Anti-Inflammatory Diet: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide

An anti-inflammatory diet, which involves eliminating foods that promote inflammation, emphasizes eating whole foods, non-starchy vegetables, monounsaturated fats, berries and other fruit, and omega-3s from fatty fish – while avoiding added sugar and refined grains.

According to experts, potential benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet may include weight loss, a reduced risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s, and may even help reduce the risk of certain cancers.

This article offers a comprehensive look at the anti-inflammatory diet, including foods you can eat, foods to avoid, the best and worst candidates, overall benefits and how to get started.

We’ve obtained input from several experts on this topic to provide you with as much information as possible so you can determine if an anti-inflammatory diet is right for you.

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It’s important to keep in mind that this article is not intended as medical advice. Before you decide to take on an anti-inflammatory diet, talk to your medical provider, first.

What Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

An anti-inflammatory diet is one in which foods that promote inflammation are eliminated, explained Victoria Hussey, a Health and Nutrition Coach since 2013 who has coached hundreds of people through an anti-inflammatory diet based on whole foods and plant-based foods.

“It is a diet built on whole foods to include plenty of fruits and non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, healthy complex carbohydrates and healthy fats,” said Hussey, who is a specialist in Fitness Nutrition through the International Sports Sciences Association.

She said it is important to note that inflammation is a normal bodily function and is necessary for injury and wound healing; however, when there is an excess of inflammation in the body and it becomes chronic, it becomes a problem.

“Chronic inflammation is at the root of almost all disease – most inflammation in our body is diet-related,” Hussey said.

For instance, “when there is inflammation in the arteries it can lead to heart disease; when there is inflammation in the brain it can be linked to anxiety and depression; when there is inflammation in our joints it can cause swelling and pain; and when there is inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, it can create an imbalance of the beneficial bacteria and can cause damage to the lining of the intestines,” Hussey noted.

Dr. Annthea Fenwick, owner of Achieving Fitness After 50 in Nevada City, California, has used many of the anti-inflammatory diets with various clients over the last several years with great success.

“It has helped them reduce discomfort in their joints as well as in their stomach and bowels,” Dr. Fenwick said. “They have lost weight and improved their health with these diet programs.”

The aim of all anti-inflammatory diet plans are simple, she said: Cut back on foods that trigger an inflammatory response and eat more of the foods that help your body heal damage.

“Anti-inflammatory diet plans emphasize eating whole, minimally processed foods, non-starchy vegetables, monounsaturated fats like olive oil and avocado, colorful berries and other fruit, and lots of omega-3s from fatty fish, and avoiding added sugar and refined grains,” Dr. Fenwick said.

Food sensitivities will also play a role in this diet, she added.

“Some people react to foods differently, and if an individual has a sensitivity to a specific food, it will lead to an increase in inflammation in their body,” said Dr. Fenwick, adding that if you suspect you have a sensitivity, talk to your doctor or a dietician, who can design an elimination diet to help identify the problem.

Any diet that encourages increased amounts of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, fish, and decreased amounts of white flour, sugary products, red meat and processed foods is an anti-inflammatory diet, said Stephanie Ross, Nutrition Manager at Dignity Health Community Hospital of San Bernardino in Southern California.

“This could include the Mediterranean, vegetarian and vegan diet and others, though it could depend on food choices,” said Ross, a registered dietician for more than 26 years.

» For Further Reading: Mediterranean Diet: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide

Whenever there is something in your body that should not be there such as a virus or bacteria, the body will try to get rid of it, explained Socorro Carranza, an outpatient-registered dietitian at Dignity Health-Glendale Memorial Hospital in Southern California.

“The immune system, which is our bodies defense system, will be triggered and send an inflammatory response,” said Carranza, adding that this will help the body fight off and clear out these invaders.

“In autoimmune diseases, this response is triggered without any invaders being present,” Carranza said. “This causes chronic inflammation, which can be painful. An anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce inflammation and reduce pain.”

While there is no one specific “anti-inflammatory diet” that dietitians recommend, Carranza noted there are general recommendations on foods that researchers have found to help decrease inflammation.

