Why an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Is Key to a Truly Healthy Lifestyle
7 minute read
Diets seem to come and go. Every year the latest and trendiest diet is released, but do they really help? For those struggling with inflammation, none of these diets will ever make a difference.
An anti-inflammatory diet is not about losing weight, but about promoting health and reducing inflammatory-related pains and symptoms. It just so happens that this diet is also balanced and nutritious, so it just might be the diet we have all been looking for.
It’s long-term health, not short-term, temporary gains.
Inflammation and Your Health
While some people struggle with systemic inflammation more than others, it is still a condition that can impact everyone. A diet that aims to reduce this will inevitably be beneficial to all.
Inflammation in small doses is a good thing and a part of your immune response to remove pathogens. But certain situations cause widespread inflammation, and this is dangerous. Arthritis, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are just some of the possible outcomes.
An anti-inflammatory diet is a natural way to reduce inflammation and promote overall health and well-being. The majority of cases of systemic inflammation are caused by poor diet.
Sadly, the typical Western diet is comprised of the top inflammatory triggers, including sugars, high-fats, and processed foods. In stark contrast, the Mediterranean diet is full of healthy fats, lean protein, nuts, legumes, and whole grains that prevent inflammation.
You truly are what you eat, and when processed foods are the main component of your menu, your health takes a hit. These foods are full of ingredients that allow harmful bacteria in your gut to thrive. When they take over, inflammation is the result.
When you limit these foods and follow an anti-inflammatory diet, the health of your gut improves as does your overall well-being.
The anti-inflammatory diet is easy to follow and is based on a few key principles that will bring you success.
Omega-3 fatty acids: These are instrumental to the diet and important to your health. As compared to unhealthy fats, which consist of omega-6 fatty acids, these fatty acids help support your body and promote optimal function.
While both omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids are part of a balanced diet, what needs to be remembered is balance. The anti-inflammatory diet tips the ratio in favor of omega-3s, which is more favorable to your health.
Antioxidants: Important in reducing inflammation, no foods contain more natural antioxidants than fresh fruits and vegetables. Phytonutrients found in these foods scavenge free radicals that cause oxidative damage and inflammation.
Healthy proteins: Some sources of protein like red meat contain a higher saturated fat content, which stimulates the activity of inflammatory chemicals. Leaner sources of protein, like poultry and fish, are healthier for you.
When you do want a cut of red meat, be sure to choose grass-fed options to ensure you get minimal amounts of harmful saturated fat.
Reducing refined carbohydrates: Cutting back on these reduces inflammation because these foods are high on the glycemic index and exacerbate inflammatory conditions.
These carbohydrates are common among processed and convenience foods and can elevate blood sugar levels, which in turn elevates inflammatory marker levels. They also increase your risk of diabetes and obesity.
The use of beneficial spices: Much of the reason for the success of anti-inflammatory diets, natural compounds in spices have been used for centuries to treat inflammation and disease.
The use of natural spices to season food removes the need for salt. Excess sodium in your blood can cause elevated blood pressure as well as inflammation.
In addition to this, certain spices contain beneficial properties that fight inflammation directly. Turmeric is one such spice, and the key ingredient, curcumin, has been used to treat inflammatory conditions for centuries.
The Road to a New Diet and a New You
As with any diet, it is important to make changes slowly. Because everyone is different, we each have different trigger foods to identify and eliminate.
An anti-inflammatory diet is great for those looking to treat a specific condition as well as people who just want to get healthy. Regardless of your reason, starting and sticking to an anti-inflammatory diet will promote optimal health and encourage protection from some of the worst diseases we face.
Following an anti-inflammatory diet is easy when you follow a simple food pyramid structure. The foods at the bottom are to be eaten in large quantities, and as you move up the pyramid, the foods are still beneficial, but less is required.
The Base Level
When the diet is followed carefully, the base will provide most of the nutrients you need and keep you full.
At the base level of the pyramid, color is the key. Be sure to add all the colors of the rainbow and eat fresh fruits and veggies throughout the day. Ideally, you want to eat two or three servings at both lunch and dinner and include a few snacks throughout the day.
In slightly smaller amounts, you want to eat healthy carbohydrates and whole grains like brown rice and quinoa.
Moving up the pyramid, you want to eat nuts and seeds as well as healthier fat foods like avocado.
| Related: The 12 Most Antioxidant-Rich Foods |
Anti-inflammatory proteins need to be eaten in moderation and should include freshwater fish like herring, whole soy, and tofu. Smaller amounts of other proteins can also be consumed like eggs, natural cheeses, and poultry.
Finally, you can reward yourself with a few anti-inflammatory treats like dark chocolate and red wine. While these are helpful, moderation is essential because too much can have the opposite effect and trigger unwanted inflammation.
The Bottom Line
Inflammation can be a real problem, but it is easy to control with the right steps. The numerous medications on the market were designed to do this, but often natural resources are more effective.
By switching to an anti-inflammatory diet, you can eliminate inflammatory-related issues without the risk of side effects. Even if you don’t have any inflammatory conditions, this diet will boost your overall health, promote longevity, and ensure that inflammation never gets the upper hand.