Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Foods That Heal Your Body

Fight disease, slow aging, reduce pain and more health benefits.
The anti-inflammatory diet isn't your typical weight loss fad -- it's more of a lifestyle change. As the name suggests, the diet plan is designed to reduce existing inflammation and focuses on eating anti-inflammatory foods, which proponents believe can fight disease, slow aging and banish pain. We asked the experts for the lowdown on what's involved.

How does the anti-inflammatory diet work?

The connection between inflammation and arthritis, asthma and autoimmune disorders has been known for some time but it's now thought that there is also a link between inflammation and conditions such as heart disease, arthritis and even cancer. The dangerous aspect about this type of chronic, low-level internal inflammation is that many people are not even aware of its "silent" existence.

Although the exact nature of the link isn't fully understood, experts believe that our diet could play a big part in the development of this inflammation, which is where the anti-inflammatory diet comes in.

"With an anti-inflammatory diet, we hope to reduce our risk of the most common chronic and degenerative diseases e.g heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and depression, and to potentially get symptomatic improvement from inflammation-related conditions such as arthritis and asthma," says Monica Reinagel, (MS, LN, CNS), licensed nutritionist and author of The Inflammation Free Diet Plan.

Anti-inflammatory foods to eat more of

Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition suggested that some foods may have anti-inflammatory properties, which include:

  • Whole grains
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables, particularly bright colored varieties
  • Green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables
  • Other vegetables including squash, carrots and sweet potatoes
  • Berries (including blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries)
  • Pulses, beans and lentils
  • Soy products
  • Dark chocolate
  • Spices, especially garlic, turmeric
  • Oily fish e.g. salmon
  • Walnuts

Vegetables and berries contain phytonutrients that help to decrease inflammation, says Sharon Graham, RN, author of The Anti-Inflammatory Eating Plan, who also recommends olive oil and avocadoes for their anti-inflammatory properties.

Inflammatory foods to eat less of

Cut back on these foods that are believed to promote inflammation:

  • Red meat
  • White rice and pasta
  • Products containing trans fats
  • Processed food
  • High fructose corn syrup, sugars, artificial sweeteners
  • White flour products
  • Excessive caffeine and alcohol

General tips

The IF Rating system can be helpful in determining where a food falls on the inflammation scale. Foods with positive IF Ratings support the body's anti-inflammatory processes while those with negative ratings may contribute to inflammation. But the idea isn't to eliminate every food with a negative IF Rating. "A balanced and nutritious diet will include some foods that can encourage inflammation," says Reinagel. "The goal is to balance this with an equal or greater number of foods which are anti-inflammatory."

Adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Apart from diet, lifestyle factors can be another reason why inflammation begins to take hold and this can be affected by not exercising regularly, failing to maintain an optimum weight, being a smoker and being stressed. It's advisable to follow the anti-inflammatory diet in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle.

Staying hydrated is absolutely necessary for optimal health. "Flushing the body with at least 2 quarts (1.9 litres) of purified water is crucial," stresses Graham.

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