How to Eat an Anti-inflammatory Diet
and why you should
guest post by Dr. Heather Tick
Inflammation is linked to a number of chronic illnesses including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and of course, chronic pain.
As a pain specialist, eating habits are always a part of the discussions I have with my patients. Food has the power to change your body chemistry from meal to meal, and with that, the level of inflammation you experience.
Not all inflammation is bad though. In fact, we need inflammation to survive, it’s involved in the first stage of healing.
Our health becomes compromised when the levels of inflammation in our body get out of control and remain elevated for longer periods of time.
This is linked to oxidative stress and free radical damage.
Oxidative stress happens in our body all the time through the normal processes of our metabolism and it it increased by lifestyle habits like smoking, chemical exposure from toxins like cleaning products and pesticides, and from excess stress or insufficient sleep.
Poor food choices also add to the body’s burden of free radicals.Inflammation is linked to a number of chronic illnesses including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and of course, chronic pain. Click To Tweet
What is an anti-inflammatory diet?
An anti-inflammatory diet is a healthy whole-foods style of eating.
It’s a not a “diet” in the sense of a short-term change or fad.
The higher intake of antioxidants in an anti-inflammatory diet helps to prevent a number of chronic diseases, boost immunity, and neutralize free radicals in the body.
The best anti-inflammatory foods are plant-based.
And, while you don’t need to go fully vegetarian to reap the benefits, I do recommend reducing your intake of animal products, and investing in good quality sources when you do eat them.
What are the guidelines for eating an anti-inflammatory diet?
To eat an anti-inflammatory diet, the underlying goal is to eat food as close to its natural form as possible.
If you want to start eating a more anti-inflammatory diet for better health, below are some guidelines you can follow.
- Eat leafy greens every day
- Make half your plate vegetables
- Aim for variety—eat the rainbow of colorful foods
- Choose whole grains
- Try more plant-based proteins
- Eat healthy sources of fat
- Limit animal proteins
You can also download my guide to 15 healing foods to reduce pain to help you make simple swaps for a healthier lifestyle.
What foods should be avoided in an anti-inflammatory diet?
The following foods should be limited or avoided for an anti-inflammatory diet:
- Processed foods
- Artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners
- Refined sugar
- Red meat
- Soda, sugary juices and alcohol
- Poor quality fats and oils (vegetable oil, canola oil etc.)
- Fried foods
- Gluten (for those who have issues digesting it)
- Food allergens
What are some anti-inflammatory foods for natural pain relief?
The following foods are great for anyone following an anti-inflammatory diet. Keep
in mind, this is just a few examples, and certainly not an exhaustive list. Always strive for whole foods, and eat an abundance of plant foods.
- Seasonal fruits and vegetables. ··
- Leafy greens (collards, kale, spinach, dandelion greens)
- Starchy veggies (sweet potatoes, yams, squash etc.)
- Whole grains (quinoa, oats, brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat,
- spelt etc)
- Beans & legumes (chickpeas, black beans, lentils, mung beans, kidney beans etc.)
- Organic tofu or tempeh
- Organic humanely raised animal-proteins
- Nuts (walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, pecans)
- Seeds (hemp seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
- Omega-3 fats (chia seeds, flax seeds, cold water fish)
- Oils (extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, flax oil)
What are Anti-inflammatory superfoods?
These two foods have specific anti-inflammatory properties that have been studied for their ability to reduce inflammation and pain. I always recommend them to my patients and include them in my own diet as often as possible.
It’s great in soups, stews, curries, stir-frys and scrambled eggs or tofu. For best absorption, you want to eat turmeric with black pepper and a healthy source of fat.
I have a few recipes on my website that use turmeric, and below are a couple of my favorites:
Ginger inhibits the enzyme COX2, a substance that increases inflammation in the body. It’s also great for digestion and nausea.
You can make tea with it, or add it to smoothies, stir-frys and soups. Here are a couple recipes that use ginger:
What are the best ways to cook for an anti-inflammatory diet?
Once you stock your fridge with healthy foods, you want to make sure you’re cooking in a way that preserves nutrition.
That means limiting or avoiding the deep fryer, and opting for steaming, sautéing, baking or occasionally roasting.
It’s also great to eat some of your vegetables raw, since they’ll maintain different nutrients and enzymes that way.
You could eat a side salad with your meal, or have your cooked foods on top of a raw bed of greens for example.
Cooking with oils is another area you need to be a bit careful, since certain fats and oils are not intended for high heats and will go rancid.
Rancid oils create more free radical damage in the body increasing inflammation.
Coconut oil is great for higher heat, and you can also sauté with water or vegetable broth as an alternative.
Oils like flax seed or hemp seed oil are not intended for cooking and should be reserved for salad dressings and cold foods.
Nutrition is one of our best tools for combating pain naturally.
I’ve seen the benefit time and time again with my patients. There are no harmful side effects, and it truly is effective.
If you’re currently eating the Standard American Diet, try taking small steps towards a healthier, more anti-inflammatory diet. Over time eating this way will become more natural to you, and you’ll feel better as well.
About Dr. Heather Tick MD:
For over 30 years Dr. Heather Tick has dedicated herself to researching evidence-based holistic treatments for pain and inflammation.
A multiple-book author, including the highly acclaimed Holistic Pain Relief – An In-Depth Guide to Managing Chronic Pain, Dr. Tick empowers her patients to live free of pain and full of life.
She is the first holder of the prestigious Gunn-Loke Endowed Professorship of Integrative Pain Medicine at the University of Washington and a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Washington in the departments of Family Medicine and Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine.
For more information from Dr. Heather Tick MD, visit her website at http://www.heathertickmd.com
- Improving fibromyalgia symptoms with food
- Could food sensitivities be making your fibromyalgia symptoms worse?
- Lifestyle management with chronic illness
- 6 Easy diet changes to make you feel better
- Changing your diet: The Kaizen plan for healthy eating