You might have heard about the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all definition, one early version was introduced by Barry Sears, PhD, in The Zone Diet back in 1995.
Since then, other diets have been said to present with anti-inflammatory properties, including the Mediterranean diet, Okinawan diet and the vegan diet.
What makes these diets so effective? Let’s discuss
Inflammation is the way that the body can recognize and remove harmful and foreign stimuli and begin the healing process.
During the healing process, inflammation will play a crucial role as the body’s first line of defense. During inflammation, the body’s immune system releases various chemicals and immune cells that work together to combat potential the threat.
In case of an infection, white blood cells are released to the site of invasion to neutralize and eliminate pathogens, such as bacteria or viruses. This helps prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of the body.
Injured tissues need repair and regeneration to restore their function. Inflammation helps initiate the process by increasing blood flow to the area. This increased blood flow brings in essential nutrients, oxygen, and growth factors, promoting tissue healing. Consequently, the increased blood flow leads to redness and warmth.
Acute inflammation is the type of inflammation that people are most familiar with. It’s the redness, warmth, swelling, and pain that you might experience around tissues and joints when you get injured, such as after cutting yourself.
When your body is hurt, your immune system reacts by releasing white blood cells to protect the affected area. Acute inflammation is like a quick and intense reaction – it comes on fast, gets severe quickly, lasts for a few days and then it’s done.
Unlike acute inflammation, chronic inflammation is usually slow and not easily noticeable. It can silently cause damage throughout the body over a long period like months to even years.
Chronic inflammation plays an important role in the development and progression of many chronic diseases as the organs become damaged over time.
Diseases that have been associated with chronic inflammation include diabetes, asthma and coronary artery disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) , chronic diseases are ranked as the greatest threat to human health.
While inflammation is not the only thing responsible for these chronic diseases, it is a process that can be greatly affected by changes made with your diet. This is why vegan dietitians promote an anti-inflammatory diet.
If you’re thinking about changing your diet to see if it can help manage your condition, it’s a great opportunity to talk to a Vegan Registered Dietitian. They can guide you through the world of nutrition and offer personalized support and recommendations. Together, you’ll work to find the best nutritional plan or eating pattern that suits your needs and lifestyle.
The effect of various foods on the inflammatory response
One of the main contributing factors to inflammation is the consumption of refined, high glycemic carbohydrates which quickly increase your glucose.
When we regularly eat these high glycemic carbs, it can lead to ongoing high blood sugar levels, causing the body to produce more free radicals and proinflammatory substances that can harm our cells and tissues.
Firstly, trans fats in the diet have a very strong proinflammatory effect on the body. This type of fat is usually found in foods that have been prepared in hydrogenated oil (ex: baked goods).
Another important contributor to inflammation is the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Having an excessive intake of omega-6 fats relative to omega-3 fats can contribute to inflammation in the body, so it’s important to maintain a balanced ratio of both types of fats in our diet.
|Omega-3 fats are responsible for supporting heart health, reducing inflammation in the body, and promoting proper brain function. |
-Ground flax seeds
|Omega-6 fats play a role in promoting brain function, supporting skin health, and helping to regulate metabolism.|
-Safflower and sunflower oils
-Nuts and seeds
Consuming too many calories, especially when we don’t get enough exercise, can lead to increased body fat.
This fat tissue is active and releases chemicals that promote chronic inflammation.
As the fat cells get bigger, more inflammation occurs due to the release of inflammatory substances by certain immune cells.
These foods should be avoided or limited as much as possible:
However, it’s essential to recognize that our relationship with food, such as emotional eating and binge eating, can sometimes make it challenging to stick to these guidelines. If you find it difficult to manage your diet, consider seeking help from a vegan dietitian.
An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on incorporating plenty of fruits and vegetables into your meals. These nutrient-rich foods are lower in calories and packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that can benefit your health and help combat inflammation.
Emphasizing plant-based sources of protein is essential in an anti-inflammatory diet. Packed with phytonutrients, protein, and healthy fats, soy provides a powerful boost to your anti-inflammatory efforts, supporting your overall health and well-being.
Examples of soy legumes as plant-based protein options include:
While vegetables and fruits form the primary source of carbohydrates in an anti-inflammatory diet, other types are also included. Opt for whole grains with a low glycemic index, to make sure they retain all their parts for maximum nutritional benefits.
Also, avoid refined grains, and be cautious with cracked or crushed grains to manage blood sugar levels effectively.
Good whole-grain options include:
When it comes to plant-based fats, flax seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Healthy fats include chia seeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds. For cooking purposes, olive oil (primarily a monounsaturated fat) is the top recommended option, especially when used at low temperatures. Pro-inflammatory oils that should be avoided include:
Again, if you are unsure about which oils are healthy and have anti-inflammatory properties compared to those that are pro-inflammatory, it’s highly recommended to seek guidance from a vegan registered dietitian.
Including various herbs and spices in an anti-inflammatory diet can enhance its overall impact on reducing inflammation. So, adding these natural wonders to your meals can be a flavorful and healthy way to fight inflammation. Herbs and spices known for their anti-inflammatory benefits include the following:
Choosing tea over coffee or sugary drinks can bring anti-inflammatory benefits. Tea contains antioxidants and polyphenols that contribute to lowering inflammation in the body.
For alcohol, research studies have demonstrated that moderate intake can be good for the heart and may help lower inflammation levels in the body. In fact, alcohol has been a longstanding component of the Mediterranean diet and the Okinawa diet.
Some components in alcohol, like resveratrol, found in red wine, also have anti-inflammatory properties.
However, it’s crucial to emphasize drinking in moderation since heavy drinking can be harmful to health, leading to increased risks of cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.
Ultimately, consult with a vegan registered dietitian to see if drinking alcohol is good for you.
Following a vegan anti-inflammatory diet has been proven to help with the following conditions:
Although this is one meal plan option, it’s important to recognize that individual dietary needs can differ significantly, therefore seek an anti-inflammatory vegan registered dietitian who can help you plan your meals in a way that best supports managing your symptoms effectively.
· 1 cup Quinoa Flakes
· 1 cup Unsweetened Soy Milk
· 1 tsp Cinnamon
· 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
· 1 cup blueberries
· 1/2 cup Walnuts (roughly chopped)
· 1 cup Lentils (cooked and rinsed)
· 1 cup Corn (cooked)
· 1 Red Bell Pepper (diced)
· 1/2 Tomato (medium, diced)
· 1/4 cup Red Onion (finely chopped)
· 1 Avocado (chopped)
· 2 tbsps Extra Virgin Olive Oil
· 2 tbsps Lime Juice
· 1 tbsp Cilantro (very finely chopped)
· 1 Garlic (clove, small, minced)
With an anti-inflammatory vegan dietitian, we can help you understand the basics of chronic inflammation, bust common myths, and offer personalized nutrition recommendations, including plant-based alternatives.
Ricker, M. A., & Haas, W. C. (2017). Anti-Inflammatory Diet in Clinical Practice: A Review. Nutrition in clinical practice : official publication of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, 32(3), 318–325. https://doi.org/10.1177/0884533617700353
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