Anti-Inflammatory Diet: 5 Tips for Success

A quick guide to tuning your diet to prevent inflammation

Photo: A variety of fresh berries

Diet has a powerful effect on personal health. “70 percent of all diseases are diet related,” says Deborah Klein, MS, RD, a certified health & wellness coach in Los Angeles and author of The 200 SuperFoods That Will Save Your Life. An anti-inflammatory diet may help reduce risk of disease.

What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a bodily response to harmful stimuli such as bacteria, high cholesterol, or consuming excess refined foods. “Inflammation can be caused by factors such as both increased personal and environmental stress, dyes and artificial flavors, and hydrogenated oils,” Klein says. You may regularly eat inflammatory and anti-inflammatory foods without realizing. Sliced bread and white potatoes, for example, may increase inflammation, while whole grains and yams may reduce it.

Why it’s important
High inflammation levels are linked to higher risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia, immune disorders, and type 2 diabetes. Over the last 10-15 years, Klein says, she has noticed an upswing in diet-related health problems that may be caused by inflammation, including bloating, chronic fatigue syndrome, gastrointestinal distress, and irritable bowel syndrome. To help reduce these symptoms, Klein has put many of her clients on an anti-inflammatory diet and urged them to follow these tips.

Ditch the SAD
That is, the Standard American Diet. Open your diet to real whole foods with a minimal ingredients list that you can pronounce, Klein suggests. You don’t have to overhaul your diet. Aim to gradually cut out refined ingredients like white flour and get more vegetables on your plate.

Eat every four hours
“It’s a stress on the body when we wait so long between eating. Eating smaller meals more often helps de-stress the body and promote an anti-inflammatory response,” Klein says. Plus, going foodless raises blood sugar and causes fat storage in the body. Klein recommends going to a meal “calmly hungry” to avoid overloading.

Get more Omega-3
Eating more omega-3 fatty acids and less omega-6 fats can keep inflammation low. “Omega-6 increases arachidonic acid, which increases inflammation,” Klein says. Black beans, fish, and green leafy veggies are good omega-3 sources. High omega-6 foods include fried food, mixed nuts, oils, and spreads. Foods high in refined vegetable oils tend to be high in omega-6 fats.

Go herbal
Sip tea and experiment with spices to help fight inflammation. “I always emphasize the anti-inflammatory herbs with my patients,” Klein says. Try white, ginger, or green teas. Add garlic, parsley, cinnamon, or turmeric to meals.

Stop fearing starches
The right kind of carbs aren’t fattening—they’re fuel. “People are so scared of the word ‘carb,’ but we need carbs to burn fat. Protein and veggies aren’t enough on their own. Our brains and muscles need glucose, and keeping glucose levels stabilized is a key part of staying healthy and preventing disease,” Klein says. Eating good-for-you starches also supports liver function. Choose good carbs that are also high in fiber, like whole grains, beans and legumes, and fruit.

Get your fill of anti-inflammatory foods:

  • Beans

  • Fish

  • Fruit such as berries

  • Herbs

  • Leafy greens

  • Seeds

  • Starchy vegetables such as artichoke, squash, and sweet potatoes

  • Tea

  • Whole grains