Whether you're a compulsive dieter who's tried everything from the Atkins Diet to the Mediterranean Diet or you're simply health-conscious trying to make smart food choices, you probably haven't considered an anti-inflammation diet. Inflammation isn't something most people think about until they have a problem with it. Speaking as one of those people, I'd like to share with you why you really do need an anti-inflammation diet plan even if you've never had an issue with inflammation.
Before you get any further, please know that I am sharing information I found in my own research based on my own experiences. I am NOT a doctor. I DO like to research and learn (and I also like to share) so please use the information below with that in mind.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation can be a good thing. It occurs when our white blood cells rush in to fight foreign organisms like bacteria and viruses. The problem is that sometimes we develop conditions or diseases that trick our body into creating an inflammatory response when there aren't any foreign organisms to fight. When that happens, we can experience unpleasant symptoms like joint pain and stiffness, fever, chills, fatigue, headaches, and muscle stiffness.
The greater risk of chronic inflammation is that it can occur with no obvious symptoms. This type of inflammation is the result of environmental and habitual factors like pollution, poor diet, lack of physical activity, and obesity. In these cases, inflammation does internal damage that we don't notice until it's too late. Chronic inflammation is a major culprit in several health problems including heart disease, diabetes, asthma, bone loss, depression, and cancer.
How is Inflammation Treated?
The most common treatment for inflammation is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), and Ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin). The problem with NSAIDs is that they increase your risk of having a stroke or heart attack and long-term use can lead to stomach ulcers and kidney damage.
Corticosteroids are another common treatment for inflammation. Depending on which corticosteroid is prescribed, side effects differ. However, all of them do have side effect risks.
Because of the number of risks associated with medical solutions to inflammation, I prefer natural remedies which largely include changes to one's diet. And because inflammation can be slowly eroding your health without immediate symptoms, I think everyone should consider sticking to an anti-inflammation diet plan.
An anti-inflammation diet avoids foods that cause inflammation and includes a variety of foods that fight inflammation. Makes sense, right?
AVOID – Foods That Cause Inflammation
- Sugar – This can't be a surprise to you, but I know it's sad anyway. This is a major culprit and is frighteningly common in many foods
- Aspartame – Um, if you want to swap in an artificial sweetener to replace the sugar you gave up, skip this one
- Saturated fat – Common in pizza and cheese
- Trans Fat – Red meat, meat sticks, deep-fried food, shortening/margarine, frosting, non-dairy creamer, microwave popcorn, store-bought cookies and cakes, and biscuits
- Dairy – Milk, cheese, yogurt — this is the saddest part of the diet for me since I consider all of those foods healthy
- Gluten – Found in products made with wheat or wheat starch including: pasta, bread, crackers, cereal, pancakes and waffles, many baked goods, tortillas, croutons, many sauces and gravies
- Alcohol – Don't worry, an occasional glass of wine is okay! But watch your intake carefully if you are worried about inflammation.
Fortunately, you can avoid most of these inflammation triggers simply by avoiding processed food and fast food restaurants.
INCLUDE – Foods That Fight Inflammation
Please note items in this list marked with an *. Those foods fight inflammation in MOST people but can have the opposite effect in people with sensitivities or allergies to them, in which case they should be avoided.
- Green Leafy Vegetables – Swiss chard, spinach, kale, broccoli, bok choy, brussel sprouts, cabbage, and collard greens
- Other Vegetables – Celery, beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, asparagus, cauliflower, cucumbers, pumpkin, zucchini, and shiitake mushrooms
- Berries – Blueberries are a superfood, but other berries like strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are also great anti-inflammatory antioxidant-yielding sources of nutrition
- Other Fruits – Lemons, limes, pineapple, grapefruit, tart or Montmorency cherries, oranges*, apples, apricots, cantaloupe, kiwi, and papaya
- Fruits You Think of as Vegetables – Tomatoes* and avocadoes also have anti-inflammatory properties
- Herbs & Spices – Turmeric, ginger, cayenne, rosemary, basil, cinnamon, oregano, marjoram, sage, curry, and thyme
- Fermented Food – I know it sounds gross, but in addition to kimchi, you can also choose from kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, pickled beets, miso, tempeh, and olives
- Green Tea
- Beans – The best choices are kidney and pinto beans, but most beans yield some anti-inflammatory properties
- Whole Grains – Tough, I know, since I told you to avoid gluten. Smart choices here are oatmeal, bulgur, brown rice, and quinoa
- Poultry – You don't have to become a vegetarian to fight inflammation, just stick with lean, white meats like chicken and turkey
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Salmon, tuna, mackerel, organic eggs, flaxseeds, chia seeds
- Nuts* – Best choices are almonds, walnuts, and cashews
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Dark Chocolate – I ended with this on purpose so we could end on a happy note
Even if you aren't worried about inflammation, you can see from the lists of foods to include and avoid, an anti-inflammation diet plan is simply, a healthier way to eat. If losing weight is one of your goals, it would be easily accomplished on a diet that promotes plenty of fruits and vegetables and no sugar or bad fats. If you're already battling chronic inflammation, avoid the side effects of anti-inflammation medication by changing your diet and the only side effect is that you'll look and feel better!
Information and statements made above are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Wondermom Wannabe does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Wondermom Wannabe are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.