What Does an “Anti-Inflammatory Diet” Look Like?

By Kim Folkman

A recent Google search for “anti-inflammatory diet” yielded more than 12.5 million hits, but what is it? Read more to find out! 

anti inflammatory 700
​Scientists recognize that inflammation can fuel many chronic diseases. While short-term inflammation, the body’s natural reaction to an injury or assault, is good, chronic inflammation is not. When the body’s inflammatory reaction does not shut off or becomes activated without a real trigger-sometimes lasting for days, months, or even years-chronic inflammation results. This underlying inflammation can become the root of many diseases, including heart disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and neurological degeneration.

A growing body of evidence links particular foods and eating patterns with lower levels of inflammatory indicators. Studies support a link between diet and reduced risk of many chronic diseases. Experts believe that the diet-inflammation connection might be one explanation.

In a 2006 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, scientists found that diets high in refined starches, sugars, saturated fats, and trans fats and low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids appear to turn on the inflammatory response.  However, a diet rich in whole foods, including healthful carbohydrates and fat and protein sources, along with regular exercise and not smoking, seems to decrease inflammation.  

Andrew Weil, MD, director of integrative medicine at the University of Arizona and author of several books, including Eating Well for Optimum Health stated, “You can go through life with an anti-inflammatory lifestyle or you can go through life with a proinflammatory lifestyle. Diet has a huge impact on inflammation. People should stop eating refined, processed, manufactured foods and eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables that are high in phytonutrients that protect against cancer and other diseases and focus on high-quality vegetable proteins such as legumes, nuts, and grains.”

Scientific evidence is moving forward to describe an anti-inflammatory diet that looks something like this:
  • low in processed, refined, foods
  • high in fruits and vegetables
  • balanced in calories to promote optimal weight
  • includes healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains and pasta
  • focuses on plant proteins such a legumes, beans, and nuts
  • includes healthful fats such as extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, and avocados and minimizes saturated and trans fats
  • includes omega-3 fatty acids from fish and plant sources such as walnuts and flax
  • flavors food with antioxidant-rich spices as well as herbs, garlic, and ginger
Give this delicious recipe a taste! 

Cauliflower Gold
Recipe by chef Jim Perko 
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
4 T extra-virgin olive oil
One head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 T garam masala (an Indian spice-can substitute with curry)
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp tumeric
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 ½ cups vegetable stock
3 T tomato paste
½ cup walnuts, chopped and toasted

Directions:
Heat 3 T of olive oil in a large skillet over moderate heat and add cauliflower. Stir frequently until lightly browned and tender, 15-20 minutes. If cauliflower is not tender when pierced, cover pan for last 5 minutes of cooking. With slotted spoon, remove cauliflower from pan and set aside.
Return pan to heat and add remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add garam masala, cumin, chili powder, tumeric, and cayenne pepper and stir for 30 seconds. Add vegetable stock and tomato paste and stir to blend. Return cauliflower to pan and stir for 2-3 minutes to heat through. Add walnuts, mix well, and serve

Reference: Today’s Dietitian February 2011