Inflammation is a natural process that aids your body fight off infections and heal after injuries. It is crucial for our survival.
However, when it becomes chronic, your body undergoes several changes that could potentially lead to debilitating diseases.
The definition of chronic inflammation varies between sources. As a general rule of thumb, chronic inflammation is any process that involves high levels of pro-inflammatory compounds in the bloodstream for weeks, months, or years.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to modulate the effects of inflammation on your body, including a change in your diet.
In this article, we will cover everything there is to know about the anti-inflammatory diet and how it could protect you from a myriad of health problems.
What is anti-inflammatory diet?
An anti-inflammatory diet refers to eating more anti-inflammatory foods and fewer inflammatory products.
Your diet will revolve around whole foods that are rich in nutrients and provide protection against oxidative stress.
Your diet should consist of protein, carbs, and healthy fat at each meal. You also need to get enough vitamins, minerals, fiber, electrolytes, and water.
Note that there isn’t one single anti-inflammatory diet since any eating pattern that meets the criteria listed above can be considered an anti-inflammatory diet.
For instance, the Mediterranean diet significantly reduces inflammatory markers (e.g., CRP, ESR) due to its diversity and healthy ingredients.
We can also list the ketogenic diet as anti-inflammatory due to evidence that it neutralizes chronic inflammation and oxidative stress.
Finally, all vegetarian diets can reduce inflammation, which makes them compatible with our definition.
Since most anti-inflammatory foods have potent antioxidative properties, it would not hurt to define these processes.
Which foods are anti-inflammatory?
Kale one of the most nutrient-dense veggies on the planet! It has high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
For reference, one cup (67 grams) of kale has:
- 684% of the daily value (DV) for vitamin K
- 206% of the DV for vitamin A
- 134% of the DV for vitamin C
Kale also contains antioxidants, such as lutein and beta-carotene, which significantly lower the risk of diseases triggered by oxidative stress.
Here is how it works:
Kale neutralizes the hazardous effects of reactive oxygen species and regulates the actions of the immune system. As a result, it will subsequently reduce the concentration of proinflammatory cytokines.
This effect positively impacts conditions, such as cancer and chronic blood hypertension.
According to experts, cooking kale reduces its nutritional values; therefore, it is best to consume this vegetable raw.
Dark chocolate is extremely nutrient-dense, with numerous beneficial ingredients, such as fiber, iron, magnesium, manganese, copper, potassium, and zinc.
The primary role of fiber is to ensure the proper digestion of food by optimizing the gut microbiome and regulating the absorption of food.
By all measurements, fiber is considered the best product to detoxify and temper down inflammation across the body.
Moreover, the other minerals found in dark chocolate enhance metabolism, cognition, and the immune system.
Cacao is also loaded in antioxidants that exceed the efficacy of other fruits, such as blueberries and acai berries, which is thought to drastically reduce the risk of many pathologies, including cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative ailments (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease), and type 2 diabetes.
To top it all off, dark chocolate improves blood circulation, lipid metabolism, and cholesterol oxidation across the arterial system (e.g., coronary artery).
Green tea possesses potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that neutralize the harmful complications of reactive oxygen species and the chronic elevation of pro-inflammatory substances, which could potentially lower the risk of some cancers.
Cancer is the result of anarchic cellular growth that’s not controlled with the usual signaling cascades.
Over the decades, researchers were trying to understand the pathophysiology of this debilitating disease to be able to develop an effective treatment.
Two major phenomena that were found in most cancers included oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.
Some of the studies also covered the effects of green tea on specific cancer types, including:
In one meta-analysis, experts found that women who consumed green tea on a regular basis had a 20-30% decrease in the risk of developing breast cancer.
A general analysis of 29 studies showed that drinking green tea was associated with a 42% lower risk of colorectal cancer.
In a 2008 study, scientists found that drinking tea reduces the risk of advanced prostate cancer.
The health benefits offered by turmeric are mainly the result of its anti-inflammatory properties.
While this reaction is designed to protect your body against foreign pathogens, several underlying conditions could turn it into a chronic, destructive state that requires special care.
You see, chronic inflammation is a hallmark of most debilitating conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative ailments (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease).
Unfortunately, treating this state with pharmacological drugs is unwarranted since the adverse effect profile of these medications outweighs their potential benefits.
The good news is that curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) is an impressively potent anti-inflammatory compound that could exert the same effects as anti-inflammatory drugs.
In fact, many athletes around the world started using turmeric to treat pain and inflammation of their joints, especially after competitions.
Other anti-inflammatory foods
- Vegetables (e.g., broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower)
- Fruit (e.g., grapes, cherries)
- Avocados and olives
- Olive oil and coconut oil
- Salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and anchovies
- Almonds and other nuts
- Bell peppers and chili peppers
Now that we covered the foods that you should be eating, let us switch gears to the ones that you need to avoid:
Following an anti-inflammatory diet can significantly improve your health status and lower the risk of diseases. Eating foods with potent anti-inflammatory properties will eliminate harmful substances from your system and improve different physiological functions.
We hope that this article managed to highlight the potential role of the anti-inflammatory diet in optimizing your health.