An anti-inflammatory diet is one that reduces the consumption of foods which increases chronic inflammation and substitutes foods that decrease chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is a helpful process when it is appropriate to the cause. For instance, if you have an infection, your body will mount an inflammatory response that kills off the infecting bacteria and helps you get well again.
However, chronic inflammation is not good for the body and points to the damage being done by pro-inflammatory substances within the body.
Inflammation is measured with a blood test that looks for a substance called c reactive protein (CRP). Levels of this protein increase in the blood as body inflammation becomes more widespread.
Certain foods and supplements are an important part of an anti-inflammatory diet, and they can lower your levels of c reactive protein, just as other foods can raise CRP.
Generally, foods higher in saturated fats and Omega 3 fatty acids are less inflammatory, while foods that are higher in Omega 6 fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids are more inflammatory.
Natural Saturated Fats vs Polyunsaturated Fats
Fact: When a consumed food is unstable chemically, it causes reactions that damage the tissue with which it comes into contact. This reaction causes inflammation.
Foods that are chemically unstable include foods that are high in polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats (or PUFAs) are fats that have chemical bonds which are unstable (i.e., the chemical bonds are “unsaturated”).
These chemically unstable bonds cause PUFAs to oxidize quickly in the presence of oxygen and light, and this oxidation sets off the damaging chemical reactions in the body that lead to inflammation.
In contrast, saturated fats are very stable, chemically speaking, because their chemical bonds are “saturated”. The more naturally saturated a fat is, the more chemically stable it is. These natural saturated fats don’t oxidize easily, and they are less inflammatory when consumed.
Other sources about inflammation have stated that saturated fat is inflammatory, but the above information contradicts that assumption, and this reference confirms this.
Vegetable oils, and indeed all polyunsaturated oils, are highly unstable and are easily oxidized after consumption. It is this peroxidation process that results in large amounts of free radical molecules that damage the body.
In addition, excess carbohydrate (sugar and starch) consumption is inflammatory and is associated with the markers of insulin resistance (Metabolic Syndrome), which are closely related to inflammation. See this study, this article, and this study.
Carbohydrates cause inflammation because they increase blood sugar dramatically, which has the effect of increasing blood insulin levels. Insulin is pro-inflammatory.
Foods which Reduce Inflammation
- Eggs, especially organic eggs from free-range chickens (reference)
- Whole raw milk and raw dairy products from grass-fed cows (reference)
- Grass-fed beef and other meat from grass-fed animals; free-range poultry – these are higher in Omega 3 fatty acids
- Natural Omega 3 fats, such as alpha-linolenic acid and conjugated linolenic acid found in grass-fed meats.
- Organic, virgin coconut oil
- Small amounts of polyphenol-rich foods. These foods help the body break down the unstable polyunsaturated fats in the diet in a less damaging way.Foods rich in polyphenols include:
- Pungent spices such as ginger, cayenne and turmeric
- Cold-pressed, organic olive oil
- Dark chocolate in moderate amounts (70% cocoa or more)
- Blueberries and citrus fruits
- Red wine
Supplements Which Reduce Inflammation
- B complex vitamins, especially B6, folic acid and B12
- Choline especially for fatty liver issues
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- CoQ10 (Ubiquinol)
Foods Which Increase Inflammation
These foods should be avoided on an anti-inflammatory diet:
- Omega 6 fats: refined vegetable oils, such as corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, and canola oil
- Hydrogenated fats, such as margarine, shortening
- Foods fried in vegetable oils
- Foods with a high glycemic load. This would include sugars in any form: white sugar, brown sugar, turbinado, fructose, agave, honey and especially high fructose corn syrup. (reference)
- Fruit and fruit juices, especially those with high sugar content (banana, mango, etc.)
- Whole grains, including wheat, rye, barley and corn, and the flours made from them. Also any products made with grain flours: bagels, bread, tortillas, crackers, cookies, pasta, cake, etc. Wheat glutens are especially inflammatory.
- Beans, seeds, and legumes such as peanuts
- Processed foods that have chemical additives to enhance flavor or appearance.
- Foods containing soy products such as soy milk, soy protein, soy fillers, and soy “meat”.
- Grain-fed commercial chicken, beef and pork – the meat from these factory fed animals are low in Omega 3 fats, and high in Omega 6 fats.
In addition, nightshade vegetables can be inflammatory for some individuals. Nightshades include:
However, for the most part, an anti-inflammatory diet is one that relies on clean, organic whole foods and avoids processed, refined vegetable oils, sugars, and other pro-inflammatory foods.
Resources for Further Reading
- NFKB (NF Kappa Beta), the critical player in the inflammation process in the body.
- The Inflammation Syndrome: Your Nutrition Plan for Great Health, Weight Loss, and Pain-Free Living by Jack Challem