Low-inflammatory diets are an excellent way for those with chronic inflammation to decrease pain or discomfort in their body. These diets typically include leafy greens, nuts, and fatty fish. In addition to aiding discomfort, low-inflammatory diets can help those with IBS, arthritis, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s.
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What Are the Benefits of a Low-Inflammatory Diet?
Low-inflammatory diets are focused on consuming minimal amounts of processed foods to aid in reducing inflammation. Although inflammation is a natural immune response and helps the body repair itself, chronic inflammation can eventually damage its cells and tissues. Often, this inflammation goes unnoticed and is caused by various diseases.
By switching to a low-inflammatory diet, you can reduce the amount of inflammation present all over the body. This is beneficial, especially for inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. However, there are many other health benefits associated with consuming a low-inflammatory diet. Above all, it can improve your overall health condition and potentially lead to a longer life.
1. Reduce Risk of Cancer
Chronic inflammation can end up damaging your tissues and cells, therefore weakening your immune system as a result. Because of this, inflammation is noted as a key risk factor for cells acquiring cancer potential. Chronic inflammation contributes significantly to all of the developmental stages of cancer. Additionally, it has also been associated with cancer treatment resistance.
Adopting a low-inflammatory diet could help reduce the risk of the disease and help those currently fighting it. Diets associated with increased inflammation have been linked to colorectal, prostate, breast, lung, and other cancers. Although eating a healthier diet can aid in reducing cancer risk, it should be noted that other factors come into play as well, including your genes, exercise level, and the environment in which you live.
2. Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Disease/Diabetes
Low-inflammatory diets are rooted in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. As a result, these diets lead to a decreased intake of cholesterol. Elevated cholesterol levels are directly linked to high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, stroke, heart attack, and other heart diseases. Studies have shown that consuming a low-inflammatory diet is directly related to fewer heart-related events. This diet could benefit those already experiencing these conditions and potentially reverse their effects.
Diabetes is another condition highly linked to diet. Maintaining a healthy diet could help to ward off the potential for contracting type 2 diabetes, as well as physical activity. Additionally, researchers have found that excess body fat, which is associated with type 2 diabetes, can cause chronic inflammation that inhibits insulin production and promotes the effects of the disease. Therefore, this type of diet would also be beneficial in reversing effects in those already diagnosed with diabetes.
3. Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s/Dementia
Inflammation is a natural part of aging. As we get older, our immune system weakens, leading to increased inflammation and, as a result, damaged cells. These cells may also be in the brain, contributing to conditions such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. Reducing inflammation and damage throughout one’s life may help prevent the onset of these diseases.
Diet contributes to all aspects of health, including brain health. A study in Greece examined people around the age of 73 that did not have dementia. Surveys were conducted that questioned food consumed in the past month, especially about foods commonly used to determine the potential for inflammation in one’s diet. They followed up for the next three years and found that higher inflammatory diet scores were associated with a 21 percent increase in the risk of dementia.
4. Reduce Effects of Arthritis
Arthritis is a condition that causes the swelling and tenderness of joints and is currently the number one cause of disability in the United States. Arthritis is an inflammatory disease and leads to chronic inflammation almost everywhere in the body. This leads to a lot of discomfort and pain for those with arthritis. A low-inflammatory diet is highly beneficial for those struggling with any kind of arthritis. Although eating a low-inflammatory diet cannot cure arthritis, it can help to reduce this inflammation and discomfort.
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5. Reduce IBS Side Effects
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive order associated with cramping, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and more. This is a condition that over 15 million people in the United States struggle with. Although there is no cure, diet plays a huge role in the side effects of IBS. Especially if you are someone who experiences severe side effects, switching to a low-inflammatory diet may help reduce some of this pain.
Low-inflammatory diets are great for both instant and long-term relief. Eating items such as ginger or turmeric can be very soothing for the digestive system. Those with IBS are typically highly encouraged by their gastroenterologist to consume a low-FODMAP diet, which helps avoid certain carbohydrates. Many foods in a low-inflammatory diet also fit this description and can therefore be a beneficial diet to try. Low-inflammatory foods help you maintain a healthy gut and reduce symptoms of IBS.
What Are Low-Inflammatory Diets?
A low-inflammatory diet aims to provide a healthy balance of proteins, carbs, and fats at every meal you consume. It involves high consumption of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and whole grains. Low-inflammatory diets also encourage the consumption of your daily intake of vitamins and minerals, as well as spices such as garlic and cumin.
Several diets can be considered low-inflammatory, including the Mediterranean, low-carb, and vegetarian diets. If you are just starting to switch over to a low-inflammatory diet, figure out a plan most suitable for you. Overall, you want to be eating fresh foods rather than anything that is highly processed.
Foods to Eat
There are lots of foods that can be considered low- or anti-inflammatory. Below is a list to get you started:
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive oil/avocado oil
- Green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, etc.)
- Fatty fish (tuna, salmon, etc.)
- Dark chocolate
- Fruits (strawberries, oranges, cherries, etc.)
- Red wine
- Green tea
Foods to Avoid
Many foods are linked to chronic or increased inflammation. Try avoiding foods such as:
- Processed meats (hot dogs, bologna, etc.)
- Vegetable oils
- Trans fats
- Fruit juices and other sugary drinks
- White bread
- Fried foods
- Cookies, candy, cake, ice cream
- Processed snacks (crackers, chips, etc.)
- White pasta
- High alcohol consumption
Sample Day of Eating
Below is an example of what a day of eating on a low-inflammatory diet might look like, although all can be adapted to fit your personal food preferences.
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Yogurt with berries, honey, and granola with green tea/water
Greek salad with olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, and dressed with olive oil
Carrots and cucumber with hummus
Salmon, quinoa, and a side of roasted vegetables
Strawberries dipped in dark chocolate
While inflammation helps your immune system fight disease, chronic inflammation can have lasting, adverse effects on the body. Switching to a low-inflammatory diet can help reduce these effects and has other health benefits. Research has shown that diets high in low-inflammatory foods can help those with cardiovascular disease, dementia, IBS, and arthritis. If you are looking to follow a specific diet plan, consider the Mediterranean diet, which incorporates a lot of low-inflammatory foods.
Maintaining good health should go beyond what you are eating. Find other ways to stay healthy by signing up for Mira. For as little as $45 a month, Mira members get low-cost virtual and urgent care visits, up to 80 percent off over 1,000 different medications, and same-day lab testing. Why wait on your health; sign up for Mira today.
Talor graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Biobehavioral Health, and minors in Spanish and Diversity & Inclusion in May of 2022. She has a passion for health equity and diversity in health. In the future, Talor hopes to work in public health policy reform to help eliminate health disparities. She enjoys reading, cooking, and listening to podcasts in her free time.