An anti-inflammatory diet isn’t another fad — it’s a lifestyle change that involves making smarter and healthier food choices. According to a study mentioned in Very Well Health, an anti-inflammatory diet led to a 37% decrease in inflammatory substances, such as C-reactive protein, in people with Type 2 diabetes after just one year. Other studies have also shown similar benefits for people with heart disease. You can also affect emotional health by implementing a more natural, less processed diet to improve mood and quality of life. 

Inflammation is an immune response to illness or injury. Its meant to be protective by drawing more immune cells to the inflamed location to speed up the healing process. However, long-term inflammation can be detrimental to your overall health. It can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries, increasing the chance of stroke and heart disease. According to Healthline, it has been linked to weight gain, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases and other health conditions. Chronic inflammation also often occurs with diseases such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation is our diet. An anti-inflammatory diet is more of an eating style than a strict menu. By choosing the best combination of anti-inflammatory food, you may be able to reduce your risk of illness. It focuses on consuming more fruits and vegetables, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats and spices while limiting processed foods, red meats and alcohol. 

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet and a five-day meal plan to get your started.

Who Can Benefit From an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

An anti-inflammatory diet may serve as a treatment for many conditions that worsen with chronic inflammation. Medical News Today mentions it may be additionally beneficial for those living with:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Psoriasis.
  • Asthma.
  • Crohn’s disease.
  • Colitis.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Lupus.
  • Eosinophilic esophagitis.
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
  • Metabolic syndrome; is a collection of conditions that tend to co-occur, including Type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

Foods That Cause Inflammation

Foods that we generally consider unhealthy also tend to be the culprits of long-term inflammation. Excess weight gain can also be a risk factor for inflammation. However, some food components may have more significant effects than increased caloric intake itself. Harvard Health recommends limiting these foods as much as possible as they tend to trigger a rapid inflammatory response and can be taxing on the liver:

  • Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries.
  • Highly processed foods, including frozen meals, chips, crackers, cookies, and ice cream.
  • Added sugars, spanning from dried fruits to pasta sauce.
  • Fried foods.
  • Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Red meat, such as burgers and steaks, and processed meat, such as hot dogs and sausage.
  • Margarine, shortening and lard.
  • Refined seed oils, like soybean and corn oil, that are high in omega-6 fats.
  • Excess alcohol.
  • High-fat dairy products, such as cheese and butter.

Healthy Foods to Incorporate Into Your Diet

An anti-inflammatory diet should include foods rich in nutrients, antioxidants and healthy fats, similar to the Mediterranean diet. According to the Mayo Clinic, antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against free radicals — molecules produced when your body breaks down food — that play a role in heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. Vitamin C is another essential component of immune health. It can help regulate your body’s inflammatory response, so try eating various fruits and vegetables as an easy way to introduce these compounds into your regular diet.

Plant-based foods are the best sources of foods high in antioxidants, including:

  • Apples.
  • Artichokes.
  • Avocados.
  • Beans (red, pinto and black).
  • Berries (blueberries, raspberries and blackberries).
  • Broccoli.
  • Cherries.
  • Dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa).
  • Dark green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach and collard greens).
  • Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans and hazelnuts).
  • Sweet potatoes.
  • Whole grains.

Omega-3 fatty acids are the healthy fats that can help fight heart disease, cancer, arthritis and other conditions. Try incorporating these foods to increase your intake:

  • Flaxseed.
  • Oily fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines and anchovies).
  • Eggs.
  • Milk.
  • Walnuts.

Easy Cooking Tips for Incorporating an Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle

  • Add spices and seasonings, including turmeric, ginger, rosemary, cinnamon, oregano, cumin and cayenne pepper. They are packed with antioxidants and add enjoyable flavor to your meals.
  • Cook with garlic and onion: These items are also rich in antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory compounds. They are easy to incorporate into marinades, dressings, stews, stir-fries, etc.
  • Avoid frying your food: Instead of deep-frying, opt for baked, boiled or braised cooking methods.
  • Swap your butter for olive oil: High-quality olive oil contains more antioxidants and good fats than butter, which is much higher in saturated fats.
  • Keep it simple: If cooking or meal-prepping seems overwhelming, try to keep it simple. Choose a protein source and combine it with a vegetable and a grain. Also, check out our four-step beginner’s guide to meal prepping, including some easy recipes.