“It is believed that being in a constant inflammatory state can contribute to many of the common conditions and diseases such as diabetes, coronary artery disease, obesity, and more,” Carranza said. “Therefore, the benefit of following a diet that has many anti-inflammatory compounds is that it may help prevent some of these diseases.”

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Benefits

Research shows that following an anti-inflammatory style of eating may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and some cancers and may even extend your life, according to Dr. Fenwick, who noted that an anti-inflammatory diet can help many conditions, including the following:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriasis
  • Asthma
  • Eosinophilic esophagitis
  • Crohn's disease
  • Colitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Heart disease
  • Lupus
  • Hashimoto's disease

“Additionally, eating an anti-inflammatory diet may help reduce the risk of certain cancers, including colorectal cancer,” Dr. Fenwick said.

Whole, unprocessed foods and plant-based foods can help fight chronic inflammation and help decrease both stress and environmental toxins in the body, Hussey said.

“This can lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s,” she said. “It can also assist with both weight loss and the maintenance of a healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle.”

This diet is rich in fiber and a diet rich in fiber reduces inflammation by supplying naturally occurring anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, Hussey added.

“A diet rich in fiber is also satiating, meaning you will feel full for longer and with fewer calories; this is because high-fiber foods have more volume,” she said. “The inclusion of healthy fats will also promote the feeling of satiation.”

As far as weight loss is concerned, “it’s not intended as a weight-loss program but people can lose weight on it,” said Dawn Montecillo, a Registered Dietitian since 2008 who works at Dignity Health-California Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.

What Are the Drawbacks of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

As far as any potential “cons” are concerned, Dr. Fenwick said that some people may not like the fact that there are numerous choices of possible diets to follow instead of just a single, specific option.

Hussey has found through coaching her clients that many people have a hesitation towards changing their eating habits.

“Most people are comfortable with the foods they are used to consuming and can feel overwhelmed at the thought of eliminating some of the inflammatory foods they are used to eating,” Hussey explained.

However, “it’s about having the right mindset and being open to learning new healthier habits and the correct balance of nutrients,” she said. “One of the things I love the most about coaching my clients is showing them how easy it can be to make simple changes.”

Another concern for some is that eating healthy and/or organic foods can be more expensive.

“This is where it’s exciting to educate my clients on ways to actually save money on healthier food choices by preparing real whole foods as opposed to purchasing processed food items and meals as those are usually more costly than the ingredients required to make these foods and meals yourself,” Hussey said.

» See Also: How to Eat Healthy on a Tight Budget

Preparing fresh, whole foods and plant-based foods can be more time consuming, “but again it’s easy to do this when you have the guidance, shopping lists, meal plans and recipes that I provide to assist you,” Hussey said.

She added that it can also take several days to several weeks to see the results of an anti-inflammatory diet, “because the results will usually be gradual.”

Are There Side Effects from an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

There are no documented side effects to an anti-inflammatory diet, Dr. Fenwick said.

According to Ross, “I don’t think so, unless you have a certain medical condition, which you have to monitor intake of certain nutrients. However, you do have to do this with a lot of diets, not just the anti-inflammatory one.”

Hussey said there are no known side effects.

“However, having said that, it’s important to note that inflammation is a normal part of the body’s immune system and is essential for injury and wound healing,” Hussey noted. “Inflammation helps fight viruses and bacteria so you cannot eliminate all inflammation from the body.”

Everyone’s body is unique in that everyone has different sensitivities, therefore some people may adjust quickly but for others, it may take several days or even several weeks to adjust, she said.

“The results may not be noticeable in the first month and are usually seen gradually as this healthy lifestyle is established,” Hussey said. “It can be challenging in the beginning, however, once firm habits have been established it has long-term benefits and it will become easier to eliminate the temptation of inflammatory foods.”

Scientific Studies of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics research suggests that there are anti-inflammatory compounds present in certain foods, noted Montecillo, who has worked in the field of Clinical Dietetics since 2009.

“However, the amount of anti-inflammatory foods needed to produce the benefits is yet to be established,” she said.

