If you’re struggling with inflammation, it’s likely your friends have started recommending their favorite diets. If you’re feeling bombarded with information, look no further.
We’ve broken down some of the most popular diets to see if they’ll actually help reduce inflammation.
Why choose an anti-inflammatory diet.
You’ve probably heard the term “anti-inflammatory” frequently as people discuss diet trends and health foods. What does the term really mean, and why should you pursue it?
Anti-inflammation doesn’t completely prevent inflammation — that would actually be detrimental. The human body needs some forms of inflammation like those that come with minor injuries such as twisted ankles or scraped knees. But chronic inflammation can lead to cardiovascular disease and cancer. Choosing a diet to help limit this type of inflammation can help protect your heart and reduce your risk of cancer.
Which diets are anti-inflammatory?
Many doctors say that an anti-inflammatory diet is much less about a diet in the popular sense of the term and more about a way of eating. The good news is, many trendy diets do have a strong push toward anti-inflammatory foods.
Did you know the ketogenic diet was first developed to treat epilepsy in non-responder children? One of the great benefits of keto is that it helps reduce inflammation in your brain. The effect on epilepsy is also evident in other areas of the body, as the basic foods of keto “neutralize molecules responsible for inflammatory damage.” The research on keto is extensive, and if you’re looking to reduce inflammation through your diet, this nutrition plan is probably your best bet.
The foundation of the paleo diet includes anti-inflammatory foods. While there isn’t a lot of solid research on the diet itself, the foods it promotes do decrease inflammation. And not only that, but paleo-friendly foods also do not include the processed foods known to cause inflammation. Just watch out for the amount of red meat you eat if following this lifestyle.
Like paleo, choosing to eat as a vegetarian doesn’t have extensive research when it comes to anti-inflammation. But, again, many of the foods the lifestyle promotes are known to help. So, if you’re leaning toward a vegetarian diet, you’re on the right track.
The vegan diet is based on whole plant foods. Many of these are included in the list of anti-inflammatory foods, which is great news for those pursuing this method of eating.
Researchers at Harvard University say that the Mediterranean diet “closely follows the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating.” Its list of approved foods includes whole grains, fish, healthy oils, fruits, veggies, and nuts, all in the anti-inflammatory foods category.
DASH is simply an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. In other words, it’s a diet aimed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure without the use of medication. While it’s not as strong as the keto or Mediterranean diets, DASH does promote eating whole and healthy foods, like fruits and veggies, nuts, healthy oils, and whole grains. So, while you’re combating hypertension, you can also help prevent chronic inflammation.
This diet is intended to be a “reboot on your eating habits,” not a long-term dietary change. Keeping that in mind, if you are struggling to eliminate sugar and processed foods from your diet, this could be a great place to start. Try it for the recommended 30 days, then build upon what you’ve experienced by adding back in foods that are known to be anti-inflammatory.
Anti-inflammatory foods to put on your shopping list.
Fruits and veggies
- Leafy greens like spinach and kale
- Cherries, raspberries, and blackberries (the natural substance that gives them their colors is anti-inflammatory)
If it’s high in fiber, it’s going to help combat inflammation. Just be careful what you choose if you’re looking for something gluten-free.
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat bread
Almost all beans are high in fiber, and they’re packed with antioxidants that help reduce inflammation.
You’ll want to watch the amount of this food that you eat, as nuts are high in fat and calories, but that fat can help stop inflammation. Olive oil and avocados are also full of the same type of anti-inflammatory fat.
Some dietitians suggest having fish at least twice a week to help fight inflammation. This can be anything from salmon and tuna to sardines and cod.
Foods that contribute to inflammation.
As you look at what you eat, be sure to limit or even eliminate these foods that cause inflammation:
- Refined carbohydrates — this includes pastries and white bread
- Fried foods — sorry, French fries!
- Sugary beverages
- Red meat
- Margarine, shortening, and lard
If the idea of completely cutting out these foods is too much, then simply be mindful. Limit yourself to one soda a week, or one trip to your favorite burger place a month. You can still enjoy your favorite foods, just monitor how often and how much.
As with any popular diet, do your research before completely cutting out any food groups. Talk with your doctor or dietician to make an informed, healthy choice.