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
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:
Air pollutants tobacco smoke, & industrial chemicals
Poor gut health
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)
Poultry with skin
Lard & cream
Dairy products made from whole or reduced fat milk
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
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:
Swap your white bread for whole grain high fiber bread
Swap your whole wheat bread for an even higher fiber bread
Swap regular oats for steel cut oats
Swap your sweetened flavored yogurt for plain yogurt
My trick for flavoring plain yogurt without adding extra sugars is to let 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
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
Swap your fruit juice for whole fresh fruit
Swap side of chips for a side of salad or fruit
Swap cheese on a sandwich for avocado or hummus
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.