According to Dr. Fenwick, several very large studies, including the famed Nurses’ Health Study, have found that people who follow a Mediterranean pattern of eating have lower levels of inflammatory markers in their blood compared with those who don’t.

“This is one reason the Mediterranean diet is linked to so many health benefits, from keeping weight down to slashing heart and stroke risk,” Dr. Fenwick said.

According to Carranza, “from my knowledge, there are no studies backing up any specific anti-inflammatory diet. However, in the Nurse’s Health Study, they did notice that the individuals following a Mediterranean style diet had lower markers of inflammation in their blood.”

Hussey said there are several studies done that back up different health issues that have shown improvement with the use of an anti-inflammatory diet like the Mediterranean diet.

Hussey noted findings from studies from different sources that indicate a Mediterranean diet lowers blood pressure and improves endothelial function; and that a Mediterranean diet contributes to the preservation of left ventricular systolic function and to the long-term favorable prognosis of patients who have had an acute coronary event.

Hussey added that according to the Harvard School of Public Health, “Together with regular physical activity and not smoking, our analyses suggests that over 80% of coronary heart disease, 70% of stroke, and 90% of type 2 diabetes can be avoided by healthy food choices that are consistent with the traditional Mediterranean diet.”

Does an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Help with Weight Loss?

An anti-inflammatory diet can most certainly help with weight loss especially for those that had a diet which included processed foods, refined sugars, animal fats and high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, Hussey said.

“As mentioned previously, because this diet is rich in fiber, it promotes satiety,” she noted.

The average person needs 25-30 grams of fiber per day, however, most people only get 4-10 grams per day.

“The best way to get the proper amount of fiber daily is to have 8-12 servings of fruits and vegetables per day,” Hussey advised. “One serving of fruit is 1 medium-sized fruit or ½ cup raw chopped fruit and one serving of vegetables is 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked vegetables. A fun fact – if you changed nothing else in your diet but got the daily recommended amount of fiber, you would lose 9.5 pounds in a year.”

According to Carranza, the anti-inflammatory diet recommendations may help with weight loss because most of the recommendations provided for the anti-inflammatory diet are also the recommendations most dietitians teach for weight loss: more fruits and vegetables, replacing saturated and trans fats for healthy fats, and including foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Ross agreed that an anti-inflammatory diet can help with weight loss, “because usually you are eating less of things like doughnuts, pastries, and burgers that tend to be calorically dense, and tend to have high amounts of unhealthy fats.”

“However, even healthy fats which could be included on an anti-inflammatory diet still have a lot of calories with excess intake,” Ross said. “Also, if you have a lot of energy from the anti-inflammatory diet, you may have more energy to exercise and be active.”

An anti-inflammatory diet will not automatically mean you’ll drop weight, Dr. Fenwick noted.

“But it is packed with veggies and low in sugar and refined carbs that can help with weight loss goals,” Dr. Fenwick said. “A five-year study published in 2016 found that people who ate a veggie- and fat-rich Mediterranean diet lost more weight than those who went on a low-fat diet.”

Different Types of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Dr. Fenwick noted that unlike Atkins, South Beach, or the Paleo, “there isn’t just one anti-inflammatory diet.”

“The Sears’s Zone diet, Dr. Hyman’s Detox, and Dr. Weil’s are highly anti-inflammatory,” said Dr. Fenwick, adding that Paleo and Whole30 diets are both anti-inflammatory, as well.

“The plan with the most research-backed anti-inflammatory credibility is the traditional Mediterranean diet, emphasizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, and olive oil,” Dr. Fenwick said.

There are several diets that fall under the name, anti-inflammatory diet, Hussey said.

“However, the mainstream ones are the Mediterranean Diet, Paleo, Whole 30, and the Zone Diet,” said Hussey.

“What they all have in common is the inclusion of plenty of fruits and non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, omega-3 fatty acids and the elimination of added sugars and refined sugars,” Hussey explained.

Ideal Candidates for an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

According to Hussey, the ideal person for an anti-inflammatory diet is anyone with chronic inflammation.

For example, those who have arthritis, IBS, heart disease, cancer, various autoimmune diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and obesity could benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet.