Five-Day Meal Plan

Below is an example of a five-day meal plan with 20 different meal and snack ideas. These can be mixed and matched based on your preferences, swapped out or you could even bring dinner leftovers for your lunch the following day for more convenience. This meal plan should provide some inspiration for maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet.

Day 1

  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt with fresh berries and chopped walnuts
  • Lunch: sweet potato, kale and chicken salad with homemade dressing
  • Dinner: garlic-roasts salmon with potatoes and asparagus
  • Snack: almonds and a pear

Day 2

  • Breakfast: matcha chia smoothie
  • Lunch: white bean and veggie salad
  • Dinner: one sheet-pan chicken, broccoli and cauliflower rice
  • Snack: one cup of berries

Day 3

  • Breakfast: overnight chia seed bowl
  • Lunch: chopped veggie grain bowl
  • Dinner: Mediterranean lentil soup
  • Snack: guacamole with whole-grain crackers

Day 4

  • Breakfast: oatmeal with fresh berries
  • Lunch: vegetarian chili
  • Dinner: greek roasted fish with vegetables
  • Snack: apple with nut butter

Day 5

  • Breakfast: scrambled eggs with turmeric 
  • Lunch: greek loaded sweet potatoes
  • Dinner: stir-fry with vegetables and brown rice
  • Snack: homemade energy balls

Overall, an anti-inflammatory diet should include a balance of fruits, vegetables, protein sources and healthy fats. You can incorporate coffee or tea, fermented foods, such as sauerkraut or kombucha, and minimally processed whole grains. Limit saturated fat as it can short-circuit immune cells and trigger inflammation. By keeping saturated fat to 10% of your daily calories, you will help reduce the risk for heart disease. Also, eliminate trans fat. Studies suggest that those who eat foods higher in trans fat tend to see more elevated biomarkers indicating inflammation. Steer clear of products containing the words ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated oils.’ Examples include some margarine, crackers and cookies. Check out these full, healthy recipes for more meal ideas geared towards the upcoming summer season.

See Even More Benefits with These Additional Tips

Once you have established your new anti-inflammatory diet, you can add in a few other things to reap further benefits:

  • Supplements: You can take additional supplements to reduce inflammation, such as fish oil and curcumin, which are beneficial to white blood cells.
  • Regular exercise: Physical activity will also help decrease inflammatory markers and lower the risk of chronic disease.
  • Adequate sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential to fight off inflammation. During sleep, blood pressure drops and blood vessels relax. When sleep is restricted, blood pressure doesn’t decline as it should, triggering blood vessel inflammation. There are also many other reasons why sleep is important for weight loss and overall health.
  • Fiber: It is recommended to consume at least 25 grams of fiber every day. It offers a lower energy density helping to alleviate inflammation.
  • Manage stress: Inflammation is a common pathway of stress-related diseases. When you experience stress, your body goes into the ‘fight-or-flight’ mode and releases the stress hormone cortisol. Untreated chronic stress can lead to severe hypertension, heart disease, obesity and metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, depression, addiction or anxiety disorders. Read our stress management guide to learn more about how stress affects the body and how you can better manage it.

Try Medical Weight Loss on Your Anti-Inflammatory Journey

In overweight or obese individuals, weight loss is shown to improve inflammation and plays a vital role in preventing chronic diseases. At KC Wellness, we can teach you how to maintain a healthy weight effectively. We help you stay on course by following a realistic and consistent eating pattern in conjunction with getting regular physical activity. We focus on lifestyle changes that encourage safe and sustainable results. We are proud to say that about 90% of our patients have achieved their weight loss goal and successfully kept the weight off.

If you desire to regain control of your life through sustainable weight loss, then medical weight loss may be what you need. Our doctors and staff are always available to answer any questions and provide guidance along the way to help you succeed. You can also check out our comprehensive guide to medical weight loss. Reach out to our team today to see how we can help you in your weight loss and health journey. Call us at 816-214-5276 at contact us here.