Inflammation from time to time is a good thing and is what helps us heal from things like physical injuries and infections (1). However, inflammation that is ongoing and long term is linked to several diseases (1,2). Several things can affect inflammation in your body. This post will focus on the foods that promote inflammation, decrease inflammation, and simple swaps you can start doing today to have a more anti inflammatory diet.
Inflammation can be a complicated topic and this post will just touch on a small piece of this. Let's start by looking at the negative affects of inflammation on your body.
Medical conditions associated with inflammation (3):
- Poor mental health
- Heart disease
- Arthritis and joint diseases
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
So now we know why decreasing inflammation is important, but we need to know how to do this. Let’s start by looking at what can cause inflammation.
Causes of inflammation:
- Physical inactivity
- Chronic infections
- Poor gut health
- Chronic stress
- Poor diet
- Air pollutants tobacco smoke, & industrial chemicals
- Poor sleep quantity & quality
I have bolded poor diet and poor gut health because those are directly related to diet and will be the focus on this post. I also bolded poor sleep quantity and quality because it is HUGE when it comes to our overall health and something that I feel is often overlooked.
If you are interested in reading more about your health and sleep, click here to read my blog post about this.
Now let’s focus on diet and take closer look at specific foods that can cause inflammation.
Please note that even though these foods are on this list, it does NOT mean you need to avoid them 100% of the time. In fact, I never recommend avoiding something you enjoy 100% of the time. Instead, I feel it is important to be educated about how food affects our body and make choices around food that nourish both our likes, desires, cravings, and health goals.
Foods that can cause inflammation (2):
- Saturated fats (4)
- Fatty beef
- Poultry with skin
- Beef fat
- Lard & cream
- Dairy products made from whole or reduced fat milk
- Palm oil
- Palm kernel oil
- Most pre packaged baked or fried foods may also be high in saturated fats
- Simple carbohydrates (5)
- Sugar sweetened beverages
Foods that can help decrease inflammation (3):
- Fruits & vegetables
- Fish oil
- Green & black tea polyphenols
- Curcumin (in turmeric)
With the world we live in today, we are all bound to have some level of inflammation.
Since I am not a big believer in restriction, to help reduce inflammation and promote overall health, I recommend focusing on increasing your sleep quality & quantity and increasing your intake of foods that can decrease inflammation.
We are never going to 100% avoid foods that could contribute to inflammation. That’s basically impossible and takes a lot of the fun away from eating, which we obviously don’t want. However, maybe there are simple swaps you can do to substitute a pro inflammatory food for an anti inflammatory food.
Simple food swaps for decreasing inflammation:
- Switch your white bread for whole grain high fiber bread
- Check nutrition labels to swap your whole wheat bread for an even higher fiber bread
- Swap regular oats for steel cut oats
- Switch from sweetened flavored yogurt for plain yogurt
- To flavor plain yogurt without adding extra sugar, defrost frozen berries defrost in a bowl. Once defrosted, mix in the fruit AND the juice that is released when the berries defrost into your yogurt. This adds tons more flavor than fresh fruit but with no added sugar
- Swap your beef burgers or chicken burgers or black bean burgers
- Swap your pork sausage for chicken sausage
- Have meatless meals every now and then
- Lentils, beans, tofu, and tempeh all make great meat replacers
- Try this recipe for crispy tofu in black pepper basil sauce. This will convert even the biggest tofu skeptics into tofu lovers
- Are you drinking 2 sodas per day? Maybe try and cut back to 1 soda per day, then 1 soda every other day, and so on
- Ditch your fruit juice for whole fresh fruit
- Swap a side of chips for a side of salad or fruit
- Use avocado or hummus instead of cheese on a sandwich
As you can see, there are lots of small ways you can decrease the amount of inflammatory foods that you are consuming! It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing! Every little change counts!
If you feel stuck and confused with making nutrition changes to improve your health, click here to learn more about my nutrition coaching packages where I help people to clearly identify what their goals are and build a roadmap for how we will achieve those goals using easy and sustainable changes.