The Anti-Inflammatory Diet: What It Can Do and How to Make It Work for You

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By Bembu

It’s no secret that a healthy diet is essential for living a long, disease-free life. The healthier you eat, the less likely you are to get sick. The more junk you put into your body, the sicker you will be. This is where diets like the anti-inflammatory diet come from — the idea that healthy eating is a helpful defense against some of the world’s deadliest chronic diseases. It’s not a wrong assumption, as long as you don’t take science to the extreme.

Some people jump to the conclusion that chronic inflammation directly causes disease. This isn’t entirely accurate. Inflammation is more often a symptom of many chronic conditions, like arthritis or irritable bowel syndrome, and even makes them worse. It’s a bit of a stretch to say inflammation is entirely to blame for contracting a disease. There are many factors that increase your disease risk, not just your body’s immune response going into overdrive.


However, what you eat can influence whether or not you develop a condition like heart disease. Following an anti-inflammatory diet, therefore, can still help prevent inflammation — it just does so by reducing your risk for many diseases where inflammation is involved. It’s an extremely healthy diet, encouraging you to eat foods any nutrition professional would approve of. Read on to learn why it’s so good for you.

What is the anti-inflammatory diet?

Originally developed by Harvard-educated doctor Andrew Weil, the anti-inflammatory diet’s primary goal is just what it sounds like. The objective is to reduce the risk of developing age-related diseases and conditions by treating chronic inflammation with diet. Preventing disease leads to a much healthier — and hopefully much longer — life. Avoiding inflammation-worsening foods, and eating more foods said to fight inflammation in the body, is a lot easier than you think.

Unlike many difficult to follow diets out there, the anti-inflammatory diet is designed for long-term use. It’s sustainable, especially if you modify it slightly to include all fruits and vegetables, both organic and non-organic. (The original diet prohibits eating fruits and vegetables that aren’t organic, which isn’t very affordable. You can follow an anti-inflammatory diet without this rule and still benefit from it.)

You’ll eat as many calories as you need, cut out potentially harmful foods, and learn to prepare healthy recipes you can share with family and friends. Let’s take a look at some of its other benefits, including possible disease prevention.

Benefits

The anti-inflammatory diet is based on the Mediterranean diet, so the two share similar benefits.

Heart health

The anti-inflammatory diet is extremely beneficial for your heart, possibly lowering your risk of heart disease while also combatting inflammation. Foods like fatty fish, nuts, avocados, and olive oil all contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can help keep your heart and all its essential components running at full capacity.

Weight loss

There are a few key reasons why the anti-inflammatory diet may also be able to help you lose weight and reduce your obesity risk. A high-fiber, high-protein diet leaves less room for high-sodium, high-sugar, and high-saturated fatty foods, which can all contribute to weight gain. The diet also encourages you to eliminate processed junk foods, which contribute to weight gain for the same reason.

Blood sugar control

Eating too much processed sugar is a major contributor to the development of type 2 diabetes. Dumping too much sugar into your bloodstream overworks your pancreas, which can send you into a harmful state of insulin resistance. The anti-inflammatory diet can actually improve your insulin sensitivity and prevent — sometimes even reverse — its negative, often inflammatory effects on your body.

Guidelines

Calories

The anti-inflammatory diet encourages you to eat anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day, well within mainstream dietary recommendations. The majority of these calories should come from healthy carbohydrates, though protein and healthy fats also play a prominent role in the success of the diet.

Active dieters will typically consume more calories to compensate for energy burn. If you’re trying to lose weight, you may want to consume 500 calories less than usual, along with a variety of physical activities to build muscle while burning fat.

Carbs

Ratio: About 40 to 50 percent of daily calories

To keep things simple, there are two types of carbs you should be aware of: healthy, and refined. Healthy carbs include foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and many grains. Refined carbs make up most of the processed junk foods you know and love, such as breakfast cereals and sugary drinks.

You should aim to eat mostly healthy carbs, which are typically lower in sugar and higher in fiber. Eating a variety of foods, encouraged in most healthy diets and meal plans, will help you incorporate more healthy carbs into every meal.

Protein

Ratio: About 20 to 30 percent of daily calories

Protein isn’t just something you devour after a workout to get that six-pack you have always dreamed of (though it certainly helps — sort of). Protein is essential if you want all your body’s systems to function properly. Knowing the best sources can help you eat plenty of protein while taking advantage of other foods’ many health benefits at the same time.

On the anti-inflammatory diet, you will want to avoid processed red meats, such as hot dogs and some types of bacon and sausages. You can also get a large percentage of your protein from plant based sources to pack even more benefits into each meal and snack.

Some beneficial plant protein sources include:

  • Lentils
  • Black beans
  • Wild rice
  • Chickpeas
  • Chia seeds
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Nuts and nut butters

Fat

Ratio: About 30 percent of daily calories

The anti-inflammatory diet encourages consuming mostly healthy fats, and avoiding foods high in saturated fat as much as possible. This is one reason why butter, processed meats, and processed junk foods aren’t typically part of this diet. Many manufacturers add sugars and saturated fat to products to improve texture, flavor, and shelf-life.

Healthy fats are good for your heart. According to Healthline, fatty fish, avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil are all excellent sources of healthy fats.

Fiber

According to Mayo Clinic, fiber doesn’t just fill you up faster by moving through your digestive system slowly. It can also help you lose weight, protect your heart, and control your blood sugar. No wonder the anti-inflammatory diet encourages slow-digesting carbs!

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