Though weight loss is the primary goal of most dietary patterns, the focus of an anti-inflammatory diet is on controlling health conditions. Even those who do not suffer from any chronic disease may benefit by reducing their risk of developing one.
This is achieved by choosing and avoiding foods in order to reduce inflammation in the body. However, it is worth noting that there are two kinds of inflammation.
Acute inflammation is a normal response in our body which occurs right after an injury or illness. While it performs a useful function in these scenarios by defending the body, the response can be harmful if it occurs over a prolonged period — this is known as chronic inflammation.
As health research has suggested, chronic inflammation may contribute to the development of several diseases including lupus, cancer, stroke, and more.
As with all nutrition guidelines, an abundance of fruits and vegetables are encouraged in this diet. In particular, include more green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, and fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and oranges. Instead of meat, opt for eating fish twice a week to get your required dose of omega-3 fats.
“Anti-inflammatory food components, such as omega-3 fats, protect the body against the possible damage caused by inflammation,” said Ximena Jimenez, a Miami-based nutritionist, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The diet also has a fair share of flavor — certain spices like garlic and turmeric have been linked to anti-inflammatory properties. In moderation, one can also enjoy coffee, nuts and seeds, dark chocolate, etc. for similar properties.
As for foods to exclude, stay away from processed meat, vegetable oils, sugary beverages like soda, and refined carbohydrates like white bread. Heavy drinking has also been linked to inflammation so make sure to moderate your alcohol intake.
Dairy appears to stand on the fence between anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory. Researchers note that it largely depends on the individual and how tolerant their body is when digesting lactose. So it may help to seek advice from a dietitian and observe your own flare-ups to know what kind of dairy you should opt for.
Though it is not a cure, this diet may help anyone who suffers from a condition associated with inflammation. The Arthritis Foundation, for instance, recommends this eating pattern for rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Many have also wondered if inflammation is more about quantity than quality i.e. if the calorie intake is to blame rather than the type of food we consume. But research has found that the link exists even when obesity and weight gain are accounted for.
“Some of the food components or ingredients may have independent effects on inflammation over and above increased caloric intake,” said Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.