Your guide to anti-inflammatory foods.

Chronic inflammation is more than just painful or inconvenient. According to the National Institutes of Health, inflammation is now associated with serious conditions, including cardiovascular disease, multiple types of cancers, diabetes, asthma, depression, and metabolic syndrome.

The good news is that dietary choices can have a notable effect on systemic inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet could help you relieve symptoms and even prevent future diseases. It’s simple to find anti-inflammatory foods and incorporate them into your diet for a holistic approach to treating and preventing inflammation-related diseases and injuries.

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What Are the Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

An anti-inflammatory diet incorporates foods that reduce inflammation while steering you away from the ones that increase it — and, for many struggling to calm internal inflammation, the potential benefits are well worth making the change.

Limiting inflammatory foods lowers your risk of the serious diseases mentioned above, and can ease symptoms of arthritis, and irritable bowel syndrome. The right combination of factors can help offset weight gain, premature aging, mood swings, chronic pain, and brain fog. An anti-inflammatory diet is an important piece of that puzzle.

Foods That Reduce Inflammation

The best anti-inflammatory foods are typically fruits and vegetables high in fiber, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals. Some nuts, herbs, and spices serve to combat inflammation as well.

  • Leafy greens. Think collard greens, mustard greens, kale, spinach, turnip greens, and Swiss chard. If you want to find creative ways to incorporate more of these rich, dark greens into your diet, the USDA has a handy list of ideas.
  • Plant compounds called polyphenols are known anti-inflammatory agents, and green tea‘s active ingredient is among the most effective of them all. It’s called epigallocatechin 3-gallate, and according to the Arthritis Foundation, EGCG is up to 100 times stronger than Vitamin C or E.
  • According to research published in the scientific journal Nutrients, berries, apples, grapes, and tomatoes — as well as other juicy fruits — contain quercetin, another powerful suppressant of inflammation.
  • Fatty fish and fish oils. The omega-3 fatty acids found in certain seafoods, such as mackerel, salmon, and sardines, support an anti-inflammatory diet that can prevent or reduce joint pain. Aim for two or three servings per week, and consider boosting your intake with a quality fish oil supplement.
  • Plant-based proteins like those in walnuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and chia seeds provide fiber along with fats and proteins that break down into amino acids. Those amino acids help create antibodies, which in turn fight disease.
  • Garlic, turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon. Many herbs and spices have anti-inflammatory properties, but these four are among the most recommended ones. Swap out salt for these flavor boosters to make anti-inflammatory meals even healthier.

Instead of concentrating on one or two good ingredients, aim to incorporate a variety of them into your meals every day.

Inflammatory Foods to Avoid

Adding healthy, nutrient-rich foods to your daily fare is great, but you’ll also likely need to cut back on inflammation’s notorious troublemakers:

  • Refined white sugar
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Processed meats and refined carbohydrates
  • Foods high in saturated fats and trans fats
  • MSG
  • Alcohol

Would you like to know more about which foods provide the most powerful elements for health, which to avoid, and why? Contact a friendly, helpful UPMC Nutrition Services dietitian by calling 412-692-4497.

About UPMC

A $21 billion health care provider and insurer, Pittsburgh-based UPMC is inventing new models of patient-centered, cost-effective, accountable care. The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC integrates more than 90,000 employees, 40 hospitals, 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, and a 3.8 million-member Insurance Services Division, the largest medical insurer in western Pennsylvania. In the most recent fiscal year, UPMC contributed $1.4 billion in benefits to its communities, including more care to the region’s most vulnerable citizens than any other health care institution, and paid more than $500 million in federal, state, and local taxes. Working in close collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, UPMC shares its clinical, managerial, and technological skills worldwide through its innovation and commercialization arm, UPMC Enterprises, and through UPMC International. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside on its annual Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitals and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. For more information, go to UPMC.com.