There is no one anti–inflammatory diet, rather, there are diets designed around foods that are believed to decrease inflammation and which shun foods that aggravate the inflammatory processes. Many anti–inflammatory diets are based around whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fresh vegetables and fruits, wild fish and seafood, grass–fed lean turkey and chicken which are thought to aid in the body’s healing of inflammation. They exclude foods that are thought to trigger inflammation such as refined grains, wheat, corn, full–fat dairy, red meat, caffeine, alcohol, peanuts, sugar, saturated and trans–saturated fats. The common foundation of anti–inflammatory diets is the belief that low grades of inflammation are the precursor and/or antagonizer to many chronic diseases. Once removed, the body can begin healing itself.
Foods that reduce chronic inflammation
- Whole grains. Whole grains or foods made from them, whether cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked, contain the essential parts and nutrients of the entire grain seed. Research has shown that diets high in whole grain products are associated with decreased concentrations of inflammatory markers and increased adiponectin levels. The protective effects of a diet high in whole grains on systemic inflammation may be explained, in part, by reduction in overproduction of oxidative stress that results in inflammation. A whole grain will include the following parts of the grain kernel: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Such whole grains are amaranth, barley, bulgur, wild rice, millet, oats, quinoa, rye, spelt, wheat berries, buckwheat, and whole wheat.
- Legumes. Diets high in legumes are inversely related to plasma concentrations of C–reactive protein (CRP). Among the many varieties of legumes are: pinto beans, lentils, kidney beans, borlotti beans, mung beans, soybeans, cannelloni beans, garbanzo or chickpeas, adzuki beans, fava beans, and black beans. Nuts, seeds Nuts and seeds are rich in unsaturated fat and other nutrients that may reduce inflammation. Frequent nut consumption is associated with lower levels of inflammatory markers. This may explain why there is a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes with frequent nut and seed consumption. Diets should include walnuts, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds, with the exception of peanuts. Nuts and seeds are best eaten when unsalted and raw.
- Fresh vegetables. Green leafy vegetables and brightly colored vegetables provide beta–carotene. Vegetables rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants have been shown to reduce cell damage and to have anti–inflammatory effects. Aim for three or more servings per day.
- Fresh fruits. Flavonoids found in fresh fruits among other substances are thought to increase the antioxidant effects of vitamin C. Research has shown that fruits have an anti–inflammatory effect. Aim for two or more servings daily and include berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries, in your weekly choices of fruits.
- Wild fish and seafood. Oily fish such as herring, mackerel, salmon and trout are an excellent source of omega–3 fatty acids, as are shellfish such as mussels and clams. Including fish or seafood high in omega–3 fatty acids at least three times a week is recommended.
- Lean poultry. Protein is used in the body to repair and manufacture cells, and make antibodies, enzymes, and hormones. Lean protein has been associated with lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers. When choosing poultry, choose grass–fed animals, which tend to have a higher amount of essential fatty acids. Select poultry with limited amounts of, or is free of, preservatives, sodium, nitrates or coloring. Also, in an ideal diet, only 10–12 percent of daily calories should come from protein. On average, an adult needs 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
- Soy products. Anti–inflammatory properties of soy isoflavones, a micronutrient component of soy, have been reported in several experimental models and disease conditions. Data suggests the possibility of beneficial effects of isoflavone–rich soy foods when added to the diet. Soy products include: soybeans, edemame, tofu, tempeh, soymilk, as well as many other products made from soybeans.
- Oils. Expeller pressed canola oil and extra virgin olive oil are types of oils that have been linked to reduced inflammation. Other oils thought to aid in reducing inflammation include rice bran, grape seed, evening primrose and walnut oil. It is suggested to use these oils in moderation when cooking, baking and flavoring of foods. Also, when purchasing oils, make sure they are pure oils rather than blended oils. Blended oil usually contains less healthful oils.
- Water. Water in the form of fresh drinking water free of toxic chemicals is an essential substance for every function of the body. It is a medium for chemical processes and is a solvent for body wastes, diluting their toxicity and aiding in their excretion. Water aids in ingestion, absorption, and transport of vital nutrients that have anti–inflammatory effects. Water is also needed for basic cell functioning and repairing of body tissues, and is the base of all blood and fluid secretions.
- Herbs and spices. A greater amount of research is emerging on the antioxidant properties of herbs and spices and their use in the management of chronic inflammation. Herbs and spices can be used in recipes to partially or wholly replace less desirable ingredients such as salt, sugar, and added saturated fat, which are known for their inflammatory effects, thus reducing the damaging properties of these foods.
We recommend the Cookbook for anti-inflammatory nutrition:
Foods that irritate inflammation
Best referred to in research articles as ‘‘the western dietary pattern,’’ a diet that is high in refined grains, red meat, butter, processed meats, high–fat dairy, sweets and desserts, pizza, potato, eggs, hydrogenated fats, and soft drinks is considered to irritate inflammation. This pattern of eating is positively related to an increase in circulating blood CRP levels and higher risks for chronic diseases, obesity, and cancers. These foods, termed ‘‘pro–inflammatory,’’ may increase inflammation, thus increasing a person’s risk for chronic diseases as well as exacerbate symptoms from these chronic conditions. There is some support for the belief that food sensitivities or allergens to foods may be a trigger for inflammation. Often hard to detect with common blood tests, some people have seen alleviation of symptoms of chronic diseases, such as arthritis, when the aggravating foods are removed from their diet. Common allergic foods are milk and dairy, wheat, corn, eggs, beef, yeast, and soy. Other pro–inflammatory foods have been shown to have substances that activate or support the inflammatory process. Unhealthy trans fats and saturated fats used in preparing and processing certain foods are linked to increased inflammation. Processed meats such as lunchmeats, hot dogs, and sausages contain chemicals such as nitrites that are associated with increased inflammation and chronic disease. Saturated fats naturally found in meats, dairy products, and eggs contain fatty acids called arachidonic acid. While some arachidonic acid is essential for health, excess arachidonic acid in the diet has been shown to worsen inflammation.
We recommend book “Find Your Food Triggers and Reset Your System“
Research supports that diets high in sugar produce acute oxidative stress within the cells, associating it with inflammation. Elimination of high sugar foods such as sodas, soft drinks, pastries, presweetened cereals, and candy has been shown to be beneficial, as well as switching from refined grains to whole grains.