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Ultimate Rules for an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Following the rules for an anti-Inflammatory diet can kick illnesses in the gut.

By Julie BarnesPublished 7 years ago 8 min read

An anti-inflammatory diet is crucial for your long-term health. Now first and foremost, inflammation can be a good thing. What? That’s right. Inflammation is a good thing. At first. When you stub your toe, the inflammation you feel is your white blood cells gathering together and fighting off damaged tissue. If you have a nasty cough and your chest feels inflamed, it’s because your white blood cells are kicking out the viruses.

However, as these white blood cells protect your body, some die in the process from ingesting the harmful materials. This leaves behind pus that can create feelings of inflammation within the body. White blood cells may gather to combat the feeling of inflammation, but find nothing to attack. It’s just pus creating inflammation. Therefore, the white blood cells will begin to fighting internal organs and tissues. This causes chronic inflammation.

As inflammation persists, it becomes linked with serious conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The best way to fight off inflammation internally is by ingesting foods that can provide the nutrients necessary to fight off inflammation, or prevent it to begin with. Following an anti-inflammatory diet can help alleviate or prolong symptoms associated with many chronic illnesses including Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease. Here are some ways to incorporate an anti-inflammatory diet into your everyday life.

Eat At Least 9 Servings of Fruits and Veggies a Day

Photo by Julian Hanslmaier

Fruits and vegetables are key to a balanced anti-inflammatory diet. Just one serving is considered half a cup of cooked fruits and veggies. They are chock full of the vitamins, most of which are associated with fighting off inflammation.

Vitamin A is rich in beta-carotene, which wards off heart disease linked to inflammation. Vitamin A gives a lot of fruits and vegetables their orange hue. Sweet potatoes, carrots, and dried apricots are great sources of this inflammation-fighting vitamin.

Vitamin C fights off free radicals that can cause inflammation that leads to cancer. Fruits and vegetables that contain high doses of this antioxidant include oranges, strawberries, and spinach. Vitamin K has been linked to lowering symptoms of inflammation as well. Leafy greens such as kale, broccoli, and Swiss chard are all high in vitamin K. Adding more fruits and veggies to your meals are a fool-proof way to follow an anti-inflammatory diet.

Have 4 Servings of Crucifers and Alliums Each Week

Photo by Joanna Kosinska

Now that you are incorporating fruits and veggies into your anti-inflammatory diet, make sure four servings a week include crucifers and alliums.

Crucifers are a family of plants that contain familiar foods such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, and cauliflower. These particular types of vegetables contain high levels of all the vitamins mentioned above. Having four servings a week containing crucifers ensures you receive the vitamins necessary to combat inflammation.

Balance out your crucifer intake by including alliums in your four servings. Alliums consist of vegetables such as onions, leek, and scallions, as well as herbs like chives and garlic. Garlic also has an array of health benefits beyond being an anti-inflammatory.

Alliums contain many sulfur based chemical compounds that scientists have witnessed fight off blood clumping and inflammation. Onions and garlic in particular, which are common staples in any diet, are high in anti-inflammatory properties. As a matter of fact, red onions contain twice as many antioxidants than any other type of onion. So adding more onions and garlic to your stir fries, pastas, and soups is an easy way to adhere to an anti-inflammatory diet.

Consume a Minimum of 25 Grams of Fiber Daily

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Fiber is a great tool in an anti-inflammatory diet because it flushes out a lot of toxins within the body. A high-fiber diet is easy to achieve if you adhere to the steps above. Fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods are very rich in fiber.

Mixing fruits and vegetables with a variety of whole grains is a great way to kickstart your day. You don’t need to bore yourself with eating the same old granola every day. Muesli, whole oats, and flax cereals are all very high in fiber. Chopping up blueberries (3.5 grams of fiber per cup) and bananas (3 grams of fiber in a banana), and mixing with milk (which is high in vitamin D) is a delicious way to incorporate an anti-inflammatory diet into your morning rituals.

Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Photo by Casey Lee

Omega-3 fatty acids aren’t just a buzz word in the vitamin aisle of the pharmacy, they are also crucial to an anti-inflammatory diet. They are considered essential fatty acids and cannot be produced naturally by the human body. Therefore, we need to consume omega-3 fatty acids in order to reap its benefits.

When consuming omega-3 fatty acids, your body also needs to ingest an equal amount of omega-6 fatty acids to balance out the system. The best diet that adheres to this yin-yang of omegas is the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet has a heavy emphasis on fruits, veggies, and whole grains as we spoke about before. It also incorporates fish, avocados, olive oil, walnuts, beans, and soy. More omega-3 fatty acids on your plate helps your body benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet.

Eat Fish At Least Three Times a Week

Photo by Wesual Click

Eating fish goes hand-in-hand with the omega-3 fatty acid consumption portion of an anti-inflammatory diet. It sounds counterproductive to add fat into your diet, but we need fat to survive. So we must choose healthy fats to add to our anti-inflammatory diet. Fish are the healthy fats we are looking for.

Oily fish such as tuna, sardines, mackerel, and salmon are very high in omega-3 fatty acids. If you aren’t someone who enjoys the taste of seafood, you can opt to take fish oil supplements to receive the same benefits.

