Inflammation plays a role in many health conditions, including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis and heart disease. Thus, eating more anti-inflammatory foods may help lower your risk for these conditions, notes an article published in the "International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research" in December 2008. While many fruits and vegetables are anti-inflammatory, they aren't the only foods usually allowed on this type of diet, and the foods you should avoid are just as important as the foods you should eat.
Fruits and vegetables in general are rich in antioxidants, such as flavonoids, carotenoids and vitamins A, C and E. These antioxidants help reduce inflammation. The more brightly colored the fruit or vegetable, the richer it is likely to be in these beneficial substances. Good choices include spinach, berries, carrots and broccoli. Eat all different colors of fruits and vegetables, preferably organic and either fresh or frozen rather than canned, for the most benefits. Different colors indicate different nutrients.
Amount to Eat
Eat at least the minimum amount of produce recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day. If you think of a food pyramid for the anti-inflammatory diet, these foods form the base of the pyramid. You'll also want to eat one to two servings of legumes, such as beans and peas, each day. Legumes can count as either vegetables or protein foods, making them a nutritious choice for your diet.
Other Foods to Eat
You shouldn't try to eat just fruits and vegetables because they don't contain all of the essential nutrients. Round out your diet by including healthy monounsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil, avocado and nuts, and foods rich in essential omega-3 fats, including walnuts, flaxseeds and fatty fish, such as tuna or salmon. Other good foods to eat on an anti-inflammatory diet include whole grains and whole soy foods, such as tofu, edamame, tempeh and soy milk. You can even eat a little dark chocolate occasionally and drink wine or tea. Small amounts of natural cheeses, eggs, yogurt, skinless poultry and lean cuts of meat are also fine to eat in small amounts once or twice a week.
Foods to Avoid
Foods with the potential to increase inflammation include refined grains, sugar, many processed foods and foods containing high amounts of saturated fat, trans fat or omega-6 fats. Safflower, corn, soybean and sunflower oils are major sources of omega-6 fats, so check labels to limit how much of these you get in your diet.
- International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research: Anti-inflammatory Effects of Plant-Based Foods and of Their Constituents
- Epicurious: The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- Arthritis Foundation: Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- Fitness Magazine: New Lifesaving Foods: The Anti-Inflammation Diet
- University of Wisconsin Department of Family Medicine: The Anti-Inflammatory Diet