Just as injury causes inflammation, eating the wrong foods can irritate our bodies and cause oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Inflammation in our bodies can show up as joint pain, muscle aches, skin irritation and more. And chronic inflammation plays a role in nearly every major illness, including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
One of the most powerful ways to fight chronic inflammation is by following an anti-inflammatory style of eating. By eating anti-inflammatory foods, you may help reduce inflammation and improve symptoms of some common health conditions.
An anti-inflammatory diet is not a specific diet you will follow. Instead, it’s a way of eating that emphasizes plants for their fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals and encourages foods that are closer to their natural state (not processed).
Foods to eat as part of anti-inflammatory diet
- Foods rich in phytochemicals -Brightly colored fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, and teas
- Foods rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates -Whole grains, beans, lentils, fruits and vegetables
- Foods rich in omega-3 fats -Cold water fish (herring, halibut, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout, tuna), seeds (flax, chia, hemp), walnuts
- Foods rich in plant-based protein - Beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh
- Foods rich in monounsaturated fats -Olive oil, olives, avocado, nuts, seeds
- Foods rich in probiotics - Fermented foods: yogurt, pickles, miso, sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi
Foods to limit or avoid as part of an anti-inflammatory diet
- Excessive consumption of red and processed meat - Particularly animal products from grain-fed, conventionally-raised livestock and processed meats like bacon, deli meat, some sausages or charred/burned foods (due to their high presence of nitrates and nitrites)
- Refined foods with simple carbohydrates and added sugars - "white" foods: bread, rice, pasta, sweets and desserts, sugar-sweetened beverages
- Foods with trans fats - Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fat in margarine, processed and deep-fried foods such as pastries and doughnuts
- Excessive alcohol
How can I get started eating anti-inflammatory today?
Making even small changes to you diet that you know you will stick to, and building from there will go a long way to helping you practice an anti-inflammatory style of eating.
- Build a healthy plate with each meal (see below)
- Choose wild-caught salmon or halibut for dinner two times per week
- Start your day with a veggie scramble using free range or omega-3 enriched eggs
- Use extra-virgin olive oil for sautéing veggies
- Top oatmeal with chopped walnuts or chia seeds
- Top salads with fresh or canned sardines
- Replace one sugar-sweetened beverage each day with a glass of unsweetened herbal or green tea
- Choose whole grains such as quinoa and brown rice instead of refined grain bread or pasta
- Dip veggie slices in guacamole or hummus instead of chips
- Replace sweet snacks with fresh fruit and a few raw nuts
- Enjoy a meatless meal such as vegetarian chili or tofu-vegetable stir-fry
How to build a healthy plate
- 1⁄2 of your plate: Non-starchy vegetables– asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, peppers, spinach and other salad greens, squash, tomatoes
- 1⁄4 of your plate: Lean protein – fish, skinless white meat poultry, beans, peas, lentils, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, tofu and leans cuts of beef. When buying fresh beef, sirloin and tenderloin steaks, eye of round roast, and round steak are all among the leanest cuts.
- 1⁄4 of your plate: Fiber-rich carbohydrates- whole grains, starchy vegetables, or fruit
- Include a source of healthy fat - like avocados, nuts or nut butters, olive oil, flax seeds
Optimize your lifestyle to gain more anti-inflammatory benefits
When you practice an anti-inflammatory lifestyle, you will know it’s paying off when you start feeling better. There are many ways your body may respond, but you may begin by noticing:
- More energy
- Clearer skin
- Decreased muscle or joint pain
- Decreased swelling in your hands and feet
- Fewer headaches
- Improvements in gastrointestinal symptoms (less bloating, diarrhea, gas, nausea, stomach pain)
- Improved sleep
Eating a healthy diet supports your body against inflammation and disease as you age. If you need some guidance on how to incorporate these foods into your diet on a regular basis, consider working with our integrated care team who are experts in supporting women in menopause. They will help you create a personalized plan that will optimize your nutrition and other lifestyle factors, as well as offer the support to create healthy habits for the long-term.