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Reduce Inflammation with These Anti-Inflammatory Foods

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Updated August 18, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Anti-inflammatory foods may have the capability to reduce inflammation when they're eaten as part of an overall health diet.

Of course, the opposite of that is true too -- inflammatory foods might trigger your body's inflammatory response, potentially increasing your risk of chronic disease. Especially if you eat too much heavily processed, non-nutritious foods on a regular basis.

Get Me Started!

Okay, so how exactly do you get started on an anti-inflammatory diet?  

The quick start method is simply to double up your servings of fruits and vegetables at every meal -- you can't go wrong there. Divide your plate into quarters -- at least half should be filled with green, and other colorful veggies or fruits.

Here's a quick look at the fruits and vegetables that have anti-inflammatory potential:

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, including these:

Of course there's more to an anti-inflammatory diet, including healthful protein sources, and the right fats. Then round out your diet with beneficial beverages. 

Protein Sources. Anti-inflammatory protein sources include most fish and seafood, and some plant-based sources. Some examples:

Fats and Oils. Omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids are an important part of an anti-inflammatory diet. Many of the protein sources also contain beneficial fats, including fish, seafood, soy, avocados, olives and all those nuts. In addition, choose these:

Beverages. Drink tap, sparkling or bottled water, 100-percent juices, herbal tea, low-sodium vegetable juice, and low- or non-fat milk.

Anti-inflammatory Diet Tips

Choose fresh foods more often and choose fewer heavily processed foods. Here are my 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.

Learn More!

There's even more to learn about an anti-inflammatory diet -- for the details, dig into the Inflammation Free Diet Plan.

Sources:

Covas MI. "Olive oil and the cardiovascular system." Pharmacol Res. 2007 Jan 30.

Lopez-Garcia E, Schulze MB, Fung TT, Meigs JB, Rifai N, Manson JE, Hu FB. "Major dietary patterns are related to plasma concentrations of markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction." Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Oct;80(4):1029-35.

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.

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