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What is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

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An anti-inflammatory diet is one that is based on foods that reduce cellular inflammation by influencing the body’s inflammatory pathways. By avoiding foods that are pro-inflammatory and focusing on foods that are anti-inflammatory, one can reduce the risk of certain diseases and conditions.

Chronic inflammation caused from poor diet and a lack of exercise causes the body to mimic the release of the same inflammatory chemicals generated when there is an injury, infection and or other illness. These inflammatory mediators are designed to help the body heal and remove foreign invaders. But when they are constant and there is nothing to attack, these inflammatory molecules have the potential to  build up and damage healthy cells and tissue.

An anti-inflammatory diet is designed to knock down the unwanted markers of inflammation and help the body function optimally. It does this by giving the body an abundance of antioxidants, essential fatty acids, flavonols and nutritional compounds that reduce inflammation.

What does an anti-inflammatory diet look like? Take a look at the diet pyramid image.

This is an eating plan developed by Andrew Weil, MD. As you will notice, the foundational foods at the base are colorful and whole foods, rather than processed foods. Think of brightly colored vegetables and fruits like leafy greens; red, green and orange peppers; crunchy cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel’s sprouts and cabbage; purple and blue foods, including purple kale, black and blueberries, eggplant; red berries, cherries and beets; and winter and summer squashes.

At the next level are whole grains and beans because they are important sources of fiber. Stacked on top are proteins and fats from nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, cold-water seafood and whole soy foods. These foods contain healthy fats and other compounds that are essential to knocking down inflammatory markers. Dr Weil then includes Asian mushrooms for their potent, natural, and safe anti-inflammatory compounds that may reduce the production of inflammatory mediators.

Near the top of the pyramid are eggs, yogurt, natural cheeses and poultry. Eaten in small quantities, they are healthy sources of protein, calcium and choline. Next up are herbs and spices, such as basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, garlic, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon that are packed with flavonols and active compounds that help fight inflammation. Add these to your daily recipes for amazing flavor and health benefits. At the very top, he suggests daily dietary supplements (as recommended by your doctor), a little red wine (optional) and sparing amounts of deep dark chocolate (who can argue with that?).

As researchers study the value of an anti-inflammatory diet, experts better understand the power of food to help the body reduce inflammation. Many diseases like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases start off with small, but constant, levels of inflammation. Foods are one of the best solutions to knocking it down early before it leads to more serious health issues.

Want to find physicians who will teach you how to create a healthy eating plan for your wellness goals? Use our Find a Licensed Naturopathic Doctor tool to search by zip code.  

References:

  1. Cassidy A, Rogers G, Peterson JJ, Dwyer JT, Lin H, Jacques PF. Higher dietary anthocyanin and flavonol intakes are associated with anti-inflammatory effects in a population of US adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;102(1):172‐181. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.108555
  2. French JA, Koepp M, Naegelin Y, et al. Clinical studies and anti-inflammatory mechanisms of treatments. Epilepsia. 2017;58 Suppl 3(Suppl 3):69‐82. doi:10.1111/epi.13779
  3. Ramdath DD, Padhi EM, Sarfaraz S, Renwick S, Duncan AM. Beyond the Cholesterol-Lowering Effect of Soy Protein: A Review of the Effects of Dietary Soy and Its Constituents on Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease. Nutrients. 2017;9(4):324. Published 2017 Mar 24. doi:10.3390/nu9040324
  4. Elsayed EA, El Enshasy H, Wadaan MA, Aziz R. Mushrooms: a potential natural source of anti-inflammatory compounds for medical applications. Mediators Inflamm. 2014;2014:805841. doi:10.1155/2014/805841
  5. Azab A, Nassar A, Azab AN. Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Natural Products. Molecules. 2016;21(10):1321. Published 2016 Oct 1. doi:10.3390/molecules21101321
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This article is provided by

The Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of natural medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing healthcare systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of evidence-based natural medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

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Institute for Natural Medicine Staff

Our dedicated content team of professional staff writers represents decades of experience covering essential natural health topics in an accessible, evidence-based, and engaging way. Guided by a shared passion for holistic well-being, each and every one of our writers strives to empower our readers to take charge of their health.

Supported by a rigorous fact-checking and medical editing process from licensed naturopathic doctors that examines the latest in peer-reviewed research, our team brings their in-depth knowledge of natural health practices into every piece of content we produce. We strive to be the gold standard for evidence-based natural medicine, providing trustworthy information and inspiring narratives to help you live your best health, naturally.

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