An assortment of healthy, whole, anti-inflammatory foods

Should You Follow an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

Last updated: May 2022

Inflammation is one way our bodies respond to infection or injury. We want our immune system to protect us from foreign invaders. But sometimes, inflammation can spread throughout the body and become chronic. Science shows that chronic inflammation can lead to larger health issues.1-4

There are drugs that help fight inflammation, but lifestyle and dietary changes can help too. Eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties can help prevent and fight other diseases.1-4

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s way of protecting itself. The immune system activates when it detects an intruder or an injury. Inflammatory cells swamp the area, protecting from further damage. This response can create:1-4

Sometimes, the body will send out inflammatory cells when there is no sickness or injury. That can lead to chronic inflammation.1-4

Is inflammation linked to other health conditions?

Chronic inflammation can damage our bodies. Over time, inflammation can damage cells and increase the risk of chronic disease. Inflammation can be a contributing factor for many health conditions. Chronic inflammation has been linked to:1-4

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Diabetes

How can anti-inflammatory foods help?

Food can be a powerful tool to help fight inflammation. Food can impact levels of the C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood. CRP is a marker for inflammation.1,2

Some processed foods help release inflammatory cells. Other foods, like fruits and vegetables, can help your body fight inflammatory triggers.1,2

Anti-inflammatory foods could help reduce the risk of illness

An anti-inflammation diet could help people with psoriasis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods could help reduce some symptoms and disease progression. But more research is needed to know for sure.5-6

There is no clear relationship between fatigue and inflammation. But researchers think an anti-inflammatory diet may help chronic fatigue. The evidence is mixed.7

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is not a substitute for medical treatment.

What should an anti-inflammatory diet include?

Consider eating a healthy balanced diet. Such a diet includes:2-4

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Healthy oils

Add or increase foods that have anti-inflammatory properties, such as:2-4

  • Fatty fish, such as:
    • Mackerel
    • Salmon
    • Sardines
  • Leafy greens like:
    • Spinach
    • Collards
    • Kale
  • Olive oil
  • Tomatoes
  • Nuts and seeds like almonds and walnuts
  • Colorful fruits like:
    • Strawberries
    • Blueberries
    • Cherries
    • Oranges
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Root plants, like ginger
  • Prebiotic foods like:
    • Artichokes
    • Onions
    • Asparagus
    • Leeks
    • Garlic
    • Sweet potatoes
  • Probiotic foods like:
    • Kimchi
    • Sauerkraut
    • Miso
    • Tempeh
    • Kombucha

Should some foods be avoided?

Some foods like sugary drinks and processed foods can increase inflammation. That can increase risk for chronic disease. You can reduce inflammation by limiting:2-4

  • Refined carbohydrates, such as:
    • Sugar
    • Pastries
    • White bread
    • Fried foods and some fast food
    • Red meat, pork, and lamb
    • Processed meats like hot dogs and lunch meat
    • Margarine, shortening, and lard
    • Highly refined oils, saturated fats, and trans fats
    • Soda and sweetened beverages

How to start an anti-inflammatory diet

These are a few simple steps you can take to reduce inflammation through diet:2

  • Eat more plants and whole grains
  • Eat less red meat
  • Cut out processed foods
  • Eat a variety of colorful whole foods

Have you tried following an anti-inflammatory diet? Have you experienced any positive or negative results? Share your experience in the comments below, or in our stories and forums!

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