18 Rules to Follow for an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
A healthful, anti-inflammatory diet aims to lessen the risk of several chronic diseases and symptom severity associated to autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. Learn how to build the best anti-inflammatory diet by incorporating and following these 18 rules!
What Is an Anti-Inflammation Diet?
An anti-inflammation or inflammatory diet is essentially an eating pattern intended to reduce inflammation in the body. While Inflammation is a normal body process of self-defense, too many inflammatory responses can reap havoc and even pose the risk of several chronic diseases. When inflammation occurs, white blood cells releases chemicals into the blood or the affected tissues, ultimately as an effort to protect against foreign substances. There are numerous causes of inflammation, including external triggers such as bacteria and viruses, along with ingested food sources. But you can combat and reduce inflammation by filling the diet with anti-inflammatory foods and following these 18 foods rules!
18 Rules to Follow for the Best Anti-Inflammatory Diet
1. Fill Up On Fiber
Along with its notorious role in digestive health, fiber can combat inflammation by lowering C-reactive protein (CRP), a biomarker of inflammation found in the blood. General recommendations suggest males and females should consume a minimum of 38 and 25 grams of dietary fiber daily, respectively, along with ensuring adequate fluid intake. And aside from combatting inflammation, fiber also supports both digestive and heart health!
2. Swap Refined Grains with Whole Grains
Refined carbs are essentially whole grains stripped away from fiber and nutrients. Low-fiber diets and processed carbs may be driving the obesity rates, along with driving advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that been linked to inflammation. As a general guideline, make at least half of total grain consumption whole grains, including a minimum of three to five servings daily from sources such as oats, rice, and corn.
3. Avoid Gluten as Necessary
Simply put, gluten is a protein naturally found in wheat, rye, and barley. While gluten is the not a dietary threat across the board, it can trigger an inflammatory response in people diagnosed with Celiac disease (CD) or a gluten sensitivity. However, it is imperative to consult with your primary care provider and dietitian to lessen the risk of nutritional deficiencies that may come with gluten's exclusion.
4. Reduce Sugar Intake
Along with reducing refined carbs, lessen processed sugars and sweet treats, as they are known for triggering the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Along with reducing the more obvious sources of sugar, be wary of hidden sources such as yogurt, ketchup, salad dressing, and pasta sauce. Always take advantage of the Nutrition Facts label and look out for its alternative names that end in "-ose," such as fructose and sucrose, on the Ingredients label. All-in-all, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting added sugar intake to less than 10 percent of total daily calories.
5. Go for Color
The more color in the diet, the better. Go for vibrant and varietal fruits and veggies to optimize nutrient content and increase fiber intake. Though all fruits and veggies boast a grand nutritional profile, green veggies contain anti-inflammatory properties, with evidence showing adequate intake of vitamin K can reduce inflammatory markers in the body. Vitamin C found in citrus fruits also acts as a powerful antioxidant and can boost the immune system.
6. Reduce Processed Meats
Animal meats do supply the body with protein, vitamins, and minerals, though individuals are encouraged to reduce the consumption of processed types. Processed meats tend to be produced from meats high in saturated fats, undergo high temperature cooking methods, and oftentimes injected with a number of artificial preservatives and flavorings. To lessen the risk of sparking inflammation, cancer, and other health conditions, processed meats are recommended no more than once or twice per month.
7. Incorporate Plant-Based Proteins
While following vegetarian and vegan lifestyles are based on individual preferences, plant-based foods are a primary focus in an anti-inflammatory diet. Incorporate more plant-based proteins in the diet, including beans and lentils, as they are also high in fiber, antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory substances.
8. Cut Out Trans Fats Altogether
Although nutrition experts tend to divvy away from "bad" and "good" terminology in the diet language, trans fat is the exception to the rule. Whereas trans fat was produced with good intentions as a healthier alternative to butter, sound evidence discourages its use relative to its inflammatory effects and negative influences on health. Trans fats are commonly found in margarines, fried foods, prepackaged snacks, and desserts, while also disguised as "hydrogenated oils" and "hydrogenated" products.
9. Go Fish
Or at least eat three to four ounces on a weekly basis... While trans and saturated fats have a bad reputation, cold water fish, including salmon, anchovy, tuna, herring, sardines, and halibut, are rich in inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are a type of a polyunsaturated fat known for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, particularly by reducing C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6, two inflammatory proteins.
10. Go for Olive Oil
Olive oil continues its healthy momentum and for much reason, as it is bountiful in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, antioxidants and oleocanthal, a phenolic compound shown to offer anti-inflammatory benefits. Oleocanthal is specific to olive oil, even showing to exhibit the same anti-inflammatory response in the body as NSAID ibuprofen. But unlike ibuprofen, that comes with the risks of side effects, olive oil acts as a natural anti-inflammatory agent that can be safely consumed by anyone including it in their diet. As a general rule of thumb, aim for two to three tablespoons per day in cooking, incorporating into salad dressings, or adding to other dishes.
11. Snack on Nuts
Like fish and olive oil, nuts are rich in healthy fat shown to combat against inflammation. About a handful of nuts, or a little over an ounce, is recommended to keep fat calories in check. And as an added bonus, nuts are also rich in protein and fiber, which are dietary contributors to weight loss.
12. Balance Omega-6 Fatty Acids
First off, omega-6 fatty acids are essential for normal growth and development. However, the body needs a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, as excess consumption of omega-6s can trigger the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals. Omega-6s are mostly found in various vegetable oils, including corn, sunflower, and soybean oils, along with mayonnaise, salad dressings, and baked goods.
13. Be Wary of MSG
Formally known as mono-sodium glutamate, MSG is a flavor-enhancer commonly used in Chinese cuisine. Whilst its capability to amplify flavor in the kitchen, MSG may also initiate inflammation of the liver.
14. Limit Sodium
Though sodium is needed for critical body processes, too much may cause inflammation. Additional concern relates to individuals living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an an autoimmune disorder that affects the joints, prescribed to corticosteroids. The medication can cause the body to retain sodium more easily, consequently causing individuals to retain water and experience an increase in blood pressure.
15. Spice It Up in the Kitchen
Rather than going for the salt shaker, spice it up in the kitchen with fresh or dried seasonings. The use of seasonings not only enhances flavor to food, but supplies powerful antioxidants. From allspice to turmeric, learn about 22 spices and herbs and how to use them here!
16. Balance Your Meal Plate
This rule for following an anti-inflammatory diet is collective of others above, encouraging individuals to balance the meal plate. Aligning with MyPlate's recommendation, fill half the plate with vegetables, a quarter with grains or complex starch, another quarter with a protein source, along with a low or fat-free dairy source. Use olive oil or other healthy oil as desired.
17. Drink in Moderation
If you do choose to drink, it is important to do so in moderation. Research suggests a daily drink may be advantageous to health, with evidence linked to the flavonoids and antioxidants found in red wine and probiotics offered in most beer, but too much alcohol can cause damage to liver cells, promote inflammation, and subsequently weaken the body's immune system. So if you do choose to drink, it is important to do so in moderation. (That's one drink for women and two for men per day.)
18. Consider A Supplement
While health experts advise obtaining nutrients from a balanced diet, a multivitamin can help fill in any nutritional gaps. Additional supplements, such as fish oil, can also be beneficial. Nonetheless, it is always important to consult with your primary care provider to determine safe and effective dosage recommendations to meet individualized needs.