Looking down on a table filled with various different fruit and a bowl of oats representing a good anti-inflammatory diet option. There are also some vegetables like avocado which is also great for inflammation

When you think of inflammation, you probably picture the rash you get from poison ivy or a bump that swells up when you hit your head. However there’s another more silent, constant, low-level type of inflammation that occurs with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and diabetes. The good news? You can influence your body’s background levels by eating specific foods in an Anti-Inflammatory Diet.

An anti-inflammatory diet can help if you live with a chronic autoimmune illness, are trying to ward off these types of illnesses, or if you just feel sluggish and want to improve your health.

What Is Inflammation?

Inflammation can be a friend or foe. Inflammation is your immune system’s reaction to an injury, allergen, bacteria, or anything else it identifies as a concern.

First, your body will fight these attackers, and then it will help that region to heal. Inflammation is good when the injury is short-term, like an insect bite or cut, but when it lingers in the body, it can lower your overall immunity.

There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation dies down once the issue is resolved. Chronic inflammation occurs when your immune system remains on alert, keeping a “low flame” going all the time. And too “heat” can do serious damage.


Inflammation has a direct connection to the digestive tract. The microbiome (bacteria and other microorganisms that live in your gut) help to regulate your immune system.

Everything you eat, the supplements you take, and your environment all affect the health of your gut. What you put in your stomach can either kindle or douse the flame of your body’s immune response.

For example, a poor diet that is too high in calories or unhealthy fats, can activate your body’s inflammatory process. However, a diet with the right balance of dietary omega-3 fatty acids (which control inflammation) and omega-6 fatty acids (which stimulate inflammation) along with exercise, sleep, water, and stress reduction can normalise inflammation and help your body thrive.


What you don’t eat on an anti-inflammatory diet is just as important as what you do eat. Instead of eating foods that trigger inflammation, provide your system with dietary choices that soothe it.

Centred on fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, healthy fats, herbs, and spices, an anti-inflammatory diet shares many of the features of a plant-based Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to extend length and quality of life.

Research also suggests that vegetarians and vegans have reduced inflammation and a lower risk of heart disease.

So firstly, be sure not to go overboard on carbohydrates, especially sugar, which can upset the balance of hormones in your body that affect inflammation. Experts suggest you fill your plate according to the 40-30-30 rule:

  • 40 percent complex carbohydrates
  • 30 percent low-fat protein
  • 30 percent healthy fats


Try to eat a rainbow of non-starchy vegetables and fresh fruit at every meal. Colourful produce typically contains a lot of antioxidants, which support the immune system by fighting disease-causing free radicals and preventing inflammation.

Fruit and vegetables also contain phytochemicals, compounds found in plants that help protect cells.


You can’t go wrong with most vegetables, but make sure to include the following:

  • Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collards
  • Cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage
  • Root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and rutabaga
  • Onions, garlic, scallions, and other edible bulbs

Some people are sensitive to produce in the nightshade family (including eggplant, tomatoes, and bell peppers), but for most people, these are also great choices.


Increase your intake of:

  • Berries such as blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, and raspberries
  • Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and limes
  • Stone fruits like cherries, plums, nectarines, olives, and avocadoes
  • Pome fruits like apples, pears, and quince

Citrus fruit is a great choice unless you have a citrus allergy, which can actually cause inflammation.

Fruit contains natural sugars, called fructose. When you eat fructose along with the fibre and other components of a fruit, your body processes it in a different way than processed sugar.

Legumes And Peas

Legumes, including beans and lentils, are a great source of protein and are chock full of fibre and minerals along with several antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Buy organic black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, or red, green, or black lentils. Choose your favourite legume, soak overnight, and toss out that liquid before adding fresh water, and then cook it. You can also eat green peas for their anti-inflammatory benefits.

Gluten-Free Whole Grains

Whole grains contain both antioxidants and fibre, and research suggests they help reduce the inflammation marker called C-reactive protein (CRP). Always choose gluten-free grains however, because gluten can lead to digestive and systemic inflammation in many people.