“However, that being said, everyone can benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet because eating a balanced whole food and/or plant-based diet is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle,” Hussey said.

This would benefit most people, Carranza said, “however, individuals with autoimmune disease such as Rheumatoid Arthritis may benefit the most.”

Worst Candidates for an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

The anti-inflammatory diet isn't just for people with autoimmune disorders, inflammatory condition, or chronic inflammation, Dr. Fenwick noted.

“It can be a great dietary guideline to promote overall well-being and a healthy, thriving immune system that works only when it’s really needed,” said Dr. Fenwick.

Generally, everyone can benefit from incorporating anti-inflammatory nutrients to their lifestyle, while steering away from pro-inflammatory nutrients, according to Montecillo.

Always check with your doctor before starting any diet because of possible food and drug interactions, Carranza advised.

“If you are planning any kind of surgery or on the medication Coumadin: check with your doctor,” Carranza said.

Hussey agreed that an anti-inflammatory diet is beneficial to everyone.

“A healthy diet like an anti-inflammatory diet is meant to enhance and not replace medical treatments, therefore, anyone with a medical condition or disease should always consult with their physician before making any significant changes to their diet,” Hussey said. “They should also remain in the care of their physician.”

Basic Guidelines for an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Hussey offered the following basic guidelines of the anti-inflammatory diet:

  • Avoid processed foods, refined sugars and eliminate transfats completely.

  • Do not go longer than 3-4 hours between a meal, snack or meal replacement shake, because it is important to keep blood sugar levels balanced. Balancing blood sugar can help to reduce inflammation in the body.

  • Use oils with healthy fats like olive oil and avocado oil.

  • Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids daily like flax seeds/meal, walnuts, and salmon.

  • Limit red meat to once per week, making sure it is grass fed and not grain fed and is free of antibiotics and hormones.

  • Include a good quantity of low glycemic fruits.

  • Include plenty dark leafy greens, as well as lots of non-starchy vegetables which should include cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussel sprouts. Note: Fruits and vegetables are loaded with important phytonutrients that can add natural sweetness to your food and meals.

  • Avoid adding sugar to your food, drinks or meals. Sugar can activate inflammatory chemical signals to induce inflammatory pathways in the body. Removing refined sugars combined with establishing healthy eating habits can reduce the risk of cancer, bacteria, and viruses in the body. Eating refined sugar and simple carbohydrates causes the body to secrete insulin and insulin signals the body to bring the blood sugar down and hold onto fat. Low blood sugar can also cause cravings.

  • Make sure to include a variety of fresh and dried herbs and spices.

  • Eliminate peanuts and peanut butter.

  • Add probiotics and digestive enzymes or fermented vegetables and/or a combination of both to your diet.

Hussey further noted that gut health is important for nutrient absorption and our gut plays a big role in our immune system.

“Our immune system and inflammation in the body go hand in hand,” Hussey said.

Therefore, it’s important to have a strong immune system so it can stimulate the cells and proteins like white blood cells to eliminate the threat of any outside invaders and assist in the repair of damaged tissue.

“A strong immune system will produce antibodies to aid in healing for acute inflammation,” Hussey explained. “Conversely, when the immune system is overactive and starts attacking the body’s own tissues it can lead to autoimmune disease and chronic inflammation in the body. It is chronic inflammation that is problematic and harmful to our normal bodily functions.”

Foods to Eat on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

According to Dr. Fenwick, good choices for a person following an anti-inflammatory diet include the following:

  • Dark leafy greens, including kale and spinach
  • Blackberries, blueberries, and cherries
  • Dark red grapes
  • Nutrition-dense vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower
  • Beans and lentils
  • Green tea
  • Red wine, in moderation
  • Avocado and coconut
  • Olives
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, and almonds
  • Cold water fish, including salmon and sardines
  • Turmeric and cinnamon
  • Dark chocolate
  • Spices and herbs

Montecillo noted that anti-inflammatory nutrients include: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, Ascorbic acid, Vitamin E, Polyphenols, Prebiotics, and Probiotics.

“Cook with a variety of herbs and spices including garlic, ginger, and turmeric; eating lean meats,” Montecillo added.

