Are you ready to transform your health? Are you looking for a printable food list for an anti-inflammatory diet?
Let’s explore the anti-inflammatory diet- a culinary adventure to fight disease and soothe body pain with wholesome, delicious foods.
But hold on tight, because this blog post goes beyond just listing anti-inflammatory foods! We’ll unravel the mysteries of inflammation, who’s most vulnerable, and which foods fan the flames or douse them.
Plus, you’ll find a convenient, free printable shopping list!
Get ready to nourish your body, revitalize your spirit, and embrace a life of vitality with the anti-inflammatory diet! 🌱🍇🥑🐟🍴
So let’s dive in, shall we?
Short on time? Don’t leave now! Scroll to the bottom for health hacks you can implement TODAY.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is a critical part of your body’s immune system. It helps to remove dangerous bacteria and stimulate healing.
However, when this natural process shifts out of balance, the stage is set for chronic disease and pain.
Acute vs Chronic Inflammation
You are probably familiar with the type of inflammation that you can see and feel- redness, swelling, and skin that’s hot to the touch. This is called acute inflammation because it is fairly intense and typically resolves quickly.
Acute inflammation is part of the natural healing process that protects you when you get a wound or an infection.
Chronic inflammation is a more harmful type of inflammation that you cannot see. Think of chronic inflammation like the lint in your dryer- if you don’t check for it, you won’t see it. If you leave it too long you will surely start a fire or cause damage to the dryer.
When the immune system continues to send out inflammatory chemicals, even when it is not fighting an illness or healing a wound, then chronic inflammation can set in.
This invisible, persistent inflammation is often the root cause of chronic diseases. It can cause everything from heart disease to obesity to arthritis to cognitive decline.
In other words, we want a strong, active immune system, but we don’t want it to be over-active!
Chronic inflammation can be triggered by toxins, allergens, stress, or the disruption to our microbiome (healthy gut bacteria).
The Standard American Diet (aptly called the SAD diet) is associated with high levels of chronic inflammation (1). Typically high in calories with far too many processed foods, the SAD diet is characterized by excess saturated fat, sugar, salt, and refined carbohydrates.
Cleaning up your diet can significantly reduce your body’s inflammation levels!
Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation*
*If you do not have any of these signs or symptoms it does not mean you are home free! Not everyone experiences outward signs of chronic inflammation,
Health Benefits of an Anti-inflammatory Diet
There are many reasons why inflammation can spiral out of control. Diet is a common cause and something that we can easily control.
If the bad news is that food is a driver of chronic inflammation, the good news is that making healthy food choices can dramatically reduce inflammation and the symptoms associated with it!
Eating a wide variety of foods rich in fiber and healthy starches supports a beneficial array of healthy gut bacteria. Healthy gut bacteria reduce inflammation and promote a healthy immune system.
And if you don’t eat plenty of anti-inflammatory foods, you are missing out on their many benefits.
When you eat to reduce inflammation, you experience fewer aches and pains, improve your immune system, boost energy levels, and reduce your risk for chronic disease. Use the printable anti-inflammatory diet food list at the end of this post to up your inflammation game!
Inflammation and Free Radicals
Chronic inflammation stimulates the production of free radicals, harmful substances that can cause damage to cells.
When you have a build-up of free radicals in your body, healthy cells begin to break down. This speeds up aging and increases the risk of disease.
Anti-inflammatory foods tend to be powerful antioxidants as well, providing a one-two punch of simultaneously reducing inflammation and neutralizing or “turning off” free radicals.
Who Can Benefit from an Anti-inflammatory Diet?
The short answer: EVERYONE.
Even if you’re healthy, an anti-inflammatory diet will help you slow the aging process and stave off chronic disease.
If you suffer from an illness or condition rooted in inflammation, like one of the conditions listed below, an anti-inflammatory eating plan could provide tremendous relief and healing.
Although these conditions are technically different, they are all rooted in inflammation that causes symptoms such as pain, fatigue, body aches, and cognitive decline or brain fog.
Conditions That Benefit from an Anti-inflammatory Diet
Stress and Inflammation
Stress is inflammatory, and chronic stress can contribute to and exacerbate inflammation. Thus, the stress of implementing a new eating program has to be considered when trying to reduce inflammation!
A good anti-inflammatory diet is not rigid and stressful, but rather provides a general guideline to help you focus on eating more anti-inflammatory foods and fewer inflammation-driving foods.
Use the downloadable list of anti-inflammatory foods (found at the end of this blog post) to aim for continual improvement.
Focus on getting all of the colors and key food groups in each week to take the pressure off of eating a certain way each day and allow for flexibility in your schedule.
What NOT to Eat
The first step toward reducing inflammation is to curb or eliminate the foods that cause it. If you continue to fuel the fire of inflammation with inflammatory foods, your efforts toward eating more anti-inflammatory foods will have little chance of success.
As processed and convenience foods become more available, and more people eat them on a regular basis, the incidence of chronic diseases and cognitive decline are rising simultaneously.
Processed foods are basically foods with a label that are not grown from the earth and/or are not completely pure with nothing added. In other words, if Mother Nature didn’t make it, it’s probably processed.
