Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet may be an effective way to help reduce inflammation in the body. The anti-inflammatory diet is made up of foods that naturally decrease the body’s inflammatory response. It is high in dietary fiber, essential fats, healthy proteins, vitamins and minerals. The anti-inflammatory diet is also full of foods that are high in antioxidants that fight free radicals in the body.
The anti-inflammatory diet isn’t intended for weight loss, although the avoidance of refined carbohydrates, which is central to the diet, may result in weight loss. Nonetheless, the anti-inflammatory diet can be helpful to people with these conditions:
- Crohn’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Metabolic syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Hashimoto’s disease
- Heart disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
The anti-inflammatory diet is also beneficial for people who want to avoid conditions like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Dr. Andrew Weil says that the anti-inflammatory diet is “a way of selecting and preparing foods based on scientific research that can help you achieve and maintain optimum health over your lifetime.”
What Foods Are Allowed on the Anti-inflammatory Diet?
The anti-inflammatory diet is made up of very nutrient-rich, whole foods. The following foods are acceptable on the anti-inflammatory diet:
- Green, leafy vegetables: Vegetables like bok choy and kale are high in antioxidants; they are also helpful for digestion and full of nutrients
- Blueberries, strawberries and blackberries: Berries are high in antioxidants, which fight free radicals; they are also loaded with vitamins and dietary fiber
- Cherries: Cherries relieve pain and inflammation associated with arthritis; they are also full of powerful antioxidants
- Red and black grapes: The resveratrol in dark-colored grapes is beneficial for brain health; they’re also high in vitamin C and other important nutrients
- Celery: Celery contains antioxidants and polysaccharides that reduce inflammation in the body
- Broccoli: The sulfur compounds in broccoli have powerful anti-inflammatory properties
- Beets: Beets contain a nutrient called betaine that helps reduce inflammation and protect cells in the body
- Pineapple: The enzyme called bromelain is found in pineapples; it has been shown to fight inflammation and improve digestion; the center core of the pineapple contains the highest concentration of bromelain
- Garlic: Garlic contains high levels of quercetin, a potent antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation
- Cabbage: One study found that healthy women who ate several daily servings of cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables had less inflammation than those who didn’t
- Hot peppers: Hot peppers contain capsaicin, an anti-inflammatory compound
- Onions: Like garlic, onions contain the powerful antioxidant called quercetin that reduces inflammation
- Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are high in the antioxidant vitamin E and beta-carotene; both of these nutrients have anti-inflammatory properties
- Whole grains: Because whole grains digest slowly, there isn’t an associated spike in blood sugar, as with refined carbohydrates; drastic spikes in blood sugar cause inflammation
- Carrots: Carrots are full of beta-carotene, which is known to fight inflammation and decrease arthritis pain
- Oranges: Citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C, which is necessary for the body to synthesize collagen; collagen helps the body repair itself and strengthen bones, ligaments and tendons
- Cinnamon: Cinnamaldehyde, in cinnamon, is an anti-inflammatory compound that blocks the release of arachidonic acid that can cause inflammation in the body
- Walnuts and almonds: The polyphenols found in walnuts and almonds fight oxidative stress and inflammation
- Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate (and unsweetened cocoa) is high in antioxidant polyphenols that can reduce inflammation; choose dark chocolate that is made from at least 70 percent cacao for the best anti-inflammatory benefit, and make sure it isn’t loaded with sugar.
