Anti Inflammatory Eating Tips

Anti-Inflammatory Eating Tips

Anti-inflammatory eating is a hot topic in the wellness world. And let’s face it, inflammation often gets a bad rap. You may have heard that eating an anti-inflammatory diet is a good goal, and that reducing inflammation leads to better overall health. But what exactly is inflammation—and what really happens when you eat inflammatory foods?  

What Is Inflammation?  

A good place to start is learning what exactly inflammation is, and how it impacts the body. Inflammation is a complex biological response that occurs in the body when it’s exposed to harmful stimuli such as pathogens, injuries, irritants, or other forms of damage. The primary purpose of inflammation is to protect the body and promote healing. It is a critical part of the body’s immune response and is generally considered a valuable process. 

Acute or short-term inflammation is actually a normal part of your immune response. Whether you cut your finger chopping fruit or you catch whatever bug is going around, your body’s inflammatory response is actually beneficial. It’s part of your immune system’s attack on harmful pathogens. Inflammation’s number one goal is to get whatever you’ve been exposed to out of your body. And while that can make you feel miserable (a stuffy nose, aches, fatigue, and fever), it’s actually both valuable and necessary. 

While the acute inflammation described above triggers protective inflammatory mechanisms that keep you safe and healthy, chronic inflammation can cause damage in the body. Chronic inflammation occurs when inflammation doesn’t go away once it’s intended job is done. In fact, when inflammation happens in an uncontrolled manner, it contributes to nearly every chronic and autoimmune disease.

If the body is constantly exposed to inflammatory components through food or environmental toxins, the immune system can’t flip the switch to “off.” This in turn can increase your risk of conditions like asthma, allergies, autoimmune diseases, depression, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, cognitive decline, osteoporosis, arthritis, obesity, and more. 

Symptoms of chronic Inflammation 

We always recommend talking to your doctor first, but there are some tell tale signs that could indicate chronic inflammation:  

  • digestive issues (leaky guy, bloating, gas, IBS, constipation) 
  • headaches 
  • irregular cycles 
  • acne and skin problems (like psoriasis) 
  • mood disorders (anxiety, depression) 
  • trouble sleeping 
  • trouble losing weight
  • and more 

What Makes a Food “Inflammatory”? 

A diet rich in foods that are inflammatory can promote the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), all signs the immune system has sprung into action. Inflammatory foods also tend to create an overall imbalance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines that are produced by the immune system.

These reactions are individualized, but some of the biggest culprits that spark this immune system reaction include a diet rich in the following:

  • fried foods
  • refined carbohydrates
  • sugar-sweetened drinks
  • processed meats
  • alcohol
  • ultra processed foods and unhealthy fats

While we know for example that fried foods can be inflammatory, it’s important to remember that one food eaten in one instance will not cause a chronic inflammatory response. Most often, it’s your comprehensive dietary patterns that matter the most. 

Foods that contribute to inflammation in the body

  • Saturated Fat: Foods that are higher in saturated fat like bacon, sausage, and deli meats with nitrites can increase inflammation.  
  • Ultra-Processed Foods: Highly processed foods containing trans fats or added sugars can increase inflammation in the body leading to an increased risk for developing disease.   
  • Alcohol: An excessive amount of alcohol has been shown to increase inflammatory markers in our bodies. The 2020-2025 dietary guidelines recommend that if you drink alcohol, you limit consumption to two drinks or less per day for men, and one drink or less per day for women. Click here to see the appropriate serving sizes.  
  • Refined carbohydrates: Foods like white bread and sugary cereals can raise blood sugar levels and promote inflammation. 
  • Vegetable oils: Contain Omega-6 and in large amounts can promote inflammation. It’s in direct opposition with omega-3, which is anti-inflammatory. Great oils to cook with instead include olive oil and avocado oil.
  • Sugar: Causes tissue damage and insulin resistance because it generates inflammation in the liver that impairs insulin sensitivity.

What can you do in your diet to help reduce chronic inflammation? 

  • Choose Color. Create a plate that is as colorful as possible! When we aim for making ½ of our plates fruits and vegetables, we are adding in phytonutrients. Phytonutrients, found in fruit and vegetables, play a role in cancer prevention, heart health, and inflammation.
  • Choose Lean Proteins. When picking your protein, select leaner cuts of meat like chicken and turkey. These will be lower in saturated fat. Incorporate “Meatless Mondays” into your week with plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, or tofu.
  • Choose Whole Grains. Choose carbohydrates that contain whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat/grain bread, and oats. Whole grains contain fiber that not only slows digestion and helps regulate our blood sugar, but also decreases inflammation.

What can you do outside of anti-inflammatory eating to reduce chronic inflammation?

  • Get enough sleep! Sleep quality and length gives our immune systems the support it needs to fight off chronic inflammation. As a result, the recommendation is 7-9 hours per night.
  • Get active. Incorporate movement into your daily routine. Most of us are sedentary throughout our days, but physical activity can help combat chronic inflammation. Find movement that you enjoy and look forward to. That can be going to a gym or class, or can be as simple as parking further away and walking to your destination, taking the stairs, or taking a walk after dinner. It’s recommended that we get 30-60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.  
  • Manage your stress. Stress in our bodies produces cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that increases inflammation in our bodies. By managing stress, we can decrease the amount of cortisol produced, therefore decreasing inflammation. 
  • Probiotics: A healthy gut microbiome can help regulate inflammation. Therefore eating foods rich in probiotics, like yogurt and fermented foods, or taking probiotic supplements, may be beneficial. Take a look at our blog on probiotics and its benefits!
  • Regular Health Checkups: In particular, regular checkups with your healthcare provider can help identify and manage underlying medical conditions that may be causing or exacerbating inflammation.

Free 3-Day Meal Plan that encourages anti-inflammatory eating

Adding anti-inflammatory foods into our diets can help decrease the inflammation that causes pain and stiffness in our joints, or exacerbates the pain caused by arthritis. Schedule with a Registered Dietitian but in the meantime, check out our FREE 3-day meal planner for meal ideas that incorporate anti-inflammatory eating and foods like whole-grains, colorful fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. 

How we can help with anti-inflammatory eating

At Anderson’s Nutrition, we focus on the four Pillars of Health – nutrition, movement, stress, and sleep – because we know each pillar plays a vital role in our overall health. Therefore if you are interested in working with one of our Registered Dietitians, they can create a custom, realistic plan for you that addresses all four Pillars! Click the button below to schedule an appointment online.