Carranza offered the following additional four tips:

  1. Eat fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 is an anti-inflammatory. Fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies, trout, and halibut are high in omega-3. If you do not eat fish 2-3 times per week, consider an omega-3 supplement. Always check with your doctor before starting any supplements.

  2. Increase intake of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, which support your immune system, which in turn may help fight inflammation. Color, color, color! Make sure you get fruits and vegetables of different colors.

  3. Include olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados in your diet. These are high in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants.

  4. Increase your fiber intake. Besides the fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans have lots of fiber as well. Increased fiber intake has shown to decrease CRP levels.

Foods to Avoid on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

According to Dr. Fenwick, the main foods that people following an anti-inflammatory diet should avoid include:

  • Processed meat
  • Sugary drinks
  • Trans fats, found in fried foods
  • White bread
  • White pasta
  • Gluten
  • Soybean oil and vegetable oil
  • Processed snack foods, such as chips and crackers
  • Desserts, such as cookies, candy, and ice cream
  • Excess alcohol
  • Too many carbohydrates

“Foods in the nightshades family, such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes, can trigger flares in some inflammatory diseases,” Dr. Fenwick noted. “There is some evidence that suggests a high-carbohydrate diet, even when the carbs are healthful, may promote inflammation. Some people on an anti-inflammatory diet may need to reduce their carbohydrate intake.”

Hussey said the foods to avoid on an anti-inflammatory diet are refined and processed foods, foods high in omega-6 fatty acids, vegetable and/or corn oils, animal fats, and refined sugars.

“The additional foods/drinks I have my clients eliminate are dairy, whey, gluten, soy, coffee, alcohol, all vinegar except apple cider vinegar, peanuts and artificial sweeteners, flavors, and colors,” Hussey noted.

Sample Menus for an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

In this section, we’ve given you with several examples provided by our experts so you can see the diversity of the anti-inflammatory diet.

The first example is provided by Dr. Fenwick:

  • Breakfast: Overnight oats – simply soak oats overnight in almond milk. In the morning, top with blueberries, cinnamon, and a dollop of almond butter for a quick and easy start to the day. Enjoy with a cup of green tea.

  • Lunch: Smoked salmon on a bed of leafy greens and fresh herbs, with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.

  • Dinner: Roasted red peppers stuffed with quinoa and cannellini beans, a side salad and some sweet potato fries. (If you haven’t tried quinoa yet, you’re in for a treat – aside from its nutty flavor it has a ton of health benefits).

  • Snacks: A smoothie made with berries and probiotic-rich kefir (or Greek yogurt); a handful of nuts and an apple. If you’re really craving something sweet, try two squares of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate.

Hussey offered the following sample menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner:

Sample Breakfast Options:

  • Two eggs scrambled cooked with avocado oil with spinach, mushrooms and bell peppers, ¼ avocado and ½ cup of berries
  • Gluten-free oatmeal with cinnamon, ½ cup berries or ½ chopped green apples
  • Vegetable and sweet potato hash with ¼ avocado
  • Cinnamon quinoa breakfast bowl
  • Blueberry chia seed parfait with toasted coconut
  • Sweet potato waffles served with avocado and salsa (optional)
  • Meal replacement breakfast shake using a vegan pea and brown rice protein powder

Sample Lunch Options:

  • Quinoa burgers with baked sweet potato fries and a side salad
  • Red lentil and spinach masala
  • Vegan quinoa and chickpea stir-fry
  • Salad with grilled chicken or salmon, chopped raw almonds and plenty of raw vegetables
  • Cauliflower quinoa burgers with guacamole and red cabbage
  • Avocado with baked eggs, topped with salsa and coconut lime cream
  • Meal replacement lunch shake using vegan pea and brown rice protein

Sample Dinner Options:

  • Grilled Salmon with brussel sprouts and brown rice
  • Free range turkey burger, lettuce wrapped with tomato and avocado served with baked sweet potato fries or sautéed green beans
  • Ground sautéed chicken with grilled vegetables served over brown rice or quinoa
  • Turkey, sweet potato and bean chili with vegetables (or vegan with no turkey)
  • Vegan eggplant curry over lentil pasta, brown rice pasta or quinoa/brown rice pasta
  • White bean and kale soup with a side salad
  • Meal replacement dinner shake using vegan pea and brown rice protein powder

Include two snacks per day:

  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Brown rice cake with almond butter
  • Green apple with a handful of raw almonds
  • 1 cup of raw veggies with 2 tablespoons of hummus
  • 1 cup of berries
  • ½ cup Chia seed pudding with slivered almonds and berries

“Make sure to drink plenty of water, which is half your weight in ounces per day,” Hussey further advised. “You can also include organic green tea and organic herbal teas.”

Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Vegans, Vegetarians, People with Cancer

People considering a vegetarian anti-inflammatory diet will need to eliminate meat in favor of vegetarian protein sources or fatty fish, Dr. Fenwick said, and a vegan option will need to make the above adjustment in addition to removing dairy and eggs.

“Cancer patients have shown good results with the anti-inflammatory diet because it is rich in fruits and vegetables, emphasizes low sugary and processed foods, and has plenty of whole grains and limits fats and oils,” Dr. Fenwick said.

According to Ross, an anti-inflammatory diet would be easy to achieve on a vegetarian or vegan diet, “as long as you avoided too many processed foods, and for vegetarians, try to limit the amount of whole fat dairy products.”

“Cancer patients may want to see a dietitian if they have problems or immune system, but as long as they get adequate calories/protein choices, the anti-inflammatory diet is a good choice,” Ross advised.

Hussey explained that the common nutrient deficiencies for vegetarians, and especially vegans, are vitamin B12, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, iodine and vitamin D.

“To address these individually and more specifically, foods fortified with vitamin B12 and/or nutritional yeast are essential,” said Hussey, who noted the following:

The amount of vitamin B12 needed is 3-5 mcg per day from food or 10-100 mcg per day from supplements. The amount of calcium needed is 1000 mg per day and can come from nuts, seeds and fortified non-dairy milk like unsweetened almond or coconut milk (and make sure it does not have the ingredient carrageenan).

Iodine can be obtained from kelp, asparagus, green leafy vegetables, sea vegetables, and iodized salt and the amount to consume should be 75-100 mcg every few days.

Omega-3 fatty acids should come from flax, hemp, walnuts, perilla (plants in the mint family), Salba (derived from the Salvia hispanica plant), green leafy vegetables, DHA/EPA from algae supplements and the amount to be consumed is at least 2 grams of added ALA per day.

Lastly, vitamin D is best obtained from sunshine (vitamin D2), fortified products and supplements (vitamin D3) and the amount needed on the days with no sun is 1000 IU (25 mcg).

“With regards to cancer, the American Institute of Cancer Research indicates that eating a primarily plant-based diet and omitting or eliminating foods derived from animal products can assist in the prevention of cancer,” Hussey said.

More study needs to be done in regards to an anti-inflammatory diet and whether or not it can help prevent the risk of cancer, Hussey added, “however, anyone suffering from a health issue or disease will benefit from eating a clean, whole foods and plant-based diet.”

How to Get Started on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

A person should follow a well-balanced, general healthy diet which includes anti-inflammatory nutrients, Montecillo advised.

“The anti-inflammatory benefits are derived from the synergistic effect of foods eaten together, as well as from individual foods” Montecillo explained.

Even small changes can play a major role in improving health.

“Therefore, it is important to focus on personalized goals and setting achievable objectives,” she said.

For instance, eating an extra serving of fruit or vegetable at lunch or dinner is key to helping someone make lasting dietary changes that will combat inflammation and enhance overall health.

“However, depending on a person’s past medical history, a person’s diet may need to be modified along with the types of anti-inflammatory foods,” Montecillo said. “It may be advisable to speak with a dietitian.”

According to Ross, “I think there isn’t too much thought that has to be put in.”

“Make choices and find recipes that you enjoy, because as with any diet, if you don’t like it, you will not stick to it,” Ross advised. “I would emphasize that you don’t have to be 100% perfect.”

