Anti-Inflammatory Diet 101

By Melina Jampolis, MD

Inflammation may be one of the hottest topics in health today, and for good reason. It’s at the root of just about every disease. How you live your life (i.e. couch potato), your environment (i.e. airborne pollutants) and what you eat determine your risk of developing inflammation.

Inflammation is your body’s response to stress. Failure to take care of your body increases stress and, consequently, inflammation. Over time this can lead to diabetes, cancer, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and even memory decline, according to a new study led by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco. Plus, you may age faster.

Dietary Guidelines for Disease Prevention

The good news is that certain foods keep inflammation at bay, even foods you may not think fit into a healthy diet (wine, anyone?). A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who followed this diet most closely had a 30 percent lower risk of heart disease. Follow as many of these tasty guidelines as you can to reduce your risk of inflammation:

Eat fruits and vegetables – 5 to 9 servings a day
Pigments in fruits and vegetables don’t just look attractive, they’re chock full of healthful, anti-inflammatories. The more the merrier. Look for deep-colored fruits, including deep green (spinach, kale, broccoli), orange (sweet potato, cantaloupe, carrots) and red (berries, cherries).

Aim for a serving of nuts or non-processed soy every day
Go nuts over nuts, particularly the anti-oxidant varieties, which include pistachios, almonds, pecans and walnuts. (Remember portion control to avoid excess calories.)

Eat only healthy fats
Choose more healthy fat sources (nuts, avocado, olive oil, canola oil) and less unhealthy saturated fats (red meat, butter, mayo, cream, cheese, egg yolks) and omega-6 rich oils like vegetable oil (corn, sunflower, soybean, peanut), which can be pro-inflammatory (>1:1 ratio).

Get enough omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly anti-inflammatory. If your diet doesn’t include fatty fish like salmon or sardines at least twice a week – or if you have an inflammatory associated condition, take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement.

Limit red meat
Eat read meat no more than twice a week. Choose lean cuts and limit grilling or broiling (high temperature cooking), which can cause inflammatory by-products. Cook low and slow if possible. Limit cured and salted processed meats such as packaged lunch meats, hot dogs and bacon.

Avoid trans fats
Cut trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils) as much as possible. They are particularly pro-inflammatory. Read labels carefully. Even if a product says “trans fat free,” it may still contain up to 0.5 grams per serving, which allows manufacturers to make the “free” claim.

Drink alcohol in moderation
Alcohol is fine in moderation. Stick with one glass of wine per day for women or one to two glasses per day for men. Limit sugary mixers. Red wine is probably best, but all alcohol has some benefit.

Take multi-vitamin supplements
Take a daily multivitamin. No need to overdose on any single nutrient, but a daily multi-vitamin is associated with lower levels of inflammation.

Get plenty of fiber
Try to consume at least 15 grams of grain based fiber per day. This requires making all (or most of) the grains in your diet whole grains – like in brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta, barley, quinoa, oatmeal.

Include other super-antioxidants foods
Drink green tea – aim for 2 cups or more per day. Enjoy dark chocolate – opt for 70% cacao. Add spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and curcumin (cumin). Eat all kinds of beans – red beans, kidney beans and black beans.

Melina Jampolis, MD is an Internist and physician nutrition specialist. She specializes in weight loss and disease prevention and treatment. She is the author of “The No Time to Lose Diet” and a frequent expert guest in the media. For more information, please visit

The articles written by guest contributors are the sole responsibility of the individual writers in terms of factual accuracy and opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher of this blog.

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