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Get Started with Anti-inflammatory Dieting: A Beginner’s Guide

Anti-inflammatory diets focus on foods that have nutrients that decrease your body’s response to protect your organs and joints.  While this physical response is important, many processed foods increase inflammation to uncomfortable or even painful levels.  This increase is because the human body reacts to specific types of foods that trigger the inflammatory reaction when damage to the body hasn’t happened. 

Just like how your body gets red and swollen when you twist your ankle or get a cut, when you eat the wrong foods your body becomes internally red and swollen.  With highly processed foods around every corner, it’s hard to know where to start if you want to decrease inflammation.  Some foods appear to be okay, but contain added sugars or even hidden trans fats.

This guide to beginning an anti-inflammatory diet contains information to understand why certain foods need to be added or removed, things to avoid, what to eat, and even a collection of delicious recipes!

Part I: The Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Because of the need to decrease inflammation (which is linked to heart health and joint related disease), there are several diets that focus on high nutrition foods that remove or decrease sugars and fatty meats.  One such diet is the Mediterranean diet which focuses on healthy good fats and high nutrient foods: these foods are generally anti-inflammatory.

While an anti-inflammatory diet can sound intimidating, the goal is to eat colorful meals that are packed with anthocyanins, turmeric, omega-3 fatty acids, resveratrol and more.  Instead of eating fats that your body doesn’t readily use, a Mediterranean style anti-inflammatory diet focuses on healthy fats from fish, nuts and nutrient dense oils like avocado oil and olive oil.

With this guide to an anti-inflammatory diet for beginners, you’ll find many suggestions for unprocessed foods, a decrease or lack of sugar (except what is found in food already), and foods that can control the effects of inflammatory disease such as arthritis.  This type of diet is also handy for maintaining a healthy weight and decrease internal inflammation as well!

What is an anti-inflammatory diet?

An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on good fats, nutrient-dense foods, complex carbohydrates, legumes and fruits and vegetables.  Like stated above, this diet is very close to a Mediterranean diet due to the focus on a lack of processed foods, and healthier meats such as fish and chicken. 

Red meats are rare, and dark leafy greens are added into the diet.  A variety of fruits and vegetables are also included as they too provide the body with what is needed to maintain balance and decrease inflammation.

What separates an anti-inflammatory diet from others is the focus on decreasing processed foods, sugar, and refined flours. Unlike the Mediterranean diet, which does allow some pasta, anti-inflammatory diets focus on whole grains and minimally processed bean pastas.

What is the goal of an anti-inflammatory diet?

First and foremost, to decrease inflammation.  Not the inflammation that happens due to cuts or infections, instead this diet focuses on chronic inflammation.  The difference is that chronic inflammation is linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and more.  This is why an anti-inflammatory diet focuses on decreasing saturated fats and red meats.  Eating this way has shown to relieve the discomfort related to those diseases as well as arthritis

Keep in mind that with this beginner’s guide to an anti-inflammatory diet, each diet is different. Our bodies react differently to different foods, allergens, and more.  Part of this diet is to be aware of what it is that your body needs.  If certain foods cause you to feel bloated and result in your joints aching or feeling stiff, that food more than likely causes an inflammatory reaction in your body. 

As you read this guide, remember to experiment and have fun adding the rainbow to your diet!

Part II: Beginner’s Guide to an Anti-inflammatory Diet

This guide will include meal ideas, what to avoid, and what to add into your diet while you are making the shift.  The beginning will be different and a little difficult at times if you are used to eating processed foods or sugar regularly.  Be patient with yourself and you’ll reach your goal of eating an anti-inflammatory diet.

An Anti-Inflammatory Food List

The following list contains foods that reduce inflammation that you can start adding into your diet.  Keep in mind that there might be foods that cause an inflammatory response specific to your body because genetics play a large role in how our bodies react to foods.

