What Is It?
The term anti-inflammatory seems to be growing in popularity in recent years, but don’t mistake it for a fad type, flash in the pan type diet. An anti-inflammatory type diet is a lifelong eating plan that can help to lessen inflammation in the body, thereby promoting good health and protecting our bodies from chronic disease.
The standard American diet high in processed foods, sugar, and trans and saturated fats creates a state of constant inflammation in the body, believed to wreak havoc over time. Being overweight or obese are also linked with increased inflammation. Incorporating an anti-inflammatory type eating plan may be one of the answers to reducing our risk of the many chronic diseases that plague us.
What Foods Are Included?
An anti-inflammatory diet, in general, includes as much fresh foods as possible, less processed and fast foods, a variety of foods in a spectrum of colors, and an abundance of fruits and vegetables, which contain phytochemicals and antioxidants. The Mediterranean diet, no. 2 in this best diet series, is essentially an anti-inflammatory diet.
Specifically, an anti-inflammatory eating plan includes more of the following:
- Fruits and vegetables, in a variety of different colors, especially berries, tomatoes, all orange and yellow varieties, leafy greens, and cruciferous vegetables, which include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and radishes
- Plenty of fiber – aim for 40 grams per day- which can be found in fruit, vegetables, beans, and whole grains
- Omega-3 fats found in fatty fish like fresh tuna and salmon, flax and chia seeds, and walnuts
- Whole grains like brown rice, bran, quinoa, oats – go to wholegrainscouncil.org to find recipes
- Lean proteins such as chicken, fish, and beans, instead of red meat and full fat dairy
- Extra-virgin olive oil as your main cooking oil
- Unprocessed soy foods like tofu and edamame
- Pure water or drinks made with mostly water, like tea or sparkling water flavored with lemon or infused with fruit, throughout the day
- Red wine in moderation
And less of the following:
- Butter, cream, and other full fat dairy, chicken with skin on, fatty meats, products with palm kernel and hydrogenated soybean oils, products made with high fructose corn syrup, packaged snack foods like chips and pretzels
Exercise and moving our bodies is also an important component of reducing inflammation. Early evidence shows that, among all the other benefits we can reap from regular exercise, moving our bodies can also positively impact and lessen levels of inflammation in the body.
What Are The Health Benefits
Inflammation, in general, is our body’s natural response to injury and infection. Acute inflammation, such as what occurs when we have a cut or burn or the flu, is our immune system’s natural and healthy response that helps us heal.
Chronic inflammation, though, is a long-term process that never shuts off and can be present in our bodies for years. Scientists are still working on why chronic inflammation is so damaging, but are finding that it is is increasingly believed to play a role in everything from heart disease, cancer, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s, to diabetes.
Although an anti-inflammatory diet is not specifically meant for weight loss, but rather improving health, eating this type of diet has been linked to weight loss and a lower likelihood of being overweight or obese. Other known benefits of eating a Mediterranean or anti-inflammatory type diet include reducing blood pressure and “bad” LDL cholesterol, as well as staving off or reversing metabolic syndrome, which can lead to type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Tips On How To Incorporate It
Aim for at least 45 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Whether it is all at once by going for a 45 minute to an hour walk or broken up in 15 minute increments throughout the day the key is for long term health we have to move regularly and consistently.
Eat a handful of nuts everyday. Nuts are a super satisfying way to add protein, fiber, and good fats to your diet. All nuts have their own benefits so choose what you like and have a small handful as a snack or mix a 1/4 cup in with your oatmeal in the morning.
Make room for legumes. Legumes (aka beans, peas, and lentils) are nature’s perfect little package of protein, low-glycemic carbs, fiber, folate, potassium, iron, and magnesium. Include beans and peas where you can. Top salads with them, have a meatless night and make a main dish with beans instead of meat, or I like just plain old chickpeas/garbanzo beans as a snack.
Switch up your daily beverage. If you are hooked on a daily habit of regular or diet soda, start out by trading out just one per day with naturally flavored sparkling water like La Croix or Target’s Simply Balanced version.
Include a fruit and/or veggie at every meal and snack. It may seem daunting if your current intake of fruits and veggies is on the low side, but making a conscious effort to think about including these nutrient packed gems can make all the difference. Too overwhelmed to try it at every meal? Start out with breakfast and then gradually include other meals and snacks.
We all want to avoid chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Food and physical activity are medicine. Every little thing you can do to improve the way you eat and move more can help you stay healthier and live better.