Following an anti-inflammatory diet is one of the best things you can do to support your overall health. Since experiencing chronic inflammation is linked to outcomes like diabetes and heart disease, taking steps to combat this condition is key. After reading this article, you will have a better understanding of how food can impact chronic inflammation. Plus, you will be able to navigate the sea of food choices out there to know which anti-inflammatory foods belong on your plate. Prepare to be an anti-inflammatory expert!
What is Inflammation?
Simply put, inflammation is a normal immune response. From an acute injury to unhealthy lifestyle factors, inflammation can appear for a number of reasons.
When inflammation occurs, your body is being alerted that there is an injury or an infection. But, not all inflammation is the same.
Acute vs. Chronic Inflammation
Short-term, acute inflammation — occurring as a result of something like the flu or a broken toe — can support the body’s natural healing process. But, we want to avoid chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can come about as a result of long-term unhealthy lifestyle factors. This includes chronic stress, excessive smoking and drinking, poor sleep, exposure to environmental pollution, and of course, unhealthy food choices.
The good news is that one way to reduce your inflammatory load is to enjoy a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods.
The Role of Food & Inflammation
Amazingly, the foods we choose to eat can either promote or combat inflammation. And as the names imply, “pro-inflammatory” foods can stimulate an inflammatory response in your body, while anti-inflammatory foods may reduce inflammation in the body.
So, along with living an overall healthy lifestyle, eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods (and avoiding inflammatory culprits) can help keep chronic inflammation at bay while promoting overall health.
Pro-inflammatory foods are oftentimes ultra-processed and low in nutrients. Naturally, we want to avoid these unhealthy options! Some foods that are considered to be pro-inflammatory include:
- Artificial candy
- Soda and other sugary beverages
- Margarine and refined oils
- Fried foods
- Refined carbohydrates like white bread
As best you can, try to limit or reduce these foods. Ideally, the bulk of your diet should come from whole, minimally processed foods rich in nutrients like whole grains, fruits and veggies, healthy fats, and lean proteins.
Speaking of healthy choices, find out the best anti-inflammatory foods to add to your plate!
5 Delicious Anti-inflammatory Foods to Add to Your Diet
From fruits to veggies to nuts and more, there are a slew of food choices that offer some major anti-inflammatory benefits. And among the sea of food choices out there, here are five of our top picks that pack an anti-inflammatory punch.
Virgin olive oil contains numerous phenolic compounds that offer some major anti-inflammatory benefits. One particular phenolic compound found in virgin olive oil — oleocanthal — contains similar anti-inflammatory properties to ibuprofen. So as you can imagine, virgin olive oil is an excellent addition to an anti-inflammatory diet.
Use olive oil as your cooking fat, drizzle it on your cooked veggies, or combine it with some vinegar for a simple salad dressing that offers a slew of health benefits.
Walnuts contain a unique fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. This healthy fat is an omega-3 fatty acid that has anti-inflammatory properties and is, therefore, a perfect nut to include in many diets — including an anti-inflammatory one. According to research, the inflammation-busting properties of ALA significantly help reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other major health conditions.
Walnuts can be used as a topping for oatmeal, crushed and used as a coating for fish and chicken, or simply enjoyed on their own.
RELATED: The 4 Healthiest Nuts You Can Eat
Oily fish like salmon are naturally loaded with DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids, key nutrients that help keep chronic inflammation under control. As long as your salmon isn’t fried, enjoying it as a healthy dinner along with a serving of whole grains and sauteed vegetables is a fantastic choice for your anti-inflammatory diet.
Try using it as the star protein in these simple one-pan meals!
From strawberries to blueberries to oh-so-delicious raspberries, berries are a powerhouse when it comes to managing inflammation. Colorful berries contain anthocyanins, or antioxidants, that have anti-inflammatory properties.
Whether you are adding berries to your smoothie, yogurt parfait, or your salad, enjoying these little fruits can fuel your body with some amazing benefits.
Whether roasted, pickled, or boiled, beets are one of the best foods to eat to combat inflammation. Among the slew of vitamins and minerals that beets naturally contain, this veggie is also jam-packed with anti-inflammatory phytochemicals called betalains.
Not into the consistency of beets? Try sneaking them into your smoothie or sipping on beet juice for similar benefits!
Making The Right Food Choices To Combat Inflammation
The foods you choose to eat can have a profound impact on your inflammatory status. And as you’ve seen, your inflammatory status can impact your overall health. While a small amount of acute inflammation can speed injury and illness, chronic inflammation is a condition that should be avoided. This is especially important if you want to keep your health in tip-top shape.
Along with living a healthy lifestyle (think: sleep, stress management, and exercise), including anti-inflammatory foods in your diet — like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and healthy fats — can help your body combat chronic inflammation in a natural and simple way.
Looking for delicious ways to include anti-inflammatory foods in your diet? Sign up for FitOn PRO and get access to personalized meal plans, including foods you’ll love to eat.