Unless you are under some kind of medically specific diet, “if you’re at a birthday party, have a piece of cake,” Ross said. “Life is meant to be enjoyed, and I think sometimes people think diets have to be all or nothing, which causes them to fail, makes eating not as much fun and/or stressful.”

So, when you go to the grocery stores, have a list of healthy whole foods that you would like, Ross recommended.

“You might want to look for some tasty recipes first – there’s a ton online,” Ross noted. “Also, when you go out to eat, many restaurants either have nutritional info on the menu or have a lot of whole foods. Ask restaurants how they prepare items, and if needed request if you would like your item prepared a certain way or ingredients you would like.”

Dr. Fenwick recommends choosing one of the anti-inflammatory diets that will fit your lifestyle the best and slowly start making adjustments following the recommended food guidelines.

“If any food causes gastric distress, then it is recommended to remove that food for 2-3 weeks to help determine if it is a source of inflammation for your body,” Dr. Fenwick added.

Although a lot of the recommendations are components of a healthy diet, one diet does not fit all, Carranza said.

“Therefore, I would start by meeting with a registered dietitian,” Carranza advised. “A dietitian will conduct a full nutrition assessment, looking at each individual’s medical history, labs, and individual needs and preferences. From there he or she can provide an individualized meal plan.”

Additional Factors to Keep in Mind

Planning and meal preparation are the most important parts of any diet, Dr. Fenwick emphasized.

“Individuals that wait until meal-time or until they are hungry to determine what to eat are more likely to make poor choices,” Dr. Fenwick noted.

Even small changes can play a major role in improving health, Montecillo emphasized.

“Therefore, it is important to focus on personalized goals and setting achievable objectives is key to helping someone make lasting dietary changes that will combat inflammation and enhance overall health,” Montecillo said.

The most important factors to keep in mind before starting an anti-inflammatory diet are to be patient and kind with yourself, Hussey advised.

“Long-term changes take time to establish and you need to allow yourself grace during this process,” Hussey said. “Don’t be discouraged because sustainable lifestyle changes do not happen overnight.”

Hussey also recommends the following:

  • Be willing to eliminate the foods that are inflammatory and likely not serving your body efficiently or effectively.

  • Be prepared because preparation is essential and you will need more preparation time in the kitchen since you will be avoiding processed foods and eating nutrient-rich whole foods.

  • Be prepared to experience some if not all of the withdrawal symptoms that can occur while your body purges out the toxicity and rebalances nutritionally.

“These withdrawal symptoms can include headaches, nausea, and fatigue to mention a few,” Hussey noted. “If possible, work with a health and nutrition coach for guidance, support, and motivation and so you will receive all the tools needed to be successful long-term. Most importantly, enjoy the journey. You are worth it.”

Final Thoughts

Hussey highly recommends working with a health and nutrition coach if possible for guidance, support, motivation and all the tips and tools necessary to be successful long-term.

Some anti-inflammatory diets restrict certain foods high micronutrients that the body needs, Carranza said; “Therefore, I suggest to go to a registered dietitian to tailor a meal plan that will be anti-inflammatory, but also include all nutrients the body needs.”

Dietary changes which incorporate a well-balanced diet with anti-inflammatory nutrients can help reduce inflammation levels in the body and begin to restore normal immune function in people, Montecillo said.

“There are many simple dietary approaches that may effectively reduce levels of chronic inflammation and decrease disease risk,” Montecillo noted.

If you want to eat 100% perfect that’s fine, Ross said, “but if you stray a little in social situations or because you have a craving for a particular food, it’s okay, as long as the majority of your diet is one that is healthy/nutritious.”

Anti-inflammatory diets promote a reduction in inflammation, Dr. Fenwick re-emphasized.

“A person may be able to reduce their body's inflammatory response by implementing healthful dietary changes,” Dr. Fenwick said. “Although the goal is to optimize health, many people find they also lose weight by adopting a diet that promotes less sugar and processed food. Focus on eating real food and health benefits will follow.”

Alicia Doyle

An award-winning journalist, Alicia Doyle has covered a range of topics, from crime to sports to special education. With an affinity for human interest stories, she has written thousands of articles about inspirational people, events and organizations that have a positive impact on the community and world at large.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide