⚠️We agree that there is no such thing as a perfect solution to living a healthier lifestyle. Individualized eating plans are necessary for success. Consult a dietitian or healthcare professional before beginning a new diet plan, particularly if you have any existing health condition.
An anti-inflammatory diet is a popular eating plan based on the daily consumption of between 2,000 and 3,000 calories, depending on your activity, size, and gender level. Approximately 40% to 50% of the calories come from carbohydrates, 20%-30% from protein, and 30% from fat. This eating plan has been designed to reduce or prevent heart problems and other major diseases.
An anti-inflammatory diet emphasizes healthy fats, seeds, nuts, lean protein, vegetables, and fruits. Andrew Weil, a Harvard-educated doctor, specializing in integrative medicine, designed this diet. According to Weil, the anti-inflammatory diet is based on the Mediterranean diet, with a few extras like dark chocolate and green tea.
This diet calls for a wide range of fresh foods, emphasizing vegetables and fruits that provide essential phytonutrients that help fight cancer and other kinds of degenerative diseases.[i] Furthermore, the creator proposes routine intake of omega-3 fatty acids and avoidance of fried and fast foods.
The guidelines of the anti-inflammatory diet become more specific with each dietary component. For instance, when it comes to carbs, you should only eat those that help stabilize and lower your blood sugar, like berries, squashes, beans, and whole grains.
What You Can Eat
Studies show that individuals with a high intake of fish, healthy oils, seeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetables might have reduced risks of inflammation-related illnesses. Moreover, compounds found in some foods, particularly omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, seem to have anti-inflammatory effects.
Any nutrition expert will encourage you to consume anti-inflammatory foods. These include herbs and spices, fatty fish, plant-based proteins (like nuts and beans), whole grains, fruits, and veggies.
Fruits and Vegetables
Go for a wide range of fruits and vegetables and lots of colors. Studies show that leafy greens such as kale and spinach are rich in vitamin K, reducing inflammation. The same goes for cabbage and broccoli. So does the compound that gives color to fruits like blackberries, raspberries, and cherries.
Whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, and other unrefined grains are high in fiber. Research shows that fiber helps reduce inflammation.
Beans are high in fiber and are packed with antioxidants along with other anti-inflammatory properties.
They have a very healthy type of fat that helps halt inflammation. Avocados and olive oil are excellent sources of healthy fat. Only eat a few nuts each day, else the calories and fat might add up.
Take fish at least twice in 7 days. Sardines, tuna, and salmon contain enough omega-3 fatty acids that might help fight inflammation.
Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices add flavor (along with antioxidants) to your food. Moreover, turmeric that’s found in the curry powder does the same with the strong compound known as curcumin. Other types of food high in antioxidants include apples, avocados, artichokes, dark chocolate, and sweet potatoes.
What You Cannot Eat
Omega-6 fatty acids is found in a wide variety of foods. It’s a type of essential fatty acid that is known to increase the production of inflammatory substances. Because omega-six fatty acids help maintain brain function, regulate metabolism and maintain bone health, you should not completely cut them out of your daily diet.
Nevertheless, it’s essential to balance your consumption of omega-6 fatty acids with your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids to ensure inflammation is kept in check. Following are some of the foods that are high in omega-six fatty acids:
- Vegetable oils (like cottonseed oil, peanut, soybean, safflower, and corn)
- Dairy products (like ice cream, butter, cheese, and milk)
Rather than vegetable oils that contain high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, choose oils such as avocado oil and olive oil.
Moreover, research shows that increased intake of foods with a high glycemic index like refined grains and sugars, like those found in many processed foods and white bread, might boost inflammation. You should avoid processed snack foods, desserts, refined carbohydrates, and sugary drinks.
Does It Aid In Weight Loss?
It’s highly likely that the anti-inflammatory diet will help you lose weight. As mentioned earlier, this diet is almost similar to the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet has been associated with weight loss and less chance of being obese or overweight.
Although research already shows that obesity causes inflammation, it’s unclear whether reduced inflammation results in weight loss. Nevertheless, some researchers suggest that inflammation increases the risks of obesity.
A study conducted in 2019 showed that the anti-inflammatory diet reduced inflammation and resulted in weight loss among subjects with pre-diabetes and diabetes.
If your goal is to lose weight, keep in mind that weight loss is not the same as being a healthy individual. There are many other beneficial things you can do to lose weight as you continue following this diet. Sleep, exercise, and other lifestyle factors play a significant role in weight loss.[ii]
What Are The Rules Of An Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
Although the anti-inflammatory diet’s dietary guidelines are pretty broad, the following are some rules that will help you get started.
- Cut back on saturated fat found in fatty meats, cream, and butter and completely avoid partially hydrogenated oils, vegetable shortening, and margarine.
- Get dietary fat from omega-3 fatty acids, nuts, avocados, and extra-virgin olive oil that have been found to reduce inflammation. This plan further stresses significant consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from cold-water fish like herring, sardines, and salmon.
- If you aren’t eating oily fish twice per week, the anti-inflammatory diet recommends fish oil supplements, including DHA and EPA. Sources of proteins include beans, cheese, yogurt, and fish, particularly soybeans.
- Instead of red meat, opt for healthy sources of protein like lentils, beans, fish, and lean poultry.
- Instead of seasoning your meals with salt, improve the flavor with anti-inflammatory herbs like turmeric, ginger, and garlic.
- Drink tea instead of coffee, especially the oolong, green and white varieties. The creator of this diet also allows plain dark chocolate that contains antioxidants.
- Eat colorful produce, particularly dark leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, yellow fruits, tomatoes, and berries.
Potential Health Benefits
Often associated with lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise and stress, inflammation occurs if the immune system releases compounds meant to combat a virus or bacterial infections. An anti-inflammatory diet could be very helpful for people with digestive disorders[iii], certain allergies[iv] and arthritis[v]. Following are the health benefits you’ll get for following the anti-inflammatory diet.
Promotes Heart Health
The anti-inflammatory diet has been shown to promote a healthy heart. Essentially, the Mediterranean diet has been linked to reducing risks of cardiovascular disease. It has also been found to reduce bad LDL cholesterol and blood pressure.[vi]
Although there is no evidence that inflammation causes heart disease, it’s common among patients with cardiovascular disease. However, research shows there is a correlation between high levels of C-reactive protein and cardiovascular disease. The C-reactive protein is a protein in the blood that signals inflammation.
The anti-inflammatory diet is a feasible plan for the prevention and control of diabetes. Being obese is a contributory factor for Type II diabetes. If you are looking to shed a few pounds and keep Type II diabetes off, the anti-inflammatory diet is your best bet. It will, without a doubt, tilt the odds in your favor. Furthermore, research shows that following an anti-inflammatory diet might reverse metabolic syndrome, resulting in heart disease and type II diabetes.[vii]
The anti-inflammatory diet is mainly vegetarian, which is considered by the American diabetes association as a healthy option to help manage and prevent diabetes. Almost all of the group’s best 10 ‘superfoods’ for management of diabetes are well represented on the anti-inflammatory diet. These include yogurt, fat-free milk, nuts, whole grains, omega-3 fatty acids, tomatoes, berries, sweet potatoes, citrus fruit, leafy vegetables, and beans.[viii]
Sample Shopping List
Since there is no strict meal plan, this diet provides lots of flexibility, making it easier to follow. You just have to adjust your plan and follow the key principles of this diet. This means you should prioritize buying the foods included in this diet, lots of fish, whole grains, and plenty of vegetables and fruits.
An anti-inflammatory diet emphasizes vegetables, whole fruits, lean protein, and especially whole grains. Although what you choose to eat in this diet plan is entirely up to you, the shopping list below gives you an idea of how you can get started. Take note of the fact that this might not be an exclusive shopping list as there might be other foods you prefer.