Your best whole grain choices include oats, steel-cut oatmeal, barley, brown rice, bulgur, quinoa, and ancient grains such as amaranth, teff, and buckwheat.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is a healthy fat, good for cooking and recipes. EVOO contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, antioxidants, plus a compound called oleocanthal that can lower inflammation.

EVOO should be your go-to for stove-top cooking, drizzling on salads, and more.

Nuts And Seeds

Nuts and seeds are rich in monounsaturated fat, and they contain heart-healthy fibre. Try raw seeds and nuts for optimal nutrition. Good choices include unsalted walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.

Herbs And Spices

Besides adding zest to meals, herbs and spices contain many antioxidants. The golden Indian spice turmeric is particularly powerful. Turmeric contains curcumin, which is extremely effective at normalising redness and swelling.

Garlic, ginger, and cinnamon also have particularly strong inflammation-fighting properties.


Just as there is food you should eat on an anti-inflammatory diet, you should avoid certain foods that aggravate inflammation in the body. Below are the most important foods to avoid.

Processed Food

Many commercial products in the supermarket are highly refined and processed. As such, they are low on nutrients and fibre. They also tend to be high in omega-6 fats (which lead to more inflammation), saturated fats, and trans fats. Processed foods also typically contain added sugars, which raise blood sugar and rev up inflammation.

Stay away from chips, crackers and other snack foods, white bread and pasta, most boxed breakfast cereals, mixes, and frozen dinners.


Sugar is one of the worst offenders at triggering inflammation. It causes the body to release cytokines, chemical messengers that amp up your immune system, causing systemic swelling.

When trying to avoid inflammation in the body, sidestep all sweets. Avoid biscuits, sweets, and cakes, ice cream, and sugar-sweetened beverages like soda, lemonade, and sweet tea.

Stay away not only from refined brown and white granulated sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, but also natural sweeteners with a high sugar content like honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup.

If you must have something sweet, have a small amount of organic dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa. Also avoid artificial chemical sweeteners like aspartame, saccharine, and Splenda.

Fried Food

Fried food, especially deep fried, contain inflammation-triggering saturated fats and trans fats. They are typically fried in unhealthy oils, like processed “vegetable oil” or lard, and are typically coated in batter made from refined flour. Steer clear of anything fried, especially fast food such as french fries and donuts.


Meat may be central to the standard western diet, but it is highly inflammatory, in part because it is laden with saturated fat, hormones, and antibiotics. Studies have linked processed meats with chemical additives, like nitrates, to cancer. So say no to beef, lamb, poultry (chicken, turkey, duck), and game meats, along with hot dogs, sausage, pepperoni, and beef jerky.

Most Fats And Oils

As noted, both saturated and polyunsaturated fats are high in inflammation-promoting omega-6 fatty acids, and trans fats also raise your “bad” cholesterol.

Instead of using butter and margarine to add flavour to your food, use herbs and spices. Avoid cooking with lard, shortening, or vegetable oils including canola, corn, soybean, safflower, peanut, or cottonseed. There are some healthy cooking oils you can use, but lighten your load and cut down.


An anti-inflammatory diet has two big benefits:

  • It can help you reduce the risk of developing diseases related to chronic over-activation of the immune system.
  • It not only eases symptoms but may even reverse the progress of chronic ailments you may already have, including:
  • Chronic gastrointestinal ailments like inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, and Crohn’s disease
  • Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and lupus
  • Allergic disorders such as asthma and eosinophilic esophagitis
  • Cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and stroke
  • Metabolic disorders such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome – a group of conditions including elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and sometimes fatty liver disease
  • Mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety

An anti-inflammatory diet can also help reduce the risk of colorectal and other cancers by protecting healthy cells from DNA damage.

As a bonus, this diet can help you lose weight; weight gain is itself a cause of inflammation. The healthy fats and fibre in the diet help fill you up, so you’ll eat less.

*For more information and references, please visit wakeup-world.com