By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
How do you follow an anti-inflammatory meal plan? What should be on your anti-inflammatory foods list? Find out the best foods to fight inflammation.
Are you tired of suffering from the symptoms of inflammation? Pain, achiness, and fatigue are all things you could do without.
Luckily an anti-inflammatory diet, which decreases these symptoms, is pretty easy to follow. An anti-inflammatory meal plan is more or less a healthy diet that focuses on mostly whole foods while minimizing packaged and processed products.
Who needs another restrictive low-calorie fad diet when you can get awesome results by eating a simple, healthy eating plan? Keeping inflammation at bay also increases the effectiveness of your immune system to fight off colds, the flu, and other illnesses. Plus, eating this way can offer long-term health benefits.
So add a few extra anti-inflammatory foods to your next grocery list!
Food Rules of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Nowadays, there's a unique eating style out there that'll help you reach any health goal you have in mind.
There's the DASH diet to help cut your sodium intake and lower your blood
pressure, the Mediterranean
diet for overall wellness and weight loss, and vegetarian and
vegan diets to reduce your environmental impact. But what about pesky inflammation?
Enter: the anti-inflammatory diet. Looking to reduce inflammation naturally in the body? If you're wondering how to prevent inflammation and fight inflammation with food, the list of anti-inflammatory foods that follows is just for you!
By eating foods rich in disease-fighting antioxidants, you can combat inflammation without only relying on the pharmacy. Fight inflammation with the foods you eat, starting now!
In this blog post, I'm giving you all the need-to-know info on anti-inflammatory foods, from the best spices and herbs to help kick inflammation to the curb, to the best inflammation-busting drink to start your morning with.
Why is Inflammation a Bad Thing?
If you started reading this post and realized you can't remember a single thing about inflammation from your high school health class, let me give you the Cliff's Notes version. Inflammation is a totally normal immune system response to things like toxins, infections, and injuries that works to help your body heal.
But if it goes on for too long—aka chronic inflammation—you could run into major health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.
Luckily, combating inflammation can be as simple as making a few changes to your diet. Ready to learn how to fight inflammation with food?
Now, ready to grab your anti-inflammatory foods list?
Inflammation-Fighting Food: Produce
DYK that amping up your fruit and veggie intake could lower your risk of developing heart disease? That's because these nutritious foods play a role in combating chronic inflammation.
If you struggle to eat produce on the regular, try a few of the simple tips that I shared with Today's Dietitian.
Before you know it, you'll be chowing down as many veggies as Popeye the Sailor! Roast up my lemon garlic asparagus to add something green to tonight's dinner.
I also love fall foods that offer loads of anti-inflammatory benefits, including sweet potatoes and butternut squash. And the foods are easier to prep than you'd think! Check out simple butternut squash recipe ideas in my post for Fitbit.com.
By the way, produce doesn't have to be fresh for it to count! Here are some of my fave pre-packaged fruit and veggie snacks:
- Sunsweeet Ones
- Crispy Green Freeze-Dried Fruit
- Pressed by KIND bars
- SeaSnax Roasted Seaweed
- Bare Baked Crunchy Beet Chips
- Rhythm Superfoods Kale Chips
Inflammation-Fighting Foods: Turmeric and Ginger
No doubt many spices and herbs boast anti-inflammatory properties. If you're looking to reduce inflammation naturally, turmeric is one of the first ingredients you should add to your diet.
The spice's polyphenols boast anti-inflammatory capabilities, and the benefits don't stop there. The best part?
By the way, one of the (many!) reasons I love turmeric is that it's
super low in calories. Take a look at a long list of other freebie ingredients!
And guess what? Turmeric isn't the only pungent spice full of anti-inflammatory benefits. Warming ginger has long been used as nature's medicine (you probably know it as an aid for stomachaches), and now it's making waves for its inflammation-busting benefits.
Head to my Food Network article to discover why ginger is oh-so-good for you and how to consume it besides sipping on a glass of sugary ginger ale. While you're investigating how to reduce inflammation naturally, grab a list of the best anti-aging foods, too!
Now, are you ready to add turmeric and ginger to your anti-inflammatory diet meal plan?
Additional Anti-Inflammatory Foods
You just learned about a bunch of anti-inflammatory foods. You can also add these to your must-eat list:
- Leafy greens
- Fatty fish like salmon
- Omega-3 fatty acids supplements
- Olive oil
- Whole grains
Inflammation-Causing Food: Sugar
I'll admit, some nights it can be so hard to go to bed without having a sweet treat.
But if you're always opting for a doughnut over a slice of watermelon or even a low-sugar dessert like a square of dark chocolate to soothe your cravings, you could be racking up the calories—and fueling inflammation.
Inflammation-Causing Ingredient: Trans Fats
I don’t cook or bake with trans-fat-containing ingredients—but I have to be careful to not let them creep into food I buy away from home, such as restaurant foods.
We’ve long known these fats are bad for us: They raise levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol in the body and increase risk of heart disease and obesity and may even cause memory loss.
Research in the Journal of Health Psychology shows that eating trans fats may upset your mood. In the study, San Diego researchers analyzed trans fat intake of 4,992 subjects. People taking in more trans fats had a harder time with emotional awareness and clarity.
The study authors didn’t note why the finds were such—but another study linking trans fat intake with a higher risk of depression notes that trans fats may alter mood by increasing inflammation in the body. Eating more trans fats is also associated with having a higher BMI and exercising less, per the San Diego research.
The FDA has ruled that trans fats are not “generally recognized as safe” for use in human food. The administration has mandated that artificially created trans fats—partially hydrogenated oils—must be removed from ingredient lists. However, a company may petition for special permission to use a partially hydrogenated oil.
Note that trans fats occur naturally in some meat and dairy products and in some natural oil products such as some shortenings.
Inflammation-Fighting Recipes to Try
Try this anti-inflammatory recipe: Ginger-Infused Matcha Green Tea Latte!
Instead of grabbing an espresso from your neighborhood coffee shop tomorrow morning, whip up your own anti-inflammatory latte at home (and save a few bucks doing so!).
Not only is this matcha drink filled to the brim with heart-healthy flavonoids, it also contains crunchy pieces of crystalized ginger to help keep your inflammation at bay. That taste...and those anti-inflammatory effects. Score!
Bonus recipe: Vegan Wild Blueberry Cauliflower Smoothie!
While I love adding Greek yogurt to my smoothies for an added protein punch, vegan versions can be just as satisfying!
Need proof? This purple cauliflower and berry smoothie is loaded with fiber, as well as powdered peanut butter for protein, to keep you from getting hangry.
Most importantly, the wild blueberries are packed with antioxidants to help ease inflammation—and give it that vibrant deep purple-blue hue.
Looking for a non-vegan inflammation-helping smoothie? Sip my blueberry peanut butter smoothie.
Bonus recipe: Italian Lupini Bean Salad with Pistachios!
Plant-based foods like beans are a big part of an anti-inflammatory diet. This delicious and fiber-packed recipe can be ready in less than five minutes. It has a spicy kick and is one of my current fave recipes. Enjoy!
This blog post was updated in June 2020.
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I'd love to hear from you! How do you fight inflammation? What are your plans to reduce inflammation naturally? What are your favorite anti-inflammatory foods? What else would you add to this list of the best foods to fight inflammation?
How else do you fight markers of inflammation and inflammatory disease? Do you try to cut back on processed foods and rich foods?
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