How Can I Build an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Plan?

Discover great-tasting foods that work for you, not against you.

older couple cooking dinner

Medically reviewed in April 2021

Updated on February 3, 2022

Inflammation contributes to many health problems, including chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, obesity, and even certain cancers. But what causes inflammation and how can you stop it?

Inflammation is your body's natural response to infection, injury, or a toxin, such as a cut that harbors germs. As the immune system launches a bout of acute (short-term) inflammation, the result is often redness, warmth, swelling, and pain. This response is generally temporary until healing occurs.

But sometimes, the immune system gets in a state of all-over chronic inflammation, often as a result of harmful influences such as cigarette smoke, chronic stress, poor diet, excess belly fat, or inadequate sleep. Chronic inflammation attacks healthy cells, resulting in damage to your body and signs and symptoms like belly or chest pain, fatigue, fever, joint pain, or skin rash. The process, if it lasts, can blossom into a variety of diseases.

At that point, medicines may help calm symptoms. But what you really want is to prevent inappropriate inflammation from running out of control in the first place. And that may mean considering a few lifestyle changes, including your diet.

The right foods may dial down inflammation
There are many foods that can potentially help you keep inflammation at bay and better manage your health. That's because some foods contain chemicals that hold back inflammation, while other foods—including added sugars, refined carbohydrates, red and processed meat, and sodas—may promote it.

Anti-inflammatory foods include green leafy vegetables, dark yellow vegetables like squash, whole grains, fruits, coffee, and tea. Olive oil and oily fish like salmon, mackerel, or sardines are also anti-inflammatory.

An anti-inflammatory diet plan is not all-inclusive or a one-size-fits-all solution. It's simply a way to start taking advantage of the health benefits of eating healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

Looking past the plate
Eating well is only one part of the big picture. Care from a healthcare provider (HCP) is crucial. Follow their guidance, especially if you've been diagnosed with a chronic disease. And make sure your HCP is on board with your eating plan before you embark.

Remember that food alone probably won’t tame chronic inflammation if other pieces of the anti-inflammatory puzzle—like rest, mental equilibrium, and exercise—are missing. Try to get enough sleep, manage your stress levels and how you react to stress, watch your weight, exercise regularly, and avoid harmful habits like smoking and excessive drinking.

Note as you put together your eating plan: If you have a disease that affects your digestion, you may need to avoid spices, high-fiber foods, or raw vegetables. Most recipes aren’t set in stone, so feel free to adapt them to your needs. 

Article sources open article sources

Katherine D. McManus. Harvard Health Blog. Do pro-inflammatory diets harm our health? And can anti-inflammatory diets help? December 23, 2020.
Cleveland Clinic. Inflammation. Last reviewed July 28, 2021.

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