A study was conducted with 727 postmenopausal women for the Journal of Nutrition in 2004. Women who had the highest consumption of the fatty acids found in fish had lower levels of two inflammatory proteins (the C-reactive protein and interleukin-6). Consuming fish three times a week is a healthy way to introduce fats into your anti-inflammatory diet.

Use Oils That Contain Healthy Fats

We keep talking about fats, and the reason is that healthy fats are a key to feeling relief in an anti-inflammatory diet. Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) help our bodies absorb essential vitamins and minerals (much like the ones we’ve been discussing). Studies have shown that the chemical properties in MUFAs attack inflammation within mice.

Oils that are high in MUFA include extra-virgin olive oil, chia seeds, avocados, and coconut oil. There are many ways to incorporate these into your everyday life. Cook your stir-fries in extra-virgin olive oil. Add chia seeds to your Greek yogurt. Mash an avocado, spritz with vitamin C-heavy lime juice, and place on an English muffin. Add coconut oil to your shampoo! There are many different ways to add healthy fats into your anti-inflammatory diet.

Cut Down Saturated Fat to 10 Percent of Your Daily Calories

Just as there are good fats, there are also bad ones that you want to avoid in your anti-inflammatory diet. Keeping your saturated fat intake low (20 grams per 2,000 calories) will greatly reduce the risk that you will suffer from heart disease.

Dairy products such as milk and cheese, butter, and cream cheese, as well as red meats such as beef are all high in saturated fat. Especially in the case of dairy products, these foods contain a lot of anti-inflammatory vitamins, but our tendency to overindulge actually leads to these foods aiding in inflammation. You don’t need to cut these out of your life completely. Just use moderation. Cutting back on saturated fats is important in successfully following your anti-inflammatory diet.

Cut Out Trans Fats

Photo by Grégoire JEANNEAU

There is a reason why trans fat are essentially banned from store shelves, and are certainly banned from an anti-inflammatory diet. Back in 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) forced food manufacturers to identify whether their products contain trans fat on the nutrition label.

Studies proved that people who consumed a high amount of trans fat consistently had higher levels of the c-reactive protein we talked about before. C-reactive protein causes the inflammation we feel within our bodies.

Trans fat has been removed from many products since 2006, but you should still check out the nutritional label on foods. Keep an eye out for the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated" in front of oil ingredients. This means the oil has been processed with chemicals that don’t naturally occur within the oils. Vegetable shortenings, margarines, cookies, and crackers are notorious for containing ingredients that have been hydrogenated. Reading nutrition labels and becoming acquainted with these sorts of words will ensure a successful transition to an anti-inflammatory diet.

Stay Away from Processed Foods and Refined Sugars

Photo by Francesco Gallarotti

Anything high in sodium or high-fructose corn syrup is detrimental to an anti-inflammatory diet. High sodium foods include TV dinners, potato chips, and deli meats. Sodium is used as a preservative. Too much sodium results in swollen veins, causing blood vessels to expand. This is why high sodium intake is linked to arthritis and heart disease.

High-fructose corn syrup and other artificial sweeteners are found in ice creams, coffee creamers, fruit juices, and sodas. They aid in increasing insulin resistance, resulting in type 2 diabetes. Refined sugars also raise blood pressure and increase the risk of fatty liver diseases. These types of foods should be avoided at all costs if you want to maintain an anti-inflammatory diet.

Eat Healthy Snacks Twice a Day

Photo by Rachael Walker

Eating healthy snacks is essential to the success of your anti-inflammatory diet. Let’s face it. We all need to eat throughout the day. It gives us energy. It cures boredom. It shuts up that gurgling in the belly.

If you are going to snack, stay away from the chips, cookies, and chocolate bars. Snack on healthy items like Greek yogurt. It is full of live cultures that contain probiotics. Stir in some chia seeds for omega-3 fatty acids. Munch on carrots, which are high in vitamin A, and dip in protein and fiber-rich hummus. Take low calorie celery and dress it up with MUFA rich peanut butter. Unsalted nuts such as pistachios, almonds, and walnuts are also great because they contain many of the healthy fats we spoke about earlier. Just make sure you follow portion control, because it’s easy to overindulge in nuts. Stay away from the vending machine and head toward the produce aisle for your snacking needs when you are following an anti-inflammatory diet.

Use Fruits as Sweeteners and Spices to Flavor Dishes

Photo by Kirsty Hughes

We know that an anti-inflammatory diet in general sounds a little bland. You need to embrace what nature has to offer in order to fully enjoy the food you eat. There is no need to turn to processed sugar to give your cereal a kick. Fruits are full of natural sugars. They are sweeter than the fake sugar you are eating, and they have anti-inflammatory properties! Adding strawberries to your cereal, mangoes to your chicken, and apples to your salad are great ways to sweeten the pot.

Staying away from marinades that contain large amounts of sodium and high-fructose corn syrup is important in an anti-inflammatory diet. Using spices is a great way to season your dish. Some spices such as ginger and turmeric have very high anti-inflammatory properties. Dash your tea with some cinnamon. Throw some thyme and rosemary on top of your pizza. These are all natural ways to jazz up your dish, while still maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet.


About the Creator

Julie Barnes

Learning to laugh at life while feeding a family of five. Finding unique, unusual recipes on a budget.

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