The Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Inflammation is one of the body’s natural ways of protecting itself. It includes many chemical reactions that help to fight off

infections, to increase blood flow to places that need healing, and to generate pain as a signal that something is wrong with the body.

Unfortunately, as with any process in the body, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. A number of medical conditions are

linked to too much inflammation in the body. Some of these include:

• Alzheimer’s disease

• Asthma

• Cancer

• Chronic obstructive lung diseases (emphysema and bronchitis)

• Chronic pain

• Type 2 diabetes

• Heart disease

• Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis)

• Stroke

• Diseases where the immune system attacks the body, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma

Often, people take medications to decrease inflammation. Drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin can change the body’s chemical

reactions, but they are not without side effects. Research has shown that other things can decrease inflammation too. Many things we

have control over, such as our stress levels, how much we exercise, and how we eat will influence how much inflammation we have in our

bodies. How we eat can affect inflammation, and certain diets are more likely to decrease pain and other symptoms of disease. Many

studies have shown that people who eat certain types of foods are less likely to have the health problems listed above. Some important

guidelines for people who want to eat an anti-inflammatory diet are:

1. Avoid unhealthy fats. Trans-fats and fats that are high in omega-6 fatty acids cause inflammation. These fats are found in many animal

products and in any foods designed to have a long shelf life. Mono-unsaturated fats, like olive oil, are better choices. Omega-3 fats, like

fish oil and flax oil, are especially good for decreasing inflammation.

2. Eat fruits and vegetables. Many studies are showing that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is good for decreasing inflammation. The

more servings eaten, the better. Eight to 10 servings per day is a good goal.

3. Eat fiber. Diets high in fiber are shown to help to decrease inflammation. A good goal is about 30 grams a day, ideally from a diet rich

in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Eat More:

Foods high in omega-3 fats

  • Cold water fish (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel)

  • Ground flax seeds or flax oil

  • Leafy green vegetables

  • Walnuts

Foods high in antioxidants

  • Yellow, orange, and red vegetables (peppers, carrots)

  • Dark leafy greens (spinach, Romaine lettuce)

  • Citrus fruits

  • Black and green teas

  • Allium vegetables (onions, garlic)

Foods high in fiber

Spices that contain anti-inflammatory compounds

  • Ginger

  • Rosemary

  • Turmeric

  • Oregano

  • Cayenne

  • Clove

  • Nutmeg

Herbs that have anti-inflammatory properties

  • Boswellia

  • Willow bark

  • Feverfew

Avoid eating:

Foods high in trans- and omega-6 fats

• Red meats

• Dairy products

• Partially hydrogenated oils

• Corn, cottonseed, grapeseed, peanut, safflower, soy, and sunflower oils

• Foods with a long shelf life (chips, crackers)

Foods high in simple carbohydrates (That is, foods with a high glycemic load. Foods that cause rapid rises and drops in insulin levels seem to cause more inflammation.)

• White breads or bagels

• English muffins

• Instant rice

• Rice and corn cereals

Foods more likely to trigger intolerance reactions (these vary from person to person)

• Dairy

• Wheat

• Eggs

• Artificial flavors and colors (Aspartame, FD&C dyes)