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How to control inflammation naturally, through diet

Man with inflammation in lower back

Anti-inflammatory diets have been lauded as helping our bodies manage low-level chronic inflammation which has been linked to arthritis, cancer and heart disease. So, what does an anti-inflammatory diet look like? Healthy Food Guide goes through the basics.

The anti-inflammatory diet in a nutshell

Anti-inflammatory diets, which are largely plant-based, are founded on the concept that certain foods can help to protect our cells and organs from low-level chronic inflammation. Some studies have linked this type of inflammation to arthritis, cancer, non-Alzheimer’s vascular dementia and heart disease.

Plants are extraordinary ‘chemical factories’, constantly producing tens of thousands of compounds called phytochemicals, which perform vital functions to help the plants survive and thrive.

While we don’t yet have enough research to really have an exact template for an anti-inflammatory diet, experts are prepared to describe this as a ‘model’ of eating.

It involves selecting foods that may have anti-inflammatory properties in nature and adding them to our diet in the hope they may help to modulate chronic, low-level inflammation in our bodies.

The key is to buy whole, plant-based foods that are rich in healthy fats and phytochemicals to ensure you get as much nutritional punch as possible in everything you eat.

What foods help fight inflammation?

  • Dark green vegetables
  • Tomatoes
  • Beans
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts
  • Herbs and spices, which are packed with anti-inflammatory compounds called flavonoids and related compounds.
  • Fibre-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables. A diet that’s high in fibre has been linked to lowering inflammation.
  • Oily fish, for its anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids.

What a typical day of anti-inflammatory eating looks like

Breakfast 2 oven-roasted tomatoes on 2 slices granary toast with green tea.

Snack 30g handful brazil nuts

Lunch Wholegrain couscous (70g raw weight) with 130g grilled sardines, 30g chopped flatleaf parsley, chopped orange segments and lemon juice.

Snack Winter fruit salad (100g dried fruit) served with 300g fromage frais, cinnamon and 15g toasted pine nuts.

Dinner Lentil vegetable curry with a wholegrain chapati.

Total 1,700kcal, less than 12g saturated fat, less than 3g salt, no meat or free sugars.

Will the anti-inflammatory diet suit you?

The anti-inflammatory diet is high in fibre, so if you have irritable bowel syndrome or any inflammatory bowel disorders, check with your doctor first before making the switch.

First published: Mar 2020

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