- Flaxseeds: Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation; flaxseeds are a very good source of omega-3 fats; grind the seeds before eating them so your body can absorb the nutrients
- Avocados: The oleic acid in avocados has been shown to reduce inflammation
- Cauliflower: Cauliflower is high in vitamin K and omega-3 fatty acids, both known to fight inflammation
- Beans and lentils: The high fiber content of beans and lentils can help reduce inflammation in the body; beans and lentils are also high in magnesium, potassium and folic acid
- Salmon: Omega-3 fats are excellent for reducing inflammation; salmon and other fatty fish are rich in omega-3 oils and fats
- Green tea: Green, white and oolong tea are full of catechins, powerful antioxidants that reduce inflammation
- Olives: Both green and black olives contain oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol; oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol are anti-inflammatory compounds
- Coconut oil: A 2010 study in the journal Pharmaceutical Biology found that virgin coconut oil reduced the swelling in rats and provided some protection against chronic inflammation; coconut oil also contains lauric acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties
- Olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is high in polyphenols, which have been shown to reduce inflammation
- Sesame oil: The antioxidant found in sesame oil is called sesamin, which has strong anti-inflammatory properties
- Ginger: One study in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that ginger fought pain and inflammation in a method similar to that of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Turmeric: The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties
Some people with certain conditions may find that several of the allowable foods with higher carbohydrate content still cause inflammation. In that case, those individuals will need to eliminate the foods on the list with higher carbohydrates and stick to the other acceptable foods.
Which Foods Should Be Avoided on the Anti-inflammatory Diet?
There are a number of foods that you should eliminate from your diet to reduce inflammation. Many of them aren’t particularly healthy for us anyway. The following foods should be avoided:
- Sugar and refined carbohydrates
- Fried foods
- Hydrogenated oils and trans fats
- Red meat
- Vegetable oil, soybean oil and corn oil
- Alcohol (in excess)
- Fast food
- White bread and white flour
- Cakes, cookies, and candy
- Processed foods
Recipe Suggestions for the Anti-inflammatory Diet
The anti-inflammatory diet isn’t incredibly restrictive. You can enjoy all the food groups and a large variety of delicious and healthy foods while reducing your body’s inflammatory response. Chocolate is even on the list. Here are some tasty anti-inflammatory recipes to enjoy while you’re on the diet.
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons erythritol (more or less to taste)
- Pinch of salt
- Heat the coconut oil in a small saucepan over low heat until melted.
- Add the cocoa and stir until all the lumps are gone. Then, add the erythritol and salt. Stir until they’re completely dissolved.
- Pour the mixture into candy molds, ice cube trays or a shallow dish and refrigerate or freeze until solid.
Green and Ginger Tea
- 1-inch peeled ginger root
- 1 organic green tea bag
- 10 ounces purified water
- Chop the peeled ginger root into small pieces, and put it into a mug.
- Add an organic green tea bag.
- Pour near-boiling water over the ginger and green tea.
- Allow it to steep for about four minutes.
- 1 can (15 ounces) organic garbanzo beans
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Juice from half a lemon
- Pinch of salt
- Drain the garbanzo beans, and put them in your food processor.
- Add all the other ingredients and blend until smooth.
- Add a little water until the hummus has reached the desired consistency.
- 10 ounces almond milk
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- Pinch of ground black pepper
- Erythritol or stevia, to taste (optional)
- Warm the almond milk gently over medium-low heat.
- Whisk in the turmeric, black pepper, and natural sweetener.
- One head of cauliflower washed and chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin) or coconut oil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- Heat a large pan with the oil over medium heat.
- Put the chopped cauliflower, garlic, salt, and black pepper into the pan.
- Let everything cook for about five minutes.
- Flip the cauliflower, and let it cook for an additional five minutes or until tender.
Asian Broccoli Slaw
- 1 package (12 ounces) broccoli slaw
- 2 oranges, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 3-5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- Put the broccoli slaw into a large bowl. Add in the chopped cilantro, oranges, almonds, red onion and minced garlic and mix well.
- Add the olive oil, rice vinegar and sesame oil, and combine well.
- Season with sea salt and black pepper.
Your diet can help your body fight inflammation. The anti-inflammatory diet is a wonderful and healthful solution for coping with inflammatory conditions like arthritis, diabetes, cancer and lupus. It’s full of extremely nutritious and satisfying foods to help your body overcome illnesses and fight inflammation. Consider the anti-inflammatory diet if you struggle with any of these conditions or if you are at risk of developing an inflammatory illness.
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Weil, A. (2017). Anti-inflammatory diet: a Weil food pyramid. Retrieved from: https://www.drweil.com/diet-nutrition/anti-inflammatory-diet-pyramid/anti-inflammatory-diet-a-weil-food-pyramid/