Signs That a Food is Processed
Examples of Processed Foods
Unhealthy Oils and Fats
Processed oils are often extracted with hexane, a chemical that may cause cancer, and they are often inflammatory.
Unfortunately, the FDA does not regulate or test for hexane residue in processed oils, so there’s no way to know if and how much you may be inadvertently consuming.
Commonly found in packaged foods, fried foods, and spreads like margarine and some peanut butter, look for trans fats on nutrition labels when applicable.
Examples of Unhealthy Oils & Fats
Refined Sugars and Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates like brown rice and sweet potatoes are nutrient-dense foods that help reduce inflammation.
Simple carbohydrates, like sweets and refined (white) rice and bread, have little nutritional value. These foods can cause weight gain and insulin resistance, both of which create inflammation.
Examples of Inflammatory Carbohydrates
When it comes to inflammation, alcohol can be a double-edged sword. Too much alcohol increases your risk of liver disease, heart disease, and stroke (4). It is best to stick to no more than 2 drinks/day for men and 1 drink/day for women.
Red meat is tricky also. Studies that look at large populations and their eating habits have found that red meat can create inflammation and lead to diseases like heart disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 2 diabetes (5).
However, many of those studies include highly processed meats like bacon, sausage, and bologna. This makes it difficult to distinguish whether it is the red meat itself, or the processing of the red meat, that increases disease risk (6).
A review of 148 studies found that high red meat consumption (both processed and unprocessed) was associated with an increased risk of cancer (7).
Studies suggest that pasture-raised, organic meats are safer and healthier. The fats in pasture-raised red meat are more nutritious and provide healthy benefits when compared to conventionally raised red meat (8, 9).
Fried foods are a double whammy of inflammatory food. They typically contain sugars or refined carbohydrates, which create inflammation by raising blood sugar too quickly.
Fried foods also produce chemicals in the body called advanced glycation end products (appropriately called AGEs) that promote aging and increase the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease (10).
What You SHOULD Eat
An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on deeply colored fruits and vegetables, wild-caught fatty fish, nuts/seeds, lean high-quality protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and herbs and spices.
It strongly discourages processed foods, unhealthy oils and fats, and alcohol. In other words, an anti-inflammatory diet promotes foods that are rich in antioxidants and limits those that increase the production of free radicals.
These diets do not provide a specific meal plan, as a weight loss diet might, but rather provide guidelines for eating an overall healthy diet with potent anti-inflammatory properties. They are designed to be flexible lifelong eating plans.
The strongest anti-inflammatories in your food are the phytonutrients (also called phytochemicals) found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables.
Phytonutrients are powerful substances that reduce inflammation through multiple mechanisms, including fighting free radical damage to cells and DNA (11).
Each phytonutrient has its own superpower! It’s best to consume a variety of colorful fruits and veggies to take full advantage of the healing power of these amazing compounds.
Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, bok choy, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, have especially potent anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to sulforaphane and other phytonutrients found in this rock-star class of vegetables (12, 13).
Anti-inflammatory Diet Principles
Top Anti-inflammatory Foods
Colorful Fruits and Vegetables
Orange and Yellow
Blue and Purple
White and Brown
Use oils that are in their most natural form. Look for extra virgin and unrefined varieties whenever possible and make an extra effort to consume oils rich in monounsaturated fats and essential omega-3 fatty acids.
Nuts and Seeds
All nuts and seeds are beneficial provided they are raw and preferably unsalted. Roasted nuts are often cooked with low-quality, inflammatory oils.
Wild-caught, smaller varieties of fatty fish are less likely to have mercury and other inflammatory chemicals.
Whole grains are rich in fiber which feeds beneficial gut bacteria and reduces inflammation. However, for some people, the gluten found in wheat products can be very inflammatory.
If you are sensitive to gluten or suspect it may be contributing to your inflammation, choose whole grains that are gluten-free.
Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices are tiny nutrient-dense powerhouses. Add them whenever possible to soups, stews, stir-fries, sauces, and even beverages like coffee or tea.
Is Red Wine Anti-inflammatory?
There is some controversy over whether the antioxidants in red wine can reduce inflammation and the risk of chronic disease.
Red wine is rich in resveratrol, a phytonutrient found mostly in red grapes, that has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Since there is no clear answer, the best recommendation is to consume no more than one glass per day for women or two per day for men. However, if you do not currently consume alcohol regularly, it is best not to start.
Printable Food List for Anti-inflammatory Diet (FREE)
Congratulations! You’re now equipped with the ultimate tool to embark on your journey toward a healthier and inflammation-free life.
With this free printable anti-inflammatory diet food list, you have all the information you need at your fingertips.
Get Your Printable Anti-inflammatory Food List (PDF)!
Start incorporating these nourishing choices into your daily meals and feel the positive impact on your well-being. Here’s to a happier, healthier you!
Pam is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a Master’s of Public Health and a Certificate in Integrative and Functional Nutrition. Passionate about the science of health and nutrition, she loves to share her knowledge to help others live healthy, vibrant lives. When not working, Pam can be found hiking, traveling, and enjoying great-tasting, nutritious food.