What is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Plan?
You may hear the term ‘anti-inflammatory’ thrown around often. There are short-term anti-inflammatory medications, like ibuprofen and antihistamines, but there are also natural ways to decrease the inflammation in your body, especially chronic inflammation. In this post, we will focus on the anti-inflammatory diet and meal plan that can help your body’s inflammation, and lessen the pain that inflammation is causing you.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is natural to our bodies. Acute inflammation is more common and occurs whenever we have an injury such as a scraped knee. Our immune system works to protect the area, and swelling and redness occur. In this type of scenario, inflammation is necessary for our bodies in order to heal and prevent infections.
There is also chronic inflammation. This occurs whenever there are toxins in the body, and our immune response works to purify itself. The resulting inflammation causes pain in the body. With time, inflammation can also cause chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and even depression.
If you have an illness such as arthritis, your body is already in an inflammatory state. Eating inflammatory foods can cause increased inflammation that can result in increased pain and also lead to more chronic disease. Inflammation is also caused by an inactive lifestyle.
How Can an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Help?
While there are different versions of the anti-inflammatory diet, they all have the same concept: have a high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils, and fish.
By eating these types of foods, you have an increased chance to reduce inflammation in your body. Many of the food groups also contain antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation.
What Should I Eat on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
Anti-inflammatory foods are the same type of foods that a doctor or nutritionist would recommend in a healthy diet. They are mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, plant-based protein, and fatty fish. An anti-inflammatory diet should include the following foods (although these are not all of your options) :
- Fruits: Berries, Cherries, Grapes, Oranges, Lemons, Apple
- Vegetables: Broccoli, Avocados, Tomatoes, Bell Pepper, Chili Peppers, Mushroom, Cauliflower, Spinach, Kale
- Sweets: Dark Chocolate & Cacao, Dates, Maple Syrup
- Drinks: Green Tea
- Omega-3s Salmon, Tuna
- Oils & Spices: Turmeric, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Pepper, Ginger, Cinnamon, Garlic
- Walnut, Whole Grains, Chia Seeds
Simple Tips for Beginners Trying an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
If you are ever unsure as to what foods you should be eating in an anti-inflammatory diet, consider the following three tips:
- Avoid Red Meat: Replace red meat with fish or chicken. Fish options like salmon and tuna are great anti-inflammatory choices, and chicken is a neutral option as it isn’t harmful, but also isn’t necessarily beneficial to an anti-inflammatory diet.
- Restrict Certain Grains & Dairy: When choosing grains for your meal plan, look for options like brown rice, wheat, whole grains, oats, spelt, and quinoa. Avoid simple carbohydrates such as breakfast cereals, baked treats, and white bread. Enjoy dairy products in moderation, and consider dairy-free milk options such as flax milk.
- Eat The Rainbow: The easiest tip to remember is to eat your daily suggested servings of fruits and vegetables.
One Day Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan
Are you ready to start your anti-inflammatory meal plan? Take a look at these recommended recipes for one full day of anti-inflammatory meal options. All recipes can be found in the links provided.
- Yogurt (a great choice for those that are not sensitive to dairy milk products)
- Trail Mix (Includes dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, raisins and more.)
- Avocado egg salad sandwich
- Whole Wheat Wrap with Chicken Breast (Make it your own and add in whatever veggies you have leftover in the fridge!)
- Salmon with Greens and Cauliflower Rice (Choose your own green! Kale, spinach, or any dark, leafy green will pair well.)
- Vegetarian Chili
Is the anti-inflammatory diet expensive or complex to follow?
As you can see from these options, eating an anti-inflammatory diet does not have to be expensive or full of overly difficult recipes. Instead, you can swap out your usual snacks and other inflammatory food choices for more fruits, vegetables, and whole foods during your next trip to the grocery store. As long as you focus on buying fresh foods that you can make on your own, your grocery bills should remain normal. If you’d like to learn more simple tips on how to choose healthier options while still spending a comfortable amount, read our article “How to Eat Healthy on a Budget”.
What Foods Should I Avoid on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
Along with adding certain foods to your diet with an anti-inflammatory meal plan, you must also be sure to limit or eliminate other foods. These are foods that are known to promote inflammation in the body such as the following:
- Simple Carbs: White Bread, pasta, white rice, biscuits
- Fried Food: French fries, donuts, fried chicken
- Junk foods: fast food, microwaveable meals, chips
- Sugary beverages: soda, sweet tea, energy drinks, sports drinks
- Processed meats: hot dogs, bacon, beef jerky, canned meat (Spam), salami
The Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan
Changing your daily habits and choosing to incorporate an anti-inflammatory diet into your lifestyle will have a number of benefits. By increasing your daily intake of fruits and vegetables, you will likely have an increase in energy and overall mood. You will also have improvement if you suffer from pain associated with inflammation. By eating less fatty and processed foods, you will have a decreased risk of depression, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer. You will also have healthier cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Because following an anti-inflammatory meal plan will lower your risk of developing such diseases, you will also be improving your quality of life!
While it may be referred to as an anti-inflammatory diet, don’t think of your transition to eating anti-inflammatory foods as temporary. Foods that don’t cause inflammation are the same types of foods that nutritionists recommend for a balanced diet. By incorporating these foods into your daily meal plans, and staying consistent with consumption and daily exercise, you are more likely to have decreased levels of inflammation and reap the benefits this type of anti-inflammatory diet can provide!