With the dietary changes, you will most likely notice toned down pain or a lesser number of flare-ups.

Images were sourced from Pixabay.com
Images were sourced from Pixabay.com

Foods on the Anti-inflammatory Diet

A popular diet that includes lots of anti-inflammatory foods is the Mediterranean diet. That means eating lots of high-fiber fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans or plant-based proteins, fish high in omega-3 fatty acids and herbs and spices with anti-inflammatory substances.

  • If you love to eat soy products like tofu, soy milk, tempeh and edamame, you’re already eating some anti-inflammatory foods. Beans are loaded with fiber, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances.
  • Healthy fats present in olive oil are good for stopping inflammation. You can also get these healthy fats from avocados, nuts and seeds. But limit your intake if you need to watch your calories.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are number one fighters of inflammation. So, eat fish like salmon, tuna and sardines at least two times every week.
  • Brightly colored fruits and vegetables contain lots of substances that fight inflammation. An example is vitamin K that is present in spinach, kale, broccoli and cabbage. The pigment responsible for the color of fruits like blackberries, raspberries and cherries are also inflammation fighters.
  • Oatmeal, brown rice and other whole grains or related products are high in fiber, which curbs inflammation.
  • Cook with anti-inflammatory spices like garlic, turmeric, ginger and cinnamon. Most people are familiar with garlic and ginger and use them regularly in cooking foods. Turmeric is found in curry powder and so is common in Indian cuisine.
  • If you find it hard to tell which foods cause inflammation and which do not, your best bet is to eat fresh, unprocessed foods then cook them yourself. Whether this diet works or not to dispel your inflammation problem, an anti-inflammatory diet when followed through regularly can improve overall health and lower the risk for many diseases especially those related to aging.

Foods to Avoid on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

It's not enough to eat anti-inflammatory foods. You also need to avoid foods that cause inflammation. These include foods that are high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, saturated fat, trans fat and omega 6-fatty acids. These foods cause the immune system to be overactive leading to inflammation i.e. fatigue, joint pain and damaged blood vessels.

  • Consuming sugary drinks such as soda and foods with refined carbohydrates like white bread, releases inflammatory messengers called cytokines in the body.
  • Corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and other vegetable oils are high in omega-6s. The body needs omega-6s, but too much of this can cause an imbalance in omega-3 and omega-6 resulting in more inflammation.
  • Completely avoid products with trans fat. These include margarine, vegetable shortening and coffee creamers. If you see “partially hydrogenated oils” in the list of ingredients on the product’s label, it contains trans fat. Trans fat is associated with high LDL cholesterol and inflammation.
  • Red meat and processed meat, such as hot dogs contain saturated fat. Saturated fat in the body triggers inflammatory response from the immune system.

For people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, it is necessary to go on a gluten-free diet because gluten triggers gut inflammation. It’s a problem with the immune system that directs an attack on the small intestine with the presence of gluten. The main foods to avoid include wheat, barley and rye.

Final Thoughts

If you find it hard to tell which foods cause inflammation and which do not, your best bet is to eat fresh, unprocessed foods then cook them yourself. Whether this diet works or not to dispel your inflammation problem, an anti-inflammatory diet when followed through regularly can improve overall health and lower the risk for many diseases especially those related to aging.

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    • Chin chin profile image
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      Chin chin 5 months ago from Philippines

      Hi Sonia. I'm glad that you found the image helpful. Thanks.

    • SoniaSylart profile image

      Sonia Sylart 5 months ago from UK

      The photo/image you have included showing what to eat more of and what to avoid is very useful in summarising your tips to help beat inflammation.