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Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Plan: What to Eat & What to Avoid

Author: Nicholas Gregory MA, CSCS

The anti-inflammatory diet is a way of eating focused on reducing the amount of inflammation the body is experiencing. Although medications can help reduce inflammation, they typically carry negative side effects and do not address the root cause of inflammation. Before diving into the specifics of the anti-inflammatory diet, let’s take a look at inflammation and why we would want to reduce it! 

What is inflammation? 

Inflammation is an important and natural process of the body. Used as a layer of protection, inflammation looks to quickly protect or remove a foreign object or agent from the body. Take a simple paper cut for example. When you have a cut, the area around the wound quickly becomes hot and red. This inflammatory response is based on the body’s change in blood flow to the wound, which helps fight off foreign bacteria. Or what about an ankle sprain? The body adjusts blood and fluid flow to the injured area to prevent further movement and worsening of the injury. Without the process of inflammation, infections and injuries could be harder to diagnose and treat. 

Is inflammation bad? 

Although inflammation is normal and important in protecting the body, chronic inflammation can be harmful. Long-term inflammation can lead to diseases such as arthritis, crohn’s disease, and skin conditions such as psoriasis. These typically occur when the body’s immune system and inflammatory response targets natural cells of the body. The nature of these diseases typically make them challenging to treat and treatment focuses on reducing symptoms and pain. Another treatment option for those looking to treat and reduce inflammation is diet.

How does food reduce inflammation? 

Consider the foods you eat using our paper cut example from above. Each time you eat food, your body digests these foods. If the foods you choose are overly processed, contain chemicals, or high amounts of hydrogenated/processed oils, the body can have an inflammatory response. Since we all require daily food to live, that inflammation can be long-term, sustained, and lead to negative side effects. Finding a way of eating that reduces inflammation of the gut and subsequent systems of the body, can lead to lessening of chronic inflammatory symptoms including pain, fatigue, and digestive issues.

What foods can help reduce inflammation? 

Although there are no foods that can magically stop inflammation in its tracks, a balanced whole foods approach can help the body break away from a chronic inflammatory response. 

Below are some of the top foods to include in an anti-inflammatory diet!

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables not only provide fiber and important micronutrients, they can also boost antioxidants, which can help fight off free radicals that can lead to inflammation based disease. 

Omega 3 fatty acids

Fatty fish and nuts that have higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids can help counter balance the negative impacts of high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids. Foods such as salmon, almonds, and walnuts have high levels of Omega-3s and should be a staple in any healthy diet! 

Curcumin/Turmeric

Curcumin, found in the vibrant spice turmeric, has been studied and shown to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Although levels of curcumin in turmeric can vary, using daily is a great way to get the benefits of this magic spice. Curcumin supplements can also be taken for a higher dose of the active ingredient. 

What foods should I avoid? 

When looking at foods to avoid, it’s important to realize that certain foods cause inflammation for certain people. For example, someone with celiac disease (an allergy to gluten) would have a harmful inflammatory response when eating gluten. Someone without celiac disease may not have a noticeable or harmful immune/inflammation response to eating the same foods.

Knowing your body and being mindful of your diet, can help you recognize patterns around how you feel based on the foods you eat. 

Below we have listed the most common foods that can lead to increased inflammation.

Processed carbohydrates

A staple of the American diet, processed carbohydrates include any sugary snacks and drinks think donuts, pastries, soda, white bread, and pasta. These overly processed and refined carbohydrates often remove the fiber and nutrients that can make digestion better for the body. The speed of digestion and subsequent spike in blood sugar levels can lead to inflammation throughout the body.

Refined vegetable oils

According to a study done in the Journal of Obesity, vegetable oils high in Omega-6 fatty acids have been linked to an increase in sustained inflammation. More research may need to be done to confirm the balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids role in chronic inflammation. 

Trans fat

Trans fat is a fat found in many fast foods. These partially hydrogenate oils give food desirable taste and texture, but at what cost? These unnatural fatty acids have been linked to a host of health problems ranging from heart disease to diabetes. Inflammation is believed to play a role in the development of these diseases when relating to trans fat. 

Anti-inflammatory: Can Noom help?

Although research around the role of food and inflammation is ever evolving, developing mindfulness and awareness around your food choices is a great first step. Not sure how to do this? Let Noom help! Through food logging, mindfulness strategies, and 1 on 1 support, Noom can help you identify and stick to an eating style that best fits your lifestyle and experience the gift of health. Wanting to give it a shot? Try Noom today!