Inflammation may not sound pleasant, but it’s usually a normal part of the healing process. In most cases, the immune system triggers inflammation when it detects foreign material, such as microbes, chemicals, or pollen. Despite this, some people living with certain diseases – including diabetes – also deal with chronic inflammation. That term refers to recurring or persistent low-level inflammation.
If you’re dealing with chronic inflammation, one of the most effective ways to manage this condition is following an anti-inflammatory diet. Luckily, many of the fundamental principles behind this diet overlap with the ideas powering diabetes diets. Check out ADS’ complete guide to building a diabetes-friendly anti-inflammatory diet.
What Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
While the immune system manages inflammation, it can be affected by the foods you eat. Some types of food, like fried foods, can lead to the development of free radicals in your system. That can increase your risk of cell damage, often resulting in inflammation.
The good news is that other foods (especially plant-based foods) are rich in antioxidants, which can remove free radicals from your body. Anti-inflammatory diets focus on increasing your intake of foods that are packed with antioxidants and minimizing your consumption of foods that can lead to the generation of free radicals.
There isn’t a single specific anti-inflammatory diet you need to follow. Instead, this category includes any diet created with these concepts in mind. For example, several popular diets – including the Mediterranean and DASH diets – also qualify as anti-inflammatory diets.
Who Can It Help?
Inflammation is linked to quite a few medical conditions. If you have any of these conditions, an anti-inflammatory diet may help:
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Eosinophilic esophagitis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Furthermore, the antioxidants in an anti-inflammatory diet may reduce your risk of certain forms of cancer.
Anti-Inflammatory Diets and Diabetes
Along with the conditions listed above, inflammation can worsen metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome consists of multiple conditions that often appear together, including obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.
As a result, anti inflammatory diets closely resemble (and often overlap with) diabetes diets. Both diets focus on cutting out fattening foods while getting more fruits, vegetables, and plant-based proteins.
When you’re putting together an anti-inflammatory diet, focus on adding these foods to your plate:
Fruits and Vegetables
In terms of anti-inflammatory benefits, the more colorful your fresh produce is, the better. The substance providing blackberries, cherries, and raspberries with their hue also delivers natural anti inflammatory properties. Along with that, it’s a good idea to eat leafy greens packed with vitamin K, so-called “nightshade” veggies (such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and white tomatoes), and moderate amounts of olives or olive oil.
Eating the right amount of carbs is always a concern for people with diabetes, but whole grains are an ideal source of carbohydrates. Thanks to their high amount of fiber, products like whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, and brown rice can help you manage inflammation, too.
Fiber isn’t only found in whole grains. Plant-based protein sources like beans also deliver fiber and other anti-inflammatory substances like antioxidants. Meanwhile, the type of fat found in nuts can help with this condition – just be sure to eat them in moderation.
Not all animal products will help with inflammation, but certain types of fish fit the bill thanks to their omega-3 fatty acids. Try to eat moderate portions of sardines, tuna, and salmon about twice a week.
Herbs and Spices
You may mostly think of herbs and spices as a source of flavor, but certain items in this category boast nutritional benefits. The turmeric in curry powder fights inflammation with a substance known as curcumin, while garlic inhibits the body’s ability to produce things that encourage inflammation.
Foods to Avoid
If inflammation is a concern in your life, what you don’t eat matters as much as what you do. Steer clear of foods like:
Sweets and Soft Drinks
Sugary foods and drinks are already dangerous for people with diabetes. They can contribute to increased blood sugar, weight gain, and increased cholesterol, all linked to inflammation. As if that wasn’t enough, sugar can also trigger the release of the “inflammatory messengers” called cytokines. Even alternative sweeteners, such as honey and agave, can have these effects.
Fatty Red Meat
Eating more than a bit of red meat with saturated fat can lead to inflammation. Be particularly careful around processed red meat products, like hot dogs.
High-Fat Dairy Products
Not all dairy products are related to inflammation, but those containing saturated fats are. Look for low-fat butter, milk, and cheese instead.
Even if they’re fried in vegetable oil, French fries, fried chicken, and other fried foods won’t do any favors for your inflammation. That’s because vegetable oils like corn and safflower oil contain omega-6 fatty acids, which you must carefully balance with omega-3s.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet Tips
Making lasting changes to your diet can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Keep these tips in mind when starting an anti-inflammatory diet:
- Be sure to buy lots of fresh produce and other anti-inflammatory foods when grocery shopping.
- Don’t cut out fast food and other unhealthy foods cold-turkey. Instead, gradually phase out these meals and replace them with nutritious, homemade dishes.
- Use still or sparkling mineral water to deal with cravings for sugary drinks.
- If your doctor approves it, consider adding supplements like a multivitamin or cod liver oil to your diet.
- Try to get roughly 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day.
- Get good sleep since not being well-rested can also contribute to inflammation.
Finally, don’t make any changes to your diabetes diet alone. If you’d like to start following an anti-inflammatory diet, talk to your dietician first.
Frequently Asked Questions About Inflammatory Diets
What Diet Is Best to Reduce Inflammation?
You may have heard people discuss “the anti-inflammatory diet” as if it is a single, strict regimen. However, that’s not really the case. Instead, an anti-inflammatory diet is any diet built around eating more foods with anti-inflammatory properties and fewer foods that can cause inflammation.
What Is The Fastest Way to Get Rid of Inflammation in the Body?
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is a great way to reduce inflammation, but it’s not the only thing that can help. You can also drink more water, get regular exercise, and follow a healthy sleep schedule to get rid of inflammation ASAP.
Where Can I Find A List of Anti Inflammatory Foods?
This article contains information on some of the most potent anti-inflammatory foods on the market. However, the list above isn’t intended to be exhaustive. Talk to your dietician if you’d like more information on anti-inflammatory foods.
What Are the 5 Inflammatory Foods?
While there are countless inflammatory foods, most fall into five basic categories. When you’re out shopping, beware of:
- Trans fats
- Added sugars
- Red/processed meats
- Refined carbohydrates
Are Eggs an Inflammatory?
The inflammatory effects of eggs are complicated. While eggs can undoubtedly affect your body’s inflammatory response, that response can be either pro- or anti-inflammatory based on factors like your weight and overall health. If your dietician gives you the OK to eat eggs on an anti-inflammatory diet, pay attention to how you feel after eating them and cut out egg consumption if it causes problems.
Does Coffee Cause Inflammation?
On its own, coffee contains polyphenols and other antioxidants, making it an excellent natural anti inflammatory in moderation. That said, certain creamers and syrups can counteract the effects of these antioxidants. Alternatively, try flavoring your coffee with cinnamon, coconut milk, or a small amount of raw honey.
The Final Word on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Living with diabetes or another condition linked to inflammation can be difficult. However, an anti-inflammatory diet can make things much easier for you. If you want to benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet, ask your dietician how to get started.
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