How to Create an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Plan
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to trauma or injury. It is meant to protect tissue in the short-term while the body heals—and in this situation, it’s a positive! We run into trouble when the body is in a constant state of inflammation, which is often the result of diet and lifestyle choices.
Whether we can see it or not, inflammation is a sign that something is off-balance. Inflammation can make itself known in the form of digestive problems, chronic fatigue, moodiness, food cravings and weight retention. It is also an indicator for many diseases: cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and many digestive disorders.
As with many conditions, the best way to treat inflammation—and prevent it altogether—is through food. Creating an anti-inflammatory diet plan through whole food, largely plant-based diet is one of the simplest ways to decrease your level of inflammation and, in turn, prevent disease.
Eat a variety of whole, plant-based foods
A well-balanced anti-inflammatory diet is full of variety: it maximizes nutrients and macronutrients without restriction or calorie counting, allowing the body to tap back into its natural signaling and curbs cravings for junk foods that promote inflammation.
There are a few key food groups that kick-start inflammation: animal products, including dairy; sugar, especially processed varieties and artificial sweeteners; alcohol; coffee; refined grains, like white bread; and processed or fried foods high in omega-6 fatty acids (think potato chips, fries and donuts).
When newly embarking on an anti-inflammatory plan, it’s important to reduce your intake of these and focus instead on a variety of healthy fats, whole low-glycemic carbohydrates with ample fiber, and proteins that don’t encourage imbalance:
Veggies are the cornerstone of an anti-inflammatory diet. Collards, mustard greens, spinach, lettuce, sprouts, cucumber, peppers, mushrooms and green beans, plus crucifers like kale, cabbage and Brussels sprouts make excellent bases for most meals. Toss in some brightly colored carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, eggplant and tomatoes for variety.
Plant-based proteins like lentils or cold-water fish like tuna, salmon and sardines are great options. The proportion of each of these will vary by individual, so experiment with what makes you feel best.
Citrus fruits offer low-sugar sweetness and cleanse the system, which can reduce inflammation as they remove toxins.
Consider adding low-glycemic carbohydrates from whole grains and legumes , such as chickpeas, lentils, pinto beans, and brown rice. Soak these overnight and cook well to ensure optimal digestion, which will help to reduce stress—and inflammation—on the GI tract.
Try it raw
It’s also a good idea to explore raw nuts, seeds and oils in place of processed or cooked varieties, as certain plant foods can become more acidic and inflammation-producing when cooked. Look for raw, sprouted varieties: these will help your body take up more nutrients without the negative effects of cooked oils. Raw oils, like avocado and coconut, can provide delicious alternatives to heat-processed varieties.
Some of the most powerful anti-inflammatory compounds can be found in herbs, spices and teas, which are easy to incorporate daily. These compounds, many of which are antioxidant, reduce the free radical load on the body by taking the brunt of the force of ‘bad’ substances traveling through the system. This helps tamp down inflammation and encourages the body’s tissues to regenerate well. Work some green tea, turmeric, cinnamon, cilantro and parsley into your meals to keep inflammation at bay.
Avoid bingeing and restricting
Constant, unpredictable change, like alternating between very high and very low calorie diets, places undue stress on the body and can create inflammation. This, in turn, can slow metabolism and promote weight retention (defeating the supposed purpose of controlling one’s intake in the first place). Yo-yo dieting, as it is called, puts strain on the body’s cells and organs and can interfere with internal processes including heart, digestive and lymphatic function. These perpetuate the cycle of inflammation.
Aim for balance, not perfection
To get the most out of your anti-inflammatory diet plan, don’t stress (stress itself is inflammatory!). If you can aim for 85-90% anti-inflammatory whole food, you’re left with a little wiggle room for those extra pleasures, like packaged nut milks, condiments and coffee.
You may also wish to explore other non-food forms of inflammation therapy, which can be as simple as gentle yoga, a walk in nature, meditation and adequate sleep. All of these work in conjunction to help the body reduce inflammation and grow healthy, strong, disease-free tissue.
This content is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is provided for information purposes only.
- Amy Height