An anti-inflammatory diet is one of the most common diets recommended for inflammation reduction by a number of fitness and health care professionals. These can include injury recovery from a sports related activity, chronic disease management such as autoimmune, for overall better gut health and in some cases even cancer.
While many health care practitioners and naturopaths advocate for an anti-inflammatory diet, a literature review of scientifically published research shows minimal studies that definitively supports evidence of a correlation between diet and inflammation 1 . Many will argue that nutrition studies are hard to prove as there can be a number of other factors influencing outcomes. There are few studies such as Giugliano et al, that supports the role of diet with a reduction in inflammation 2 . The conclusion for majority of studies, however, tends to be an observational one where an anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce, versus eliminate, inflammation. It should be noted that the Mediterranean diet is often cited in the literature and is very similar to the Anti-inflammatory diet as it consists of a high intake in fruits, vegetables, plant proteins, whole grains, low fat dairy and olive oil 3 . Regardless of the diet name, more funding and resources needs to be allocated to understanding the role of diet with respect to diseases (especially autoimmune which is on the rise and not well understood).
Personally I incorporate a strict anti-inflammatory diet for a few weeks when I am recovering from a sports related injury, suffering from stomach issues or in recent times autoimmune symptoms.
Dr. Gary Kaplan, founder of the Kaplan Centre for Integrative Medicine provides a fantastic summary on the Mind Body Green website of anti-infammatory issues and foods that can be used to help reduce inflammation. The link to this article can be found in the reference section 4 but throughout this article I will share some of his suggestions as well as useful information from other articles.
What is Inflammation?
Your immune system becomes activated when it detects a foreign invasion such as a microbe or pollen. As such this can trigger a process called inflammation. Your body is designed to help protect itself from these invaders. But when inflammation persists when it is not threatened by a foreign invader can become problematic especially when the body produces excessive inflammation. This is often the case with diseases like arthritis, cancer, diabetes, to name a few, that have been linked with chronic inflammation.
According to Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, experimental studies have shown that some foods may have anti-inflammatory effects 5 .
Anti-inflammatory foods 4,5
- Olive oil
- Nuts such as walnuts and almonds
- Green leafy vegetables
- Fatty fish such salmon and tuna
- Fruits such as strawberries, cherries, blueberries, oranges, apples
Foods to Avoid 4,5
- Saturated fats such as margarine and butter
- Refined sugar such as those found in candy, sweetened beverages etc
- Refined carbohydrates such as those found in pasta, pastries etc
- Dairy and casein
- Fried foods
- Processed meats such as hot dogs and sausages
- Artificial ingredients such as MSG, aspartame
Other triggers of inflammation 4
Other holistic remedies for inflammation 4
- Vitamin D
- Green Tea
- Tumeric and Cucumin
- Chilli Pepper
Dr. Kaplan’s 11 Rules 4
- Consume 25g of fiber daily
- 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
- 4 servings of alliums (e.g. garlic, onion) and crucifers (broccoli, cabbage) weekly
- Limit saturated fat to 10% daily intake
- Consume Omega 3 fatty acids such as cold water fish (salmon), flax meal, walnuts
- Eat fish 3x a week
- Use oils that contain healthy fats e.g. Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Coconut Oil
- Eat Healthy snacks twice a day e.g. Plain Greek Yogurt, Carrot sticks and nuts
- Avoid processed foods and refined sugars
- Cut out trans fats (eg magarine and those present in pastries and cookies)
- Sweeten meals with phytonutrient rich foods (eg apricots, berries) and spices (cinnamon, tumeric, ginger)
- Marcason W. What is an anti inflammatory diet? J Am Diet Assoc 2010: 1780.
- Giugliano et al. The effects of diet on inflammation. Emphasis on the metabolic syndrome. J Am Coll Cardiol 2006; 48 (4) :677-85.
- Schwingshackl L. Mediterranean dietary pattern, inflammation and endothelial function: A systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention trials. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc 2014; 24: 929-39