The anti-inflammatory diet is an eating pattern which helps prevent and reduce chronic inflammation in the body. This can prevent the development of several chronic diseases, such as arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer's, obesity, or even cancer. In cases where the disease is already present, the anti-inflammatory diet can help keep the condition under control, lowering the risk for complications.
Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory diet also helps increase the body's defenses, promotes healing and decreases the formation of free radicals, slowing down the aging process. All the benefits are due to the fact that this type of diet is based on the consumption of whole, natural foods rich in antioxidants, while avoiding red meat and processed foods that are high in fat or added sugars.
Before starting this or any type of diet, it is important to talk to a registered dietitian for a detailed assessment and an individualized nutritional plan, that meets the needs and goals of each person.
To follow an anti-inflammatory diet, most of what you eat should be minimally-processed anti-inflammatory foods, such as:
- Herbs: oregano, thyme, cilantro, parsley, mint, or rosemary;
- Spices: turmeric, cinnamon, curry, garlic, cloves, ginger or onion;
- Fatty fish high in omega-3s: tuna, sardines, mackerel, and salmon;
- Seeds: flax, chia, pumpkin, or sesame;
- Fresh fruits: oranges, apples, peaches, pears, avocado, watermelon, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries;
- Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pecan, pistachio, hazelnuts, peanuts, Brazil nuts;
- Probiotics: yogurt, kombucha, or kefir;
- Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, brussels sprouts, kale, carrots, celery, and tomatoes;
- Healthy fats: coconut oil, olive oil, flax or chia seeds.
The above-listed foods should, as much as possible, be grilled, sautéed, roasted, steamed, or eaten raw.
Many of these foods contain antioxidants, such as beta-carotenes, polyphenols, anthocyanins, among other phytonutrients. These antioxidants are essential to help the body fight inflammation.
Fat-free milk and dairy products can be part of the anti-inflammatory diet, or can be replaced by plant-based milks, such as almond, oat, or pea milk. In addition, all refined grain foods, such as white bread, pasta, or white rice, should be replaced with whole grain versions, as they are more rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Foods to avoid
There are some foods that should be avoided in the diet as they promote inflammation and increase the risk of diseases such as obesity, cancer, or diabetes. These foods include:
- High-fat foods such as bacon, all deep-fried foods, whole-fat cheeses, whole milk, margarine, butter, pizza, frozen lasagna, and mayonnaise;
- Processed and deli meats such as sausages, pepperoni, ham, salami, pastrami, roast beef, and bologna.
- High sugar foods, such as cookies, soft drinks, ice cream, artificial juice drinks, and pastries, among others;
- Red meats such as beef, lamb, and pork.
The foods listed above can be consumed in moderation as part of a usual diet, but they need to be eliminated completely if following an anti-inflammatory diet.
3-day anti-inflammatory diet plan
This table shows a sample 3-day menu on an anti-inflammatory diet:
|Day 1||Day 2||Day 3|
|Breakfast||1 cup of unsweetened coffee + spinach omelet + 1 tangerine||2 small banana oat pancakes with 1 tsp peanut butter + ½ cup sliced strawberries||2 slices of whole grain bread with 1 slice of low-fat cheese + 1 glass of fresh orange juice|
|Morning snack||1 fat-free plain yogurt with 1 tablespoon of rolled oats||2 pineapple slices + 4 walnuts||1 baked apple with 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder|
|Lunch or Dinner|
1 fillet of grilled salmon + ½ cup of brown rice, sauteed asparagus with minced garlic + 1 tsp of olive oil + 4 small slices of avocado
|3 oz (100 g) diced grilled chicken breast seasoned with turmeric + ½ cup quinoa + ¼ cup cooked broccoli with carrots, seasoned with 1 tsp of olive oil + 1 apple||1 stuffed eggplant with tuna, tomato, onion and garlic, au gratin with a little low-fat cheese + 10 grapes|
|Afternoon snack||1 medium kiwi + 1 handful of peanuts||1 cup fat-free plain yogurt with ½ banana + 1 tsp chia seeds||2 slices of whole grain toast with 2 Tbsp of mashed avocado seasoned with|
This diet plan is a general example. The amounts indicated vary according to age, sex, physical activity and personal history of illnesses. It is important to consult with a registered dietitian to make a thorough assessment and develop a meal plan tailored to all individual needs.