An anti-inflammatory diet can help combat and/or prevent inflammation and its linked health risks.
What is inflammation?
Imagine your body is an army, constantly fighting off injuries, infections, and diseases. To combat these ‘foreign invaders’ your immune system fights quickly and aggressively with its first responders - inflammatory cells. This process usually results in acute (temporary) inflammation, which is a fundamental part of the body’s natural healing process.
However, sometimes the inflammation persists for long periods of time or returns unexpectedly. This is known as chronic inflammation, which has been linked to conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and cancer. Chronic inflammation can also arise from exposure to external irritants, or autoimmune diseases.
How can you combat inflammation?
While there are pharmaceutical options to reduce discomfort and symptoms, studies suggest that dietary choices may be just as impactful towards managing long term inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet is a recommended style of eating that places an emphasis on fresh foods, while avoiding processed or canned goods that can trigger or worsen inflammation. To help you understand how to build a healthy and effective anti-inflammatory diet we’ve compiled a list of Do’s and Don’ts, as well as other helpful tips.
- Do Eat Foods Rich in Omega 3 - Omega 3 fatty acids or ‘good fats’ are essential fats that help regulate inflammation.
- Oily fish, such as salmon, anchovies, and mackerel are all high in Omega 3 and are great ways to build an anti-inflammatory diet as well as increase protein intake.
- For non-meat options, consider seeds and nuts such as flaxseed or walnuts instead. These can be eaten by themselves or added to salads.
- You can also supplement omega, either sourced from fish or algae
- Fruits and veggies are a potent source of antioxidants, especially berries and green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach.
- Spices such as turmeric and ginger are rich in antioxidants and are easy to incorporate into existing recipes. They can also be mixed with hot drinks.
- Don’t Consume Processed Food - Fast food, ready meals and processed meats have all been linked to high levels of inflammation and other chronic diseases.
- Don’t Drink Alcohol in Excess - While it is a common belief that a glass of red wine has health benefits, drinking alcohol in excess may be linked to higher levels of inflammation. By limiting your alcohol intake, your immune system can better deal with foreign bacteria or injury.
- Don’t Eat Large Amounts of Sugar or Refined Carbs - Foods high in sugar or heavily processed carbs can lead to high blood pressure which is one of the markers for chronic inflammation.
- Don’t Eat Meals High in Sodium - High sodium levels have also been linked to high blood pressure and may be responsible for acute inflammation.
Tips for Building an Effective and Long Lasting Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- Introduce it Slowly - Transitioning slowly to an anti-inflammatory diet will help your body get used to the change and allow you to plan according to your personal taste and schedule.
- Allow yourself a Balanced Diet - The Don’ts mentioned above are guidelines for which foods to avoid but eating them occasionally is fine, as long as you have a well balanced diet full of anti-inflammatory foods and antioxidants.
- Pay Attention to What Works and What Doesn’t - There is no set regimen for an anti-inflammatory diet. You should build your own diet from the list above that works for you and your health. A food diary can help you do this.
- Take Inspiration from Anti-Inflammatory Inspired Diets such as the Mediterranean Diet. It can be fun to try new recipes and foods!
Switching to an anti-inflammatory diet is important for managing or preventing chronic inflammation. However, it cannot be done in isolation. It should be paired with habits such as regular exercise and a healthy sleep schedule, which studies suggest are highly effective in keeping inflammation levels low. Above all, it is important to remember that dietary changes require patience and commitment. Regardless of whether or not you are suffering from inflammation, anti-inflammatory diets promote healthy habits that are beneficial to everyone looking to explore new avenues of wholesome eating.