- Frozen and fresh fruits (oranges, blackberries, blueberries, grapefruit, raspberries)
- Vegetables (cauliflower, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, Brussels sprouts, eggplant)
- Dark leafy greens (kale, spinach)
- Dried herbs and spices (paprika, cumin, turmeric, sea salt, oregano)
- Lean protein sources (shrimp, tuna, cod, salmon, turkey breast, chicken breast, lean ground beef)
- Whole grains (couscous, barley, brown rice, quinoa)
- Healthy fats (olive oil, flaxseeds, chia seeds, almonds, walnuts, avocados)
- Fortified soy based products (tofu, soymilk, yogurt)
Sample Meal Plan
The sample meal plan below isn’t perfect for everyone, but it provides some basic ideas for adding the anti-inflammatory diet into your meals. However, if you are managing a disease like diabetes, you might have some additional dietary needs that haven’t been considered in this 7-day meal plan. As a result, make sure you speak to a healthcare provider before making any major changes to your eating plans.
There is a wide range of possibilities for delectable and creative meals that comply with the anti-inflammatory diet. Remember that if you opt to follow this diet, there might be some other meals that are more suitable for your preferences, budget, and tastes.
- Breakfast – a cup of tea, steel-cut oats with blueberries and slivered almonds
- Lunch – kale salad with pomegranate seeds, beets, and chickpeas tossed with lemon juice vinaigrette, and olive oil
- Dinner – salmon, anchovy
- Snack – homemade trail mix topped with raisins and unsalted nuts.
- Breakfast – a cup of tea, steel-cut oatmeal with sliced strawberries and walnuts
- Lunch – salmon sashimi topped with brown rice and broccoli
- Dinner – ginger curry topped with barley, kale, whitefish, and red win
- Snack – mango
- Breakfast – quinoa with blueberries, banana, a cup of green tea, and a spread of almond butter
- Lunch – arugula salad topped with walnuts, grilled peaches, and albacore tuna
- Snack – grapes
- Breakfast – mushroom frittata and kale, a cup of coffee, and half grapefruit
- Lunch – brown rice with grain, sautéed bok choy, and chickpeas
- Dinner – vegetable burger on the whole grain bun topped with roasted Brussels sprouts
- Snack – unsalted mixed nuts
- Breakfast – apple slices, chia seed pudding, a cup of green tea, and almond butter
- Lunch – spinach salad topped with shredded carrots and tuna
- Dinner – ground turkey with red peppers, chickpeas, quinoa, and a glass of red wine
- Snack – unsalted almonds
- Breakfast – soy yogurt with a cup of coffee and blueberries
- Lunch – quinoa with avocado, sautéed spinach, black beans, tomatoes, and sardines
- Dinner – salmon with spinach salad and lentils
- Snack – unsalted mixed nuts
- Breakfast – banana sandwich and peanut butter with a cup of coffee
- Lunch – halved cherry tomatoes and smashed avocados, a side of cottage cheese, and whole-grain toast
- Dinner – seitan topped with mushrooms, bell peppers, and broccoli
- Snack – cherries
Anti-Inflammatory Diet Pros And Cons
This diet promotes healthier eating patterns that help consume enough antioxidants, fiber, micronutrients, and macronutrients. Although the anti-inflammatory diet is nutritious, well-rounded, and developed by a doctor, there are a few downsides you should be aware of. Let’s dive right into the pros and cons.
Foods included in the anti-inflammatory diet can reduce inflammation and the risk of degenerative diseases. Each of the recommended food groups contains antioxidants and resveratrol, which play a significant role in reducing chronic inflammation.[ix]
The anti-inflammatory diet-eating plan is pretty easy to follow. There is no strict calorie counting or strict meal plans involved. As a result, you should feel free to modify the diet in a manner that suits you best, as long as you stick to the anti-inflammatory food pyramid. Drinking alcohol and eating out are also allowed but in moderation.
Lots Of Recipes
With the increased popularity of this anti-inflammatory diet, there are thousands of compliant recipes that have been created, adding lots of flexibility to your cooking.
Promotes Healthy Eating
Most anti-inflammatory foods are high in minerals, vitamins, and other valuable nutrients. Technically, this diet offers an outstanding balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates and encourages people to include colorful produce, including dark leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, yellow and orange fruits, tomatoes, and berries.[x]
An anti-inflammatory diet is a very nutritious eating plan that’s easier to follow and reap numerous health benefits. Studies show that foods rich in the anti-inflammatory diet help prevent or treat arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, Type II diabetes, obesity[xi], allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, specific types of cancer, stroke[xii], and heart disease.
