Anti-Inflammatory Diet Plan: Easy Tips and Tricks
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.
As with many conditions, the best way to treat inflammation — and prevent it altogether — is through a personalized meal plan. Creating an anti-inflammatory meal plan through a whole food, largely plant-based diet is one of the simplest ways to decrease your level of inflammation and, in turn, prevent disease.
The Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
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 digestive disorders. Because of this, there are many benefits of an anti-inflammatory meal plan, including:
- More energy
- Less bloating
- Less mood swings
- Weight loss
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Reduced blood triglycerides and blood pressure
- Less swollen joints
What Foods Reduce Inflammation in the Body?
When newly embarking on an anti-inflammatory meal plan, it’s important to focus on clean eating with nutrient-dense foods, a variety of healthy fats, whole low-glycemic carbohydrates with ample fiber, and proteins that don’t encourage imbalance. Here are some healthy anti-inflammatory food choices:
- Vegetables: Veggies are the cornerstone of an anti-inflammatory diet plan. 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.
- Lean proteins: Plant-based proteins like lentils or cold-water fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines are great options.
- Citrus: Citrus fruits like lemons, grapefruit, and oranges are relatively low in sugar (compared to other fruits), and they provide a dose of vitamin C.
- Whole grains: 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.
A well-balanced anti-inflammatory diet is full of variety. It maximizes nutrients without restriction or calorie counting, allowing the body to tap back into its natural signaling. It also curbs cravings for junk foods that promote inflammation.
Foods to Avoid for Preventing Inflammation
In addition to incorporating foods shown to fight inflammation, it’s also necessary to avoid foods known to cause inflammation. Key food groups that kick-start inflammation include:
- Animal products, including dairy
- Sugar, especially processed varieties, and artificial sweeteners
- Refined grains like white bread
- Processed or fried foods high in omega-6 fatty acids (think potato chips, fries, and donuts).
Example Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan
Combating inflammation with healthy food choices is done one meal at a time. To help you get started, here’s an example anti-inflammatory meal plan with easy to make, delicious recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack.
Save yourself time in the morning by preparing breakfast the night before. These coconut-soaked overnight oats with berries are packed with inflammation-fighting ingredients like oats which are high in beta-glucans, a type of fiber that’s been found to lower cholesterol and have anti-diabetic effects. Beyond that, oats also contain bioactive phytochemicals that result in strong anti-inflammatory effects, and coconut oil and berries are rich in antioxidants and polyphenol compounds associated with reduced inflammation.
Nutrition facts: 325 calories, 45 g carbohydrates, 15 g fat, 9 g protein, 10 g saturated fat, 10 g sugar, 192 g sodium, 11 g fiber
For lunch, enjoy a filling bowl of Mexican lentil soup with cilantro and almonds. Pre-make this soup in batches to have enough for three meals loaded with anti-inflammatory foods. While every ingredient in this soup has some degree of anti-inflammatory properties, research shows tomatoes contain a large number of anti-inflammatory compounds. Other ingredients with potent health benefits include olive oil and the blend of spices, which all contain components shown to actively fight inflammation.
Nutrition facts: 546 calories, 79 g carbohydrates, 14 g fat, 31 g protein, 2 g saturated fat, 8 g sugar, 388 g sodium, 32 g fiber
If you’re looking for a light, yet satisfying dinner, this salmon with kale pesto and cabbage “noodles” is a great choice. DHA and EPA are two omega-3s found to fight inflammation, and salmon provides both nutrients. Additionally, studies show cruciferous vegetables such as kale and cabbage contain antioxidants that reduce chronic inflammation. On top of these benefits, this meal only takes 35 minutes to make!
Nutrition facts: 600 calories, 30 g carbohydrates, 38 g fat, 41 g protein, 7 g saturated fat, 19 g sugar, 134 g sodium, 5 g fiber
Almonds are an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, and research shows they positively affect inflammation markers. Lucky for us, dark chocolate may also help reduce inflammation by way of flavonoids. These easy to make dark chocolate-covered almonds provide an ideal snack combining the best of both nutrient-rich foods.
Nutrition facts: 241 calories, 13 g carbohydrates, 20 g fat, 9 g protein, 3 g saturated fat, 6 g sugar, 15 g sodium, 5 g fiber
Tips for Creating Your Own Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan
Now that we have covered the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet, let’s look at some tips for designing your own meal plan.
Opt for raw nuts, seeds, and oils
When putting together an anti-inflammatory diet plan, it’s 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 as 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.
Keep in mind: raw oils should never be cooked over high heat. Learn more about smoke points and healthy oil alternatives.
Incorporate herbs, spices, and teas
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 contain antioxidants, help to reduce free radicals in the body and reduce inflammation. Work some green tea, turmeric, cinnamon, cilantro, and parsley into your anti-inflammatory meal plan to keep inflammation at bay.
Avoid binging and restricting calories
Constant, unpredictable change, like alternating between very high and very low-calorie diets, places stress on the body and can create inflammation. This can slow down your metabolism and promote weight gain. Yo-yo dieting 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!). Aim to make your diet mostly whole food, and leave a little wiggle room for those extra pleasures, like condiments and coffee.
You may also wish to explore other non-food forms of inflammation therapy, which can be as simple as gentle at-home yoga flow, a walk in nature, meditation, and adequate sleep. All of these help the body reduce inflammation and function at its best.
In today’s world of convenience food, online delivery, and busy schedules, it can be hard to get the nutrients we need. If you struggle with inflammation, trying a diet focused on plant-based proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains may decrease symptoms of inflammation. Many proponents of the anti-inflammatory diet enjoy increased energy, less bloating, and better digestive health. If you’re experiencing continued symptoms of inflammation, seek out medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as these tips will not substitute for professional help.
Changing your diet can be challenging, but with helpful tools from PlateJoy, you can design the perfect anti-inflammatory meal plan. Interested in other meal plans? PlateJoy offers a range of custom plans including paleo diet meal plans and keto meal planners so you can save time, improve your diet, and feel better.