Have you heard about the anti inflammatory diet? This isn’t a typical weight loss “diet” as such. Rather, it’s a lifestyle choice based on the idea that certain foods are known triggers for chronic inflammation, which is damaging for our health.
On the flip side, some foods have powerful anti inflammatory benefits that can be a game changer for managing and even preventing a range of health conditions. Here’s what you need to know about the anti inflammatory diet and what to eat (and not eat!).
What is Inflammation & Why It Is Bad?
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to infection and injury and in small doses, it’s nothing to worry about. If it happens more often than not, experts believe that it sets the scene for ill health.
The healing effect of inflammation disappears and it actually has the opposite effect. In fact, experts believe that inflammation destroys normal, healthy cells.
Chronic inflammation is linked to a range of health conditions including arthritis and heart disease, and may even extend to Alzheimer’s Disease and some cancers.
The Link Between Inflammation and Diet
To some extent, chronic inflammation can be caused by factors such as genetics and stress. It can also be triggered by diet, with some foods having strong potential to promote inflammation in the body while others are famed for their anti-inflammatory benefits.
Knowing which foods fall into these categories and formulating your eating habits around this can be instrumental for reducing the levels of inflammation in your body and the positive benefits for your health.
What Not to Eat
These foods should be cut out or restricted:
- Refined carbs: Things like white bread and pasta (these are high on the GI and raise glucose and insulin levels, which promotes inflammation.
- Red meat: This can be salty and fatty, which triggers inflammation.
- Full fat dairy products: The fact content can increase inflammation and if you’re not fully able to digest lactose, this can compound the situation.
- Processed foods: Fatty, salty and sugary foods are known to promote inflammation.
- Trans and saturated fats: These unhealthy fats are found in lots of processed foods and is widely considered to be the worst type of fat you can eat.
- Sugar: This is a big trigger for inflammation.
- Omega-6 fatty acids: Sunflower, corn and safflower oils contain a disproportionate amount of unhealthy fatty acids, coupled with a low amount of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Anti Inflammatory Foods
There is a lot of crossover with the Mediterranean diet in terms of what you should eat, with a strong focus on healthy eating.
Generally speaking, the anti inflammatory diet is a lot about cutting out unhealthy foods and focusing on the kind of foods that make up a balanced diet. If you already eat relatively healthy, you may not need to make too many changes to your everyday diet as your levels of inflammation shouldn’t be as high as someone who eats unhealthily most or all of the time.
There may be a few things that you will need to add or cut out though to give your diet the “anti inflammatory” touch.
These foods and drinks should form a big part of the anti inflammatory diet:
- Fresh fruit and vegetables, especially blueberries, apples, strawberries, avocado, tomato, dark leafy green vegetables, broccoli, peppers, onions and garlic
- Omega-3 fatty acids, especially oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring and anchovies should ideally be eaten a few times per week
- Nuts, especially walnuts and almonds
- Whole grains
- Beans, especially black and kidney beans
- Lean protein e.g. chicken
- Herbs and spices, especially ginger, turmeric, oregano, rosemary, cumin and chili powder
- Olive oil
- Green tea
Over to you – is this a diet you would consider trying?