Following the anti-inflammatory diet has at times proven expensive mainly because of its emphasis on high-quality food. The cost of quality food that’s free-range, grass-fed, or organic can be high. According to Dr.Weil, it’s better if you avoid specific vegetables and fruits unless you’re sure they are organic. However, since there is no supporting evidence, you can still source your veggies and fruits from where cost is effective and convenient for you.[xiii]
No Formal Guidelines
Although many proponents appreciate the flexibility brought about by this plan, the high number of foods you should eat and hundreds of recipes to try out might be overwhelming to some.
Most anti-inflammatory foods are common allergens. They include grains, soy, shellfish and fish, seeds, and nuts. As a result, people with food sensitivities or allergies might find it extremely difficult to comply with this anti-inflammatory diet, particularly if they are allergic to multiple food groups.
Is The Anti-Inflammatory Diet A Healthy Option?
As mentioned earlier, the anti-inflammatory diet shares a lot of similarities with the Mediterranean diet. In fact, it’s entirely based on the Mediterranean diet. However, since there is no other way to eat out of this anti-inflammatory diet, the diet emphasizes herbs, healthy fats, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. The Mediterranean diet has been found to lower LDL cholesterol and reduce blood pressure.[xiv]
As compared to the federal dietary guidelines from the USDA (U.S Department of Agriculture), this anti-inflammatory diet is well aligned. In essence, the USDA recommends consuming a wide range of nutrient-packed foods from different food groups, including protein, dairy, grains, vegetables, and fruit. Key guidelines in 2020 to 2025 dietary guideline for the Americans include[xv]:
- Limited sodium, added sugars, trans fats, and saturated fats
- Oils including in food like nuts and seafood and vegetable oils
- Protein foods including eggs, poultry, and lean meats; seafood; soy products, seeds, nuts, lentils, peas, and beans
- Dairy including cheese, yogurt, and low fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, fortified soy beverages, and lactose-free versions.
- Grains, most of which should be whole grains
- Fruits, particularly whole fruit
- Different types of veggies – orange, red and dark green, starchy, lentils, peas and beans, and other vegetables.
It’s important to note that, unlike the USDA recommendations, the anti-inflammatory diet does not include sodium intake. Technically, the USDA recommends dairy products while the anti-inflammatory diet only permits occasional intake. Also, federal guidelines suggest making sure half of the grains you take are whole, whereas the anti-inflammatory diet discourages intake of any grains that aren’t whole.
Overall, the anti-inflammatory diet complies with the federal dietary guidelines for a healthy diet. Also, both emphasize vegetables and whole fruit, oils, seeds and nuts, and whole grains. Moreover, both the USDA and anti-inflammatory diet recommendations limit trans and saturated fats and added sugars.
How Much Does An Anti-Inflammatory Diet Cost?
Like everything else in the world we live in today, the cost is an important factor. First, the anti-inflammatory diet encourages fresh and high-quality products, which can only be sourced from the grocery store or farmers’ market.
Keep in mind that you’ll only be looking for high-quality foods, which can be slightly expensive than other frozen options. However, this shouldn’t be a problem since you can always use cheaper alternatives as long as you stick to the anti-inflammatory diet plan.
What is the Main Benefit of Vitamin E?
What Foods Contain Vitamin E?
What Types of Food Reduce Inflammation?
• Fruits like oranges, cherries, blueberries, and strawberries
• Fatty fish like sardines, tuna, mackerel, and salmon
• Olive oil
• Green leafy veggies like collards, kale, and spinach
Are Eggs Anti-Inflammatory?
What Are the Foods that Cause Inflammation?
What is the Strongest Anti-Inflammatory?
Is Coffee Inflammatory?
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- [ii] Zwickey H, Horgan A, Hanes D, et al. Effect of the anti-inflammatory diet in people with diabetes and pre-diabetes: a randomized controlled feeding study. J Restor Med. 2019;8(1). doi:10.14200/jrm.2019.0107
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- [xv] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Ninth Edition. December 2020.