Fruits and Veggies

  • Avocado
  • Beets
  • Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Cherries
  • Citrus Fruits
  • Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, collards, Swiss chard, etc.)
  • Pomegranate
  • Sweet Potato

Anti-inflammatory Diet Meal Plan featuring salmon blueberries broccoli ginger and avocado

Proteins, Fats and Grains

  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt and kefir
  • Fish, especially salmon and tuna
  • Legumes (lentils, chickpeas, black beans, black-eyed peas, red kidney beans etc.)
  • Whole grains (quinoa, whole-wheat bread, brown rice, amaranth, and buckwheat, etc.)
  • Coconut Oil
  • Avocado Oil

Herbs and Spices

  • Garlic
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Cinnamon

 

Inflammatory Foods to Avoid

  • Alcohol in excessive quantities
  • Baked goods
  • Candy
  • Cereals
  • Cheese
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Dehydrated soups
  • Gluten
  • Hot dogs
  • ice cream
  • Jarred tomato sauces
  • Juices
  • Microwaveable dinners
  • Processed and cured meats
  • Processed meats
  • Salad dressings
  • Saturated fats
  • Sauces
  • Soda
  • Soybean oil
  • Sugary cereals
  • Trans fats (found in fried foods and some baked goods)
  • Vegetable oil
  • White Bread

These items include added sugars, saturated fats that can clog up your arteries, and preservatives that are known to cause inflammation.  Avoiding these foods will help decrease the inflammation in the body.  For example, alcohols are converted into sugars in the body. When the body has too much sugar, this triggers an inflammatory response.  Recall the next day after having a night out with friends? The body can feel swollen and achy compared to the day before.  While many of the items affect most people, there are some items that may not cause an inflammatory response (such as cheeses and dairy).  Keep in mind that some items may not be inflammatory for you, however, most preservatives do affect the vast majority of the human population.

Anti-Inflammatory Recipes

If you want to begin working in foods that are good for inflammation, it helps to have an anti-inflammatory meal plan, diet plan, and of course, delicious recipes you’ll begin to crave!

For a meal plan or diet plan, it is important to include variety in your day.  Try to have different types of berries every morning, a different protein with each meal, and work with varying combinations of herbs and oils.  Adding in new spices and changing up your combinations helps bring out new and interesting combinations.  Who knows, you may find a new favorite recipe.

Meal Prep

Prepping items ahead of time makes the transition to working with an anti-inflammatory diet much easier than prepping right before eating.  With the vegetables and fruits, peel and cut them as you would like so that way you can have fresh veggies with every meal.  Make sure all fruits and vegetables are cleaned before you eat them and prepare any herbs that you need to. 

If you want to prepare meals and freeze them, don’t thoroughly cook the vegetables and store the prepared food in glass containers (or bags) for easy defrosting and reheating in the oven.

Breakfast

Turn to natural ingredients in homemade smoothies, such as berries, honey, and Greek or non-dairy yogurt. Some egg dishes, particularly those made with organic eggs, can help lower inflammation as well. Want toast? Try something gluten- and wheat-free, like rice breads.

Oat porridge with berries

Buckwheat and chia seed porridge

Buckwheat berry pancakes

Scrambled eggs with turmeric

Smoked salmon, avocado, and poached eggs on toast

Mediterranean Board

Lunch and Dinner

Mediterranean Grain Bowls With Lentils and Chickpeas

Greek Style Roasted White Beans With Summer Vegetables

Snacks

Fresh nuts and veggies will play a large role in prepping and reaching for some healthy snacks.  Have cut up carrots, or cucumbers, pre-peeled fruit, and fresh nuts on hand for a quick pick me up.  You can also make a quick avocado dip or even a Stuffed Mushroom, yum!

Sides and Soups

With soups and salads, stick to the darker greens and make sure that the soups aren’t too heavy in veggies from the nightshade family (they can cause inflammation), and with soups, low sodium or plant based bases are delicious on their own.

Creamy Greek Salad Pasta Recipe

Vibrant Orange and Arugula Salad

Mediterranean White Beans With Artichoke and Tomato

Desserts

Anti-inflammatory Meal plan Guide with almonds berries healthy fats antioxidants and whole grains

Look for healthy alternatives such as chopped fruit and melted dark chocolate (strawberries and chocolate are a great go to) or work in vanilla and honey to things like yogurt and ricotta cheese.  Try adding some dark chocolate to freshly popped popcorn made with olive or avocado oil: this can help stop the snack craving as well as satisfy the sweet craving.  If you need a little extra sweet, sprinkle some turbinado or unprocessed sugar for an extra kick of savory sweetness.  Definitely check out this list of ten recipes for anti-inflammatory desserts: they look scrumptious!

Anti Inflammatory Diet Beginners Guide Recap

If you are wanting to go on an anti-inflammatory diet plan, starting small and working in recipes will help you start out.  Cooking veggies either by stir-frying or baking will keep the nutrients intact and bring out the savory flavors.  Adding berries to your morning cereal packs a punch of antioxidants into your morning.  Mix and match and have fun with your anti-inflammatory diet!