Anti-inflammatory foods may have the capability to reduce inflammation. Of course, the opposite of that is true as well -- inflammatory foods might trigger your body's inflammatory response, potentially increasing your risk of chronic disease.
An anti-inflammatory diet is made up of whole foods that are nutrient dense and as unrefined as possible. At the same time, you need to cut back on the junk foods. Here's what to do:
Fruits and Vegetables. Whole fruits, berries and vegetables are all rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Choose green and brightly colored vegetables and whole fruits such as broccoli, chard, strawberries, blueberries, spinach, carrots and squash. You should eat at least five (and preferably more) servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Protein Sources. Anti-inflammatory protein sources include most fish and seafood. Oily ocean fish like salmon and tuna is the best because it's high in omega-3 fatty acids. Soy and soy foods such as tofu and tempeh, along with other legumes are the top plant-based protein sources, followed by walnuts, almonds, pecans and Brazil nuts.
Fats and Oils. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in cold-water oily fish, flax seeds, canola oil and pumpkin seeds. Consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts has been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Other healthful oils include rice bran oil, grape seed oil, and walnut oil.
Beverages. Your body needs water. Drink tap, sparkling or bottled water, 100-percent juices, herbal tea, low-sodium vegetable juice, and low- or non-fat milk are all healthful sources of water.
Anti-inflammatory Diet Tips
Choose fresh foods more often and choose fewer heavily processed foods. Here are some tips:
- For breakfast, try oatmeal served with fresh berries and walnuts.
- Snack on whole fruits, nuts, seeds, and fresh vegetables instead of cookies and candy.
- Eat more fish and less fatty red meat.
- Cook with olive oil and canola oil.
- Try a tofu stir-fry or scramble.
- Have a salad with lots of fresh vegetables as your meal.
- Stay away from deep-fried foods; bake, broil, poach or stir-fry instead.
- Choose dark green or brightly colored vegetables as side dishes -- they should fill half your dinner plate.
Inflammatory Foods to Avoid
Loading up on junk foods, high-fat meats, sugar, and highly processed foods may increase the potential for inflammation in your body. Reduce your consumption of trans-fats and saturated fats by cutting back on highly processed foods, red meats, and high-fat processed meats such as bacon and sausage. Cut back on refined white flours in bread and pasta (look for 100-percent whole grains instead). A small amount of sugar is okay, but cut down on most added sugars by decreasing your consumption of sugary sodas, pastries, candy, rich desserts, and pre-sweetened cereals.
Another possible source of irritation comes from the nightshade family of plants, which includes, tomatoes, and eggplant. These vegetables contain a chemical alkaloid called solanine, which can trigger pain in some people. While there aren't any formal research findings that back the claim about nightshade plants, some people do believe they get relief from the symptoms of pain and inflammation when they eliminate them.
Maintaining a healthy weight also appears to be helpful for reducing pain and inflammation. I designed these calorie calculators to help you determine how many calories you need each day.
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Wall R, Ross RP, Fitzgerald GF, Stanton C. "Fatty acids from fish: the anti-inflammatory potential of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids." Nutr Rev. 2010 May;68(5):280-9.