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Anti-inflammatory diet: what to eat to beat inflammation

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Certain foods can reduce or increase inflammation in your body. Find out the affects certain foods can have on your body and why putting the brakes on inflammation is a healthy thing to do.

It’s no secret that eating a healthy diet is good for you, but have you ever stopped to wonder whether what you’re putting on your plate is an inflammatory or an anti-inflammatory food – and why that matters?

Here’s what you need to know.

What is inflammation and is it unhealthy?

The fact is some inflammation is good for you. Acute inflammation is how your body heals or protects itself. In response to an infection, injury or the presence of an allergen, your body releases chemicals that trigger a short-term response from your immune system in the form of inflammation.  

Inflammation can also be long-lasting. This is known as chronic inflammation. When it happens, your body is subject to a steady, low-level immune response, leaving it in a constant state of alert. 

Long term, this can have a negative, destructive impact on your body and has been linked to an increased risk of a wide range of health problems. 

There are several factors that can cause or contribute to chronic inflammation, including chronic stress, smoking and being overweight.  

The benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet

The good news is that certain compounds in foods, including antioxidants, polyphenols and the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in fish,  have an anti-inflammatory effect.  

Various research has shown that eating an anti-inflammatory diet can be beneficial for everything from heart health  and mental wellbeing  to longevity. In some cases, diet may relief symptoms  associated with conditions that cause inflammation. 
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What is an anti-inflammatory diet?

There’s no one diet that’s been singled out as an anti-inflammatory diet, but it is known which foods show anti-inflammatory benefits and can easily be incorporated into your meal plan. 

A good place to start may to adopt a Mediterranean-style diet. A study conducted by the US National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) made the link between increased adherence to that way of eating, and better results when it came to common blood markers that indicate the presence of inflammation. 

Following a Mediterranean-style diet, as outlined by Harvard School of Public Health, is simple and is made up of many plant-based ingredients. 

Ensure wholegrains, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and nuts, as well as herbs and spices, make it onto your daily menu. 

Eggs and dairy, and fish or chicken, can also be incorporated a few times a week. 

It is recommended to limit red meat, if you eat it, to just a few times a month. 

Anti-inflammatory diet food list

To reduce levels of inflammation, it’s best to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet overall. 

However, there are a few foods that have been identified as being particularly helpful – and unhelpful – when it comes to the fight against chronic inflammation.

Foods to eat:
  • Olive oil
  • Leafy green vegetables, like spinach and kale
  • Tomatoes
  • Oily fish, like salmon, tuna and sardines
  • Nuts, such as almonds and walnuts
  • Fruits, especially cherries, blueberries, oranges and strawberries
  • Turmeric
Foods to avoid:
  • Processed meat, such as bacon and sausages
  • Fried foods
  • Refined carbohydrates, like white bread
  • Soft drinks, and other sugar-sweetened drinks
  • Red meat 
If you suffer from a condition that causes inflammation of the body, try amending your diet and see if you too can identify a reduction in symptoms. 

It is always recommended to discuss such changes with a health professional first before